American Studies research spans centuries and continents, from mapping the Adirondacks’ ecological history to tracking ancient Virgin of Guadalupe shrines across North America. Students benefit from an unusually large core faculty, who offer dedicated mentoring and research opportunities from a broad range of expertise. In recent years, faculty have secured research funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin.
Students often complete research projects with core faculty in the focus area of their choice, or alongside affiliated faculty from across the university.
All American Studies majors complete a senior capstone project based on original research in primary sources and analysis of scholarly literature. Seniors learn to work collaboratively and ethically as cultural analysts over the course of a semester, culminating in a final scholarly paper.
Undergraduate students can also take advantage of Columbian College Dean’s Seminars on American Studies topics, when available. The highly popular courses have covered topics from “zombie capitalism” to Washington sex scandals.
Master’s and doctoral students work closely with faculty members on original research projects, often winning awards and publishing their work in academic journals.
Graduate students present their research at conferences hosted by organizations like African Americans in Western North Carolina, the American Studies Association, the American University of Beirut's Center for American Studies, the Puerto Rican Studies Association, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the National Women’s Studies Association.
Department Research Strengths
"The idea of research is to be bold. If a grant sounds amazing but is a long shot — go for it. Freshman year, I got a paid internship at the Smithsonian."
BA ’15, MA ’18
Student Research Trips
Students can secure department funding to help them carry out original research on site. Potential funded projects include:
- Undergraduate majors traveling to archive collections for their senior thesis research.
- MA students carrying out additional archival work to turn research seminar papers into articles.
- PhD students conducting oral histories for their dissertations.
CCAS Dean's Graduate Conference Travel Grants
CCAS Dean's Graduate Conference Travel Grants provide reimbursement of certain expenses for students who must travel to present, exhibit, or perform at competitive academic conferences. The grants are currently on hold, but you can visit the CCAS website for updates.