AMCS Undergraduate FAQ

What is the AMCS Major like?

The Major is a liberal arts program that allows you to explore a wide-range of topics in American history, culture, and society.  Students are given very considerable freedom in defining their course of study, allowing them to tailor coursework and mentorship to suit their particular academic and professional interests, and to learn how cultural studies is undertaken for specific interests and topical areas.

The AMCS curriculum features coursework in several disciplines, bridging the humanities and social sciences.  You can expect intensive advising and support of faculty, mentors, and staff throughout!

The Major is 32 credits, at least 24 of which must be 300-level or above.  In addition, students are expected to complete 9 credits of coursework with a concerted methodological content, what we call "Disciplinary Foundations Coursework."  See our Major Requirements page for a complete list of requirements.

What are the differences between an AMCS Major and Minor?

Both the AMCS Major (32 credits) and Minor (15 credits) offer unique opportunities to study American history, culture, and society from a range of critical perspectives and to develop areas of topical concentration,.  The Major involves a deeper multidisciplinary experience, and requires a course focused on a fieldwork experience and a capstone project.

Click here for an overview of Major Requirements.

Click here for an overview of Minor Requirements.

I want to double major, but I don't yet know what my second major will be. Can I declare AMCS first?

Yes, and it makes perfect sense to do so. Since the AMCS curriculum has a broad scope and allows students to explore various approaches and models of cultural studies, starting on the AMCS major requirements early may help you decide about your other major.  And if you ultimately opt to do AMCS as a stand-alone major, you can use the Disciplinary Foundations requirement as an opportunity to explore a another discipline in more concerted depth.

Where should I begin my AMCS major?

A good way to begin is to take one of our entry-level courses (ask the Academic Coordinator which currently-offered courses fit this bill), which are offered each semester and are intended to lay the groundwork for future studies within the program.  Taking at least one of these courses is required by the major.  Another option would be to begin by taking a course within one of the program's curated Concentration Areas in order to start to pursue a particular interest.

What are Concentration Areas?

Concentration Areas are curated sets of courses of special strength and student interest within the AMCS curriculum.  Currently, there are 9 established areas, though students are welcome to propose additional and/or alternative concentration areas, or tailor an existing one to suit their interests.

Generally the Concentration Areas are intended to provide meaningful focus for studies in specific topical areas and to expose students to different disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.  To fulfill the requirement, students must take 3 courses in one single concentration area, 2 of which are at 300-level or higher.

How should I choose a Concentration Area?

While there is no one way to choose a Concentration Area, you might consider the types of courses that interest you the most.  Think about the topics that really stand out to you.  Or think about the approaches that will deepen your knowledge of a given aspect of American culture and prepare you for the kinds of experiences, graduate education, and/or work life you want to pursue after graduation.

For example, the "Social Thought and Social Problems" option is especially well suit to students who have a strong interest in matters of policy and political theory, and AMCS alumni within this vein have gone pursue graduate study in sociology and social work after graduation.   Others have entered the fields of politics and policy.

Obviously, you should pursue a Concentration Area that focuses on the topics or interests that are most compelling for you!  

What are Multidisciplinary Courses?

Multidisciplinary or "MD" courses are courses that apply multiple disciplinary models or methods within the context of studying a specific topic.  These courses may also spend time thinking about how the approaches of different disciplines (e.g., history, sociology) relate, contrast, and combine.  

A complete list of MD-designated courses for any given semester can be found on our Courses Listings webpage.

What is Fieldwork?

Fieldwork is an aspect of study at Washington University that is unique to AMCS.  AMCS is the only department or program on campus that invites students to undertake the immersive learning experience that defines so much contemporary research in the humanities and social sciences.  "Fieldwork" can be anything from ethnography (i.e., intensive community study), to the oral history and journalism style methods of interviews, to forms of documentation involving digital technologies such as photography and film, to studies that are combined with community engagements.

In short, Fieldwork is a close-range experience that allows you to explore a cultural issue or topic in a "real world" context while developing vital research and analytical skills that are immensely relevant for opportunities and future careers inside and outside of academia after graduation.

Students complete their Fieldwork requirement through enrollment in an approved Fieldwork course such as L98 479: On Location, or through completion of a field-based independent project under the guidance of an AMCS faculty member (in most cases under the course number L98 298).

For more information, see our Fieldwork page.

I already have an internship lined up for the next year. Can I use this as Fieldwork?

Internships do not automatically fulfill Fieldwork, but they are can be a good basis for it. When you arrange for internships (e.g. at a law office, political office, non-profit organization), additional planning will be required for some project that builds upon your internship activity.

