The core focus of the Ph.D. program is to prepare future faculty with the research and teaching abilities to understand and communicate the diversity of society and culture in the US and the Americas. The graduate curriculum combines core interdisciplinary courses in the four areas of specialization, with departmentally-based courses in given disciplinary methods and literatures. Students are expected to gain competency in the methodology and grounding in the literature of one specific disciplinary area (history, literature, sociology, etc) to enhance the fundamentally interdisciplinary nature of their training in American Studies and Ethnicity.

Course Requirements

AMST 500(Introduction to American Studies and Ethnicity) is required of all doctoral students.   Two 600-level graduate seminars are required for the degree, and at least one of these must be an interdisciplinary seminar offered by the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity.

Language Requirement

Students are required to be able to read a language other than English.  This requirement must be met before a student is eligible to take the qualifying examination. The requirement can be fulfilled by completing a course in a literature course at the 400 or 500 level (with a grade of a B [3.0] or better) or by passing a foreign language exam that tests proficiency in reading comprehension and translation.

Methods Requirement

Students are required to develop competency in two methods.  The following types of methods fulfill the requirement in American Studies and Ethnicity:  (1) literary/textual analysis; (2) historical/archival analysis; (3) ethnography; (4) visual analysis; (5) spatial practices and analysis; (6) quantitative analysis.

Disciplinary Requirement

Every doctoral student is expected to develop a foundation in at least one discipline field by successfully completing at least four graduate courses in one discipline.  These four courses must include at least one methods course, one 600-level advanced seminar, and two graduate readings courses at the 500 or 600 level.

Screening Procedures

The performance of every first year doctoral student is formally assessed by the Chair, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the student’s assigned advisor in consultation with the core faculty at the end of the spring semester and before a student has completed 24 units toward the degree.  Unsatisfactory progress requires either remedy of the deficiencies or termination of the student’s graduate program.

Pre-Qualifying Exam Meeting

 At the end the second year, student progress is evaluated and each student formally establishes their interdisciplinary guidance committee from faculty they have worked with during the first two years.  A meeting of the Director of the Program, the Director of Graduate Studies, and potential members of this committee will take place directly after the second year in order to identify remaining deficiencies in a student’s training and identify solutions before the qualifying examination process begins.

Qualifying Exam

 Students will select four fields for examination.  Every student must be examined by faculty from at least two different disciplines, as well as having one outside member on his / her examination committee.  This five person examination committee will direct the student toward his / her qualifying examinations in the third year, which will consist of both written and oral parts.


After passing the qualifying examination, students enroll in AMST 700(Theories and Practices of Professional Development).   In this course students write and defend the dissertation proposal, and acquire knowledge and skills necessary for their success in the profession.  The dissertation committee consists of at least three faculty members drawn from the qualifying exam committee and they must approve a prospectus before full-time research commences.  At this point a student admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. and thereafter concentrates on the dissertation.

Contact Us

Department of American Studies & Ethnicity

Located in Kaprielian Hall on the University Park campus, ASE faculty, graduate students, and staff are available to assist you with information and resources about our academic programs and research specialties.


University of Southern California

3620 South Vermont Avenue

Kaprielian Hall 462

Los Angeles, California 90089-2534