Learning Goals

Graduate Program in American Studies
Ph.D. Learning Goals and Assessments

 The Graduate Program in American Studies educates students to become knowledgeable and productive scholars who will contribute significantly to a wide range of academic, cultural, and public institutions.

 Learning Goal 1:  Train scholars in the theory and methodology of the interdisciplinary study of American culture and develop research skills enabling them to draw upon, and eventually contribute to, the collections, archives, and resources of the universities and cultural institutions of the region.

 Assessment of student achievement of Goal 1.

  • Grades and written evaluations in coursework.
  • Comprehensive written and oral examinations in three areas of study defined by the student in consultation with an examination committee of three faculty advisors. Examinations are followed by a meeting with the examination committee to discuss examination results.
  • Requirement that doctoral students take both introductory and advanced reading and research seminars in American Studies.
  • Translation exam establishing student’s ability to perform an intermediate-level translation of a text in an international language for purposes of either research or communication with other scholars.
  • Written evaluations and meetings of the American Studies advisory council at the end of each semester to discuss student progress and the need for encouragement, focus or improvement.
  • Full-time doctoral students are required to take summer independent studies after their first and second years of coursework to deepen their reading and develop written work for publication.

 Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 1.

  • Orientation session for graduate students when they arrive on campus to introduce them to students, faculty, and program procedures, requirements and expectations.
  •  Workshops on writing, research, and professionalization during the academic year.
  • Program director assigns an interim advisor when a student enters the program. By the beginning of a student’s second year in the program, each student is required to select a three-professor examination committee that will supervise the student’s oral and written examinations and file the names of committee members with the program.
  • Examination committee members meet with the student to sharpen definitions of the three areas of study that the student will be tested on in comprehensive examinations.
  • Members of the student’s three-professor examination committee meet individually with the student to prepare a reading list for comprehensive examinations and discuss the formulation of examination questions and strategies for answering them.
  • Reading lists for student examinations are filed in the program office to aid students in developing reading lists of their own.
  • Ongoing discussions among faculty about course offerings and course content in order to teach our students most effectively.

 Learning Goal 2: Foster new scholarship that contributes to the advancement of understanding of American civilization's heterodox identities, institutions, and cultures.

 Assessment of student achievement of Goal  2.

  • Students are required, at minimum, to write an essay based on primary source research in both an introductory research seminar and in an advanced research seminar.
  •  Students are required to write and defend a dissertation proposal within six months of completing their comprehensive exams.
  •  Student presentation of work in an annual graduate student symposium in American Studies at Rutgers-Newark.
  •  Students present their work in regional, national and campus conferences.
  •  Publication of student work in peer-reviewed journals.
  •  Students are required to meet annually with their dissertation committee to discuss the state of their work.

 Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 2.

  • Introduce students to research strategies starting in their first year of coursework.
  • Visits to archives and other collections of sources in our region in both coursework and independent trips.
  • The program brings scholars to campus for lectures and seminars to introduce students to leading scholars and research topics in American Studies.
  • Ongoing updating of a directory of fellowships for pre- and post-doctoral work in American Studies.
  • Student participation in university and program workshops on grant writing to support research.

 Learning Goal 3: Encourage the original and creative articulation of research and scholarly contributions to diverse audiences, including other scholars in the academy; undergraduate and graduate students; scholars and professionals in cultural institutions in the public sector; and the general public, through a variety of media.

 Assessment of student achievement of Goal 3.

  • Students are required to take a course in public humanities that will introduce them to key themes in the field.
  • Students are encouraged to present their work at both academic conferences and forums oriented to the general public.
  • Students are encouraged to take a for-credit internship at an institution where they will engage in public humanities work, write a review essay grounded in their experiences, and be assessed by both an academic advisor and an internship supervisor in the public humanities.
  • Students are encouraged to conduct a for-credit independent study, under faculty supervision, to produce works of public scholarship.

 Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 3.

  • The program, in cooperation with departments and faculty members that participate in the program, regularly offers coursed in the public humanities.
  • Faculty incorporates questions and research about the public humanities into their coursework.
  • The program, on a competitive basis, distributes funds to support student travel to conferences for the presentation of their research.
  • The program supports lectures, conferences, performances and presentations relevant to American Studies on campus.
  • The program assigns doctoral students to work with both academic research centers and public humanities projects as graduate assistants.
  • Where appropriate, faculty members encourage students to produce work in the public humanities as part of their coursework.