American Studies Program

Major & Minor

American Studies at Hillsdale College broadens a student’s understanding of American thought and culture through three component areas: American History, American Literature, and American Politics. The aim is a disciplined synthesis of knowledge, an intellectual process whereby the student conducts intensive study with considerable flexibility.

American Studies is also not pursued in isolation from parallel influences. An interdisciplinary focus requires a concentration on the problems of diffusion, and the transmission of ideas from one culture to another. To that end, American Studies at Hillsdale College is firmly set within the context of Western civilization and the American example of self-government under law.

American Studies Major & Minor

Students who wish to complete a major in American Studies must complete 36 semester hours of credit with no fewer than 24 hours in courses carrying 300 numbers or above. 

Required courses include:

  • Interdisciplinary Studies 300: Introduction to American Studies: “‘We the People’: An American Journey”
  • Interdisciplinary Studies 575: Looking Backward: Fifty Years of American History

The American Studies curriculum is concentrated in three departmental component areas and one elective component area. The departmental areas are American History, American Literature and American Politics. The majority of the American Studies electives’ curriculum is drawn from these areas.

Majors will elect nine-hour concentrations in two of the areas and a six-hour concentration in the remaining area.

The remaining curriculum area consists of two three-hour electives from Art, Journalism, Music, Philosophy, Religion, Theatre and Speech. An Interdisciplinary Studies 393 course and an Interdisciplinary Studies 597 course titled “Special Problems” allow for independent study in more specialized areas. Academic credit for an Interdisciplinary Studies course is allowed when a proposal for study is accepted by the American Studies director.

As is the case with all interdisciplinary fields of concentration, American Studies majors must prepare a senior thesis. To complete that obligation, during the second semester of their last academic year, American Studies majors will enroll in Interdisciplinary Studies 575, a senior seminar capstone course taught by the American Studies director. A student who receives an “A” grade on the senior seminar thesis and maintains an American Studies grade-point average of 3.5 will qualify to graduate with American Studies honors.

A written comprehensive examination is required. During the second semester of a student’s junior year, the director of the American Studies Program will publish a reading list and suggested guidelines. During the last semester of the final year, students will sit for their comprehensive examination. The comprehensive exam will always be at a time never to compete with final examinations. Exams will be evaluated as Honors, Pass, or Fail. To graduate with American Studies honors, students must achieve an Honors evaluation on their comprehensives. A student who fails the exam will be obliged to re-take the exam to fulfill all graduation requirements.


A minor in American Studies consists of 21 hours: Interdisciplinary Studies 300 and two three-hour courses each from American History, American Literature and American Politics.