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Required Core Courses

All graduate students are required to complete three core courses in the department: AMST 600, AMST 601, and AMST 603. The core sequence serves three purposes. First, it introduces students to American Studies as a stand-alone field, as well as the varied perspectives that have shaped its development. Secondly, it provides students an advanced and shared overview of the history of American society and culture, from the conquest and colonial period to the present, with special emphasis on the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Finally, it fosters a sense of community within each cohort of incoming students. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the core sequence in their first year of study, generally taking AMST 600 and AMST 601 in the first fall semester and AMST 603 in the spring. For more information on each course, see the Course Descriptions.

PhD Electives

Doctoral students have a great deal of freedom in developing a program of study. They can select graduate electives both from inside the department and from across campus, a distinguishing feature of the American Studies program. In conceiving an academic plan, students should consult with their departmental advisor and the Graduate Chair, as well as their peers, keeping in mind their own interests and research objectives. All courses outside the department have to be approved by the Graduate Chair who will assess whether they fit logically within the student’s overall doctoral study plan.

With the permission of the Graduate Chair, students can apply ONE 400-level undergraduate course to their electives credit, on the understanding that they will arrange with the instructor to do graduate-level work. As doctoral students prepare for their Qualifying exams, they are encouraged to undertake a course of   independent reading and research (AMST 699) with each of their field advisors. At the discretion of the Graduate Chair, additional credits of AMST 699 may be applied to the doctoral degree.

PhD Curriculum Map

Courses & Research Requirements

Required courses  AMST 600, AMST 601, AMST 603
(9 credits)
Electives 4 or more AMST graduate seminars
(12 credits)
5 or more AMST or allied, including 400-level classes
(15 credits)
AMST 650
(Up to 9 credits)
Total Credits 15 classes, 45 credits
Qualifying Exams One general and two specialized fields
Comprehensive Exam Dissertation proposal defense
Dissertation Book-length monograph based on original research that makes a substantive contribution to scholarship

Recommended Timeline

First Year
Fall AMST 600 & 2 AMST graduate seminars or electives
(9 credits)
Spring AMST 601 & 2 AMST graduate seminars or electives
(9 credits)
Second Year
Fall AMST 603 & 2 AMST graduate seminars or electives
(9 credits)
Spring 3 AMST graduate seminars or electives
(9 credits)
Third Year
Fall Prepare for Qualifying Exams
AMST 650 and electives as needed
(6 credits)
Spring Prepare for Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams
AMST 650 or other elective as needed
(3 credits)
Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams
Fourth Year
Fall AMST 800/Dissertation research
(1 credit)
Spring AMST 800/Dissertation research
(1 credit)
Fifth Year
Fall AMST 800/Dissertation research and writing
(1 credit)
Spring AMST 800/Dissertation defense and submission
(1 credit)

Note: Occasionally, a student may not be able to write the dissertation until the sixth year. In any event, however, students must endeavor to complete the degree within the university’s seven year time limit.

*Note that this represents an ideal dissertation completion timeline. In many cases, teaching assignments and research challenges can extend the dissertation writing stage into the sixth year. Students should endeavor to devise an academic plan that will allow them to complete their dissertation in no more than seven years, however.

PhD Coursework Guidelines

  • PhD students can generally count up to SIX credits of AMST 699 toward their degree. In some cases and at the discretion of the Graduate Chair, PhD students may apply additional AMST 699 credits toward their degree when studying for their Qualifying Exams.
  • Doctoral students can apply ONE 400-level undergraduate course to their electives credit (3 credits). The 400-level course must be approved by the Graduate Chair.
  • All outside electives have to be approved by the Graduate Chair.
  • All graduate students must maintain a minimum G.P.A of 3.5.
  •  Only courses in which the student attains a B- or better can count toward an AMST graduate degree.
  • No more than 3 courses taken as an unclassified student may count toward a graduate degree in American studies.
  • Only courses taken for a grade will be counted toward a graduate degree.
  • If a student has completed her coursework but has not yet achieved ABD status by passing her Comprehensive Exam, she can maintain registration status by enrolling for ONE credit of AMST 699 on a CR/NC basis with the graduate chair. Note that financial aid, student employment, and U.S. State Department regulations could require some students to enroll for additional credits in order to maintain registration status. See Maintaining Enrollment Status.
  • PhD degrees should be completed within six years (or twelve full-time semesters of study). Delayed students will be placed on departmental probationary status after their seventh year or their fifteenth semester of full-time study.
  • Students must in addition comply with all rules and regulations of the Office of Graduate Education.

PhD Course Waivers

Students who have completed graduate courses at another research university in American Studies or a related field can appeal to the Graduate Chair to waive coursework requirements at UHM. In such cases, students will have to provide evidence (e.g., syllabi) of the course’s rigor and its compatibility with American Studies. Students also must demonstrate (e.g., with grades or written work) that they performed well in any course that is to be applied to the doctorate in American Studies.

In general, no more than NINE outside credits (three graduate courses) will be waived for doctoral students without an MA degree. If a student enters the doctoral program with an MA in American Studies or a closely related field, the Graduate Chair may consider waiving additional course requirements. However, in no circumstances, may students waive any of the required core courses, AMST 600, AMST 601, and AMST 603.


Qualifying Exams

Qualifying Examinations are designed to help graduate students master teaching and research fields and to lay the groundwork for advanced dissertation research. To prepare for the exams, students will read extensively in general American Studies, as well as two fields of their specialization. The exam has both a written and an oral component and should generally be completed by the end of a student’s third year of study. For more information, see the Qualifying Exam section.

Comprehensive Exams (Dissertation Proposal)

It is strongly suggested that students take their Comprehensive Exams no more than three months after successful completion of their Qualifying Exams. The Comprehensive Examination marks the beginning of the student’s career as an independent scholar. It is not an exam in the conventional sense but a formal meeting in which the student’s committee evaluates the soundness of the dissertation proposal and the student’s ability to execute the proposed research. Once the proposal is approved, the student will have ABD (All But Dissertation) status, which includes certain benefits, including the ability to maintain full-time registration status by enrolling in AMST 800. For more information, see the Comprehensive Examination section.


The dissertation is a book-length work of scholarship on some aspect of American culture, society, or history. It should advance an original argument based on extensive primary research, and it should be publishable as a scholarly monograph. For more information, see the Dissertation section.