Undergraduate Program


What Is American Studies? 



The American Studies major at the University of New Mexico offers undergraduate students unparalleled flexibility in designing a course of study of their own choice, one that draws on a curriculum of remarkable breadth and taught by a faculty of national prominence.

In no other department on campus can a student find such a wide exposure to so many areas in cultural, political and environmental studies.

The large faculty in American Studies offer courses in eight major areas:

  1. Transnationalism and Globalization
  2. Southwest and Borderlands Studies
  3. Critical Indigenous Studies
  4. Environmental and Social Justice 
  5. Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies;
  6. Comparative Cultural and Popular Culture Studies.
  7. Latinx Studies
  8. Critical Race Studies

These areas of emphasis offer undergraduate students intense and rigorous introduction to American studies from a critical and fascinating vantage point. For more information about the American Studies program, you can read our brochure.


American Studies majors complete a minimum of 36 semester hours that includes a three-credit introductory course and two other required seminars. The remaining 27 credit hours consist of courses selected by students. We provide this flexibility because the field of American Studies is interdisciplinary, and we believe the major should reflect that. Students, therefore, are encouraged to work with an academic advisor to develop their own emphasis, design their own course of study and count approved courses in other departments toward their work in American Studies.

Southwest Concentration

For students with a particular interest in the history, environment, cultures and politics of the U.S. Southwest, we offer an emphasis in Southwest Studies. This concentration is tailored to students interested in studying the particular cultural formations and unique history of this region from a faculty with an unmatched expertise.

Departmental Honors

Department of American Studies Undergraduate Departmental Honors Program Departmental Honors in American Studies is available to American Studies majors through an Honors Thesis program. In order to participate, a student must get permission from the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), find a faculty mentor, and enroll in the American Studies Honors Thesis (AMST 499) for three credit hours.

The American Studies Honors Thesis (AMST 499) is intended as a capstone experience for senior honors candidates who are interested in writing an expanded research project on a chosen topic. Writing an Honors Thesis provides an opportunity to work collaboratively with an American Studies faculty mentor to produce an exceptional American Studies research paper. Compared to the Senior Thesis (as produced in AMST 485), an Honors Thesis is longer, more developed, and more integrative of diverse faculty feedback. The Honors Thesis provides an opportunity to conclude your BA degree with a substantial and note-worthy accomplishment.

The Honors Thesis can be an expansion of the research project produced in the Senior Seminar (AMST 485) or it can be a different research project that was begun in another advanced American Studies course. Oftentimes, students enroll in AMST 499 and AMST 485 simultaneously, although it is possible to enroll in AMST 499 the semester after you have completed AMST 485.

To participate in our Departmental Honors program, you must plan and follow these steps:

  1. First, meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) at least one semester before enrolling in AMST 499 to see if you are eligible for the Honors Program, discuss possible research topics, and talk over possible faculty mentors.
  2. The student will then approach a prospective faculty mentor to talk over the research project and the availability of the faculty mentor. In this meeting, the student and faculty mentor should agree on the research project, create a preliminary research plan, and schedule follow up meetings.
  3. The student then completes the “American Studies Honors Program Application,” obtains all required signatures, and returns the Application to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). Completing this paperwork and meeting with the DUS will give the student permission to register for AMST 499.
  4. Students must meet regularly with their faculty mentor during the semester in order to obtain feedback on all drafts of their Honors Thesis.
  5. The completed Honors Thesis should be at least thirty, double-spaced pages (approximately 7500 words), not including notes and bibliography.
  6. The completed Honors Thesis should be first approved by the faculty mentor, then submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies before finals week (aka the last week of classes).
  7. All Honors candidates will participate in a short presentation of their research at the undergraduate colloquium, usually scheduled for the last week of classes during the Spring Semester.                                                    

After completion of the Honors Thesis and presentation, the faculty mentor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and/or the instructor for AMST 485 will collectively evaluate the Honors Thesis in order to award the student with departmental honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude).

A copy of the Department of American Studies Undergraduate Departmental Honors Program guidelines may be found here

What can you do with a major in American Studies?

Careers for people majoring in American Studies are as diverse as the students who select the major. A bachelor’s degree in American studies prepares students to ask critical questions and conduct sophisticated research using multiple methods. You will leave UNM armed with the necessary skills in research and writing necessary for success in law school or graduate school. You will acquire the critical writing skills essential for a career in almost any professional or creative field.

If you are a motivated and independent thinker, you’ll find a home in the department of American Studies and preparation for a rewarding career after college. In the years after our students graduate from UNM, they routinely find success in law school, graduate school (and not only in graduate programs in American studies but also in History, Geography, Anthropology and English), in journalism, and art. They become professors. They work in positions in government agencies, in museums and as independent writers. They are filmmakers and artists. If this challenge and these possibilities resonate with you, explore the website. Familiarize yourself with the path-breaking work of our faculty, read the descriptions of the fascinating courses we offer every semester, and then make an appointment with Dr. Daisy Atterbury (daisyatterbury@unm.edu), the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, to talk about joining the department.