Some internships are very organized and have very clear goals, which can serve as excellent occasions to gather "data" and make observations that are relevant to some cultural topic or issue of interest to you.  These are amenable to a suitable basis for the Fieldwork project.

The total number of credits typically earned for internship-based Fieldwork is 3.  There are additional restrictions concerning the minimum hours worked at the internship to qualify for this credit. 

Please see our Fieldwork page for further information.

What are Disciplinary Foundations?

Disciplinary Foundations coursework allows you to engage in concentrated study in a traditional discipline (e.g., history, English).  Since mastery of of the kinds of innovative, multidisciplinary thinking that AMCS promotes cannot be obtained without mastering core, disciplinary approaches, we require 9 credits of coursework in a specific field or discipline. These courses are often heavy in methodology (e.g., historical methods). 

A second major is even better, allowing you to undertake deeper mastery of that discipline's approaches and assumptions while studying, through AMCS, how to combine its approaches with those of other disciplines.

What is the Capstone Project?

The Capstone Project is the culmination of the AMCS major.  It is a process that allows you to explore a single topic of special interest to you, in order to complete a final product.

This final product can take any number of forms -- from a standard research paper or honors thesis, to multimedia projects (e.g., website, blog, film), to other creative forms in the arts and literature. 

Major propose their Capstone Projects at the end of junior year.  The Capstone Projects are completed during senior year through one of the following four scenarios:

  • one-semester independent research project pursued with guidance from a faculty advisor
  • one-semester project completed in the context of an approved 400- or 500-level seminar
  • two-semester honors thesis
  • other two-semester Harvey Scholar project

Students pursuing the one-semester independent project or the honors thesis participate in the AMCS Capstone Seminar, a preparatory, workshop style course that provides support and structure for the Capstone Project.  Students choosing the one-semester seminar-based Capstone Project carry out their project with guidance from the faculty instructor, and support from their AMCS Major Advisor.

In all cases, students present their Capstone to the AMCS community in a research colloquium, or, on the AMCS website, at the end of the spring semester.

For more on the Capstone Project, please see our Capstone page.

What is AMCS 375A: "Methods & Visions"?

AMCS 375A provides students with a foundational, centering classroom space to apprehend the core stakes and visions for undertaking multidisciplinary cultural studies across the scope of America.  Students explore different approaches for thinking about the meaning of "America," utilizing specific case studies and cultural objects and materials as a means for cultivating skills in the areas of intellectual methods and visions.

This course is also shaped by discussions about the research methodologies and preparatory work that go into final projects for the course.  In turn, these discussions serve as excellent preparation for the required Capstone Project.  In this way, AMCS 375A provides ideal movement for students along the Major track. 

And, as a Writing Intensive course, AMCS 375A also serves as an occasion for students to obtain credit for that University curricular requirement and think about matters of argument and presentation within the context of Americanist cultural studies.

Can I "double count" a course between AMCS and my other major/minor?

There is limited ability to do so.  The College of Arts & Sciences requires that each Major have 18-credits at the upper level (300+) unique to that department or program, and that each Minor have 12-credits unique to that department or program.  Students therefore may not double count upper-level courses, but they are allowed to double count 100- and 200-level courses.

To assist both the College of Arts & Sciences (and our) tracking process, and to assist you with your own progress, we ask you to register for courses for your AMCS degree under the AMCS/L98 department, even when another cross-listed number is an option, and especially if the course is cross-listed with another department or program through which you are seeking a second major or minor.

Can I Study Abroad through AMCS?

Yes, AMCS Majors can study abroad with a variety of amazing options and opportunities!  There are several ways to make study abroad a meaningful part of the AMCS major, while taking into account restrictions regarding the number of credits and AMCS Major requirements.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to study abroad given that AMCS is focused on, well, America, it actually makes perfect sense for study abroad to be centered as an enriching option for students.  Simply put, the United States has been one of the most powerful and widely-scoped countries in world history.  And the influences of American imperialism, cultural exchange, and enterprise are found the world over.   Going abroad provides students with the opportunity to learn about different views of the United States in different countries and to explore the ways that cultural attitudes and ideas are shaped by historical contexts and global flows.  

An alternate option for AMCS Majors is the Washington D.C. Program.  This resource is a great idea for students who wish to study outside of St. Louis but not go abroad.  The D.C. program would be especially appropriate for students concentrating on issues of policy and social problems.  The AMCS Fieldwork requirement can usually be fulfilled by a D.C. internship.