Fieldwork is an immersive and multidisciplinary process that allows students to explore a cultural issue or topic in a "real world" context, whether through an approved course or an independent project. Fieldwork is an opportunity to learn vital research and analytical skills while gaining experience and exploring future careers.

Students satisfy the Fieldwork requirement (3 credits) through enrollment in an approved Fieldwork course such as L98 479: On Location: Exploring America or completion of a field-based independent project under the guidance of AMCS faculty (in most cases students enroll in L98 298: Directed Fieldwork in American Culture Studies).

AMCS Fieldwork Course

AMCS approves a number of field-based courses each semester that may be used towards the completion of Fieldwork. These courses bring together community and classroom while building methodological and analytical skills. They are generally multidisciplinary and provide a structured experience of fieldwork that leads to some kind of final class project. “On Location: Exploring America,” “Ethnographic Fieldwork,” and “Community Building” are examples of compelling courses that fulfill the Fieldwork requirement. For current field-based course listings, see our page here.

Field-Based Independent Project

A field-based project is characterized by original observation in the field and original data collection. Directed independent research allows students to construct and complete a small research project that appeals to their particular interests, areas of concentration, and/or potential Capstone topics. Such directed research must take students into the field for specialized research. While the actual location of the “field” can vary widely, the resulting Fieldwork project enables students to actively engage with topics of interest in a “real world” setting. Some past locations of directed research include archives, libraries, museums, or other such institutions as well as “real-world” archives.

The student will need the permission of their advisor to enroll under the 3-credit course number associated with Directed Independent Research, L98 298: Directed Fieldwork in American Culture Studies. Students interested in a Fieldwork project must submit a proposal for approval. After the proposal is revised (if required) and approved, students may enroll in Directed Fieldwork. In consultation with their Fieldwork advisor, students then develop research goals and meet regularly throughout the semester.


Past Projects

Madeleine Alder interned as a Research Assistant with the contraceptive CHOICE Project. This major cohort study conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, was designed to test whether removing perceived barriers to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) access would increase LARC use among American women, and whether or not the uptake of LARC methods would reduce rates of unintended pregnancy in the target population. Madeleine primarily served as data entry, but also participated in staff planning meetings and shadowed nurse practitioners with clinical rotations. Compelled by her anecdotal experiences, Madeleine spent the next semester researching the main trends behind the goals of this CHOICE project, studying global contraceptive uses and initiatives, especially concerning LARC use, unintended pregnancy and abortion rates, healthcare costs in the U.S. and the historic and medical reasons for why an overwhelming majority of American women don't choose this highly effective birth control method. Her research and internship experience has led Madeleine to focus her Senior Capstone Project on exploring birthing trends and maternal health care in the U.S.

Alison Neuwirth explored the supposed decline of the American public intellectual through directed research. She became acquainted with the modern debate surrounding the definition and decline of the public intellectual as well as potential reasons for the waning. She researched the strain of anti-intellectualism in American culture as elucidated in Richard Hofstadter's seminal work, "Anti-intellectualism in American Life," among other sources, and explored the unique position of American intellectuals within the international community. Her research led to a less-than-dire assessment of the American intellectual's status, and some intriguing questions about the roles the academy and the rise of the number of college-aided Americans have on the public intellectual. She plans to continue this research among other relevant topics such as American anti-intellectualism through her Senior Honors Thesis.

Genevieve Hay conducted extensive research of various digital modes of presentation of academic work and then designed and created Americana Online, a website for AMCS students to submit conversational, yet academically informed work in American Culture. The site debuted after a year of research and study; it was designed for students and is currently run by students, and meets several goals she developed for the site based on her research: namely, that it engages in interdisciplinary research; that it allows students to explore multiple modes of inquiry in coursework, with faculty, and one another; and that it unite and cultivate both an academic and social community with the American Culture Studies program.

Julia Lindon interned in the production department at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She worked in many departments, including audience, control room, office/reception, and the tape library, and also logged and transcribed field tapes, attended writers meetings, and acted as a production assistant on field shoots. She drew upon this rich experience to develop the script for a comedic short film, which she eventually produced as part of her Capstone project. It is entitled 'Nice Guys - and Gals - of Washington University' and takes as its starting point the media representation of the psychology study, "Do Nice Guys - and Gals - Really Finish Last?" (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Feb. 2012) and the recent ranking of Washington University in St. Louis as the Second Friendliest College (The Huffington Post, 2011).

Caitlin Astrue interned at the Campbell House Museum. She served as a museum docent, giving tours and researching objects in the collection, but her main project was to redesign the panels for an exhibit on "Managing a Victorian Household." Caitlin used various storage mediums and software, including microfiche, PastPerfect, and Adobe Illustrator to research, review, fact-check, and create an overview about the Campbell House and the lives of domestic servants during the Victorian era. In learning about the family, she also learned a great deal about the city of St. Louis and how it has changed in the years since the Campbells occupied the house. This prompted her to consider the recent trend in museums to include or present information from the servants' perspectives and to develop a thesis project about house museums and their nostalgic treatment of family history.

Cara Staszewski interned for John Baker, an award-winning independent filmmaker. She assisted with his project on The Pacific Ring, MO, a community aiming to become the national standard for sustainability. Intrigued by comments she heard during her transcription of key interviews, Cara researched different sustainable communities on the national and international scale, looking at how achieving sustainability differs when in a rural, urban, and suburban locales. This led her to examine how intentional communities (groups of people who unite towards a common purpose) are formed and led to final research on the complicated details and challenges in achieving urban sustainability.

Lily Schorr worked as an intern at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. Lily was assigned to the Adolescent Task Force, and helped to create a pocket-sized youth services directory, which lists resources for at-risk and homeless youth in the St. Louis area. The Youth Yellow Pages, completed in early August 2009, is a more robust, user-friendly, and prolific community-resource, now including online websites and contacts. It is currently distributed throughout the St. Louis County area in teen centers, school guidance offices, and select social services organizations. Lily's internship not only gave her first-hand experience with working in a social services organization, but helped her develop skills in networking and community collaboration by holding focus groups to identify the needs and challenges of the St. Louis impoverished, and working within a grant-funded project.


The Fieldwork requirement--which I satisfied through the best class I've taken here, Bob Hansman's Community Building--introduced me to parts of the city I'd never seen, pushed me to think more deeply about my role in St. Louis and responsibility to the community, and put me on a path toward fulfilling and enriching civic engagement opportunities. Fieldwork is an opportunity to get involved in your new home town.

―Will Krueger Class of 2017

Contact Us

Please contact Karen Skinner for further details on our Fieldwork projects

Contact Karen Skinner