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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), American Studies: 52 hours

This program is only open to continuing and returning doctoral students.  We are not accepting new applications into the doctorate program. We are however, continuing to service existing doctoral students.  Students who fail to enroll in classes for two or more consecutive years must reapply. Readmitted students are subject to the graduation requirements of their program at time of readmission, which may have changed. In such cases, some previously earned credit may no longer count towards graduation.


Program Summary

The American Studies PhD program is designed to consider the history, political philosophy, government and culture of the United States of America from an interdisciplinary perspective. This program seeks to clarify the foundations of American thought and experience and to understand the challenge to these foundations posed by contemporary criticisms. It first investigates the understanding of human nature, political order and justice shared by America's founders and by earlier American statesmen and writers, as well as principal philosophers of Western Civilization. Central to this understanding is a concept of equality that aims at securing fundamental rights equally distributed to human beings by Natural Law, and a concept of liberty that is consistent with the rule of law, responsibility and moral virtue. Candidates consider how national institutions took shape within this earlier understanding and how they were subsequently transformed by events of the 19th Century, and finally by the 20th Century’s philosophical and cultural criticism of the founding. The program aims first to re-establish the connections between American self-understanding and the Western tradition. It then prepares students with knowledge and skills for enriching modern society with these principles, to restore and advance the cause of liberty in the best of this tradition.


Program Structure

The PhD in American Studies program is made up of two phases of study: Coursework and Dissertation.  Students begin the coursework phase by taking the required course: ST8010 Foundations of American Government and Society which provides a broad framework for the remaining studies.  Under the guidance of a faculty advisor, students choose the balance of their courses from eligible electives in three areas of study: Political Science & Philosophy, Constitutional Studies and American Culture & History.  This interdisciplinary foundation prepares the student for their comprehensive examination and dissertation research. 

At the conclusion of the coursework phase, students will prepare for and pass their Qualifying Examination before they are eligible to move into the dissertation phase. 

After passing the Qualifying Examination and before applying for doctoral candidacy, a student must write a dissertation prospectus and meet with designated committee members to discuss their proposed research plan.  Once the prospectus is accepted, the student applies for doctoral candidacy and is at that point considered ABD (all but dissertation).  Candidates then commence to carry out their research and writing plan working in conjunction with their dissertation committee.  Candidates should keep in mind that an American Studies dissertation must, at a minimum, involve interdisciplinary research and constitute an original contribution to the body of knowledge.  When the dissertation is complete and approved, the candidate must defend their dissertation orally.  All dissertation defenses are open to the public.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the PhD in American Studies degree program is only open to qualified students who were previously enrolled in good standing in the PhD in Constitutional Studies at George Wythe University. 

To apply to the program, students must:

  • hold a Masters degree
  • submit a completed online Application for Graduate Admission form
  • pay a non-refundable $60 re-application fee
  • complete an academic interview and transcript evaluation

Materials from previous applications may fulfill the following requirements upon approval:

  • an essay describing the applicant’s educational intent
  • two letters of recommendation
  • a creative sample with cover letter
  • official transcripts of all previous college work

Degree Requirements: PhD in American Studies

Students must complete 52 credits under the following requirements:

  • The required foundational course: ST8010  (2-credits).
  • A minimum of 36 additional course credits chosen under the guidance of a faculty advisor.  Qualifying courses are listed here.
  • Pass the Qualifying Examination, which tests students on their comprehensive knowledge of the coursework.
  • Prepare for and present the prospectus in the Dissertation Prospectus Meeting.
  • Complete a dissertation comprising a minimum of 14 credits of research and writing.
  • Successfully defend the dissertation.

Students may enroll in courses to prepare for their oral exams and may also take additional dissertation courses until their dissertation is accepted by the Committee, but these do not count toward graduation requirements.

Dissertation Prospectus Meeting

After passing the oral exam, and before applying for doctoral candidacy, a student must write a dissertation prospectus and meet with his or her committee members.  The prospectus meeting is not an exam or a defense, but is an opportunity to discuss the proposed research plan. The student writes a proposal outlining the topic, suggesting major research questions, describing a possible list of topics or table of contents, bibliography of primary and secondary sources and discusses the strategies, methods, and sources to be employed.  There is no particular length requirement, although the prospectus typically runs 15-30 pages.  This is then circulated among the dissertation committee members.

The meeting itself is a relatively informal setting in which the student briefly describes the project and all present engage in a discussion.  The meeting, which lasts approximately 1-2 hours, should be a brainstorming session that yields much for the student in the way of archival and bibliographic suggestions, possible problems that might arise, and interpretations from many different perspectives.


An American Studies dissertation must, at a minimum, involve interdisciplinary research and constitute an original contribution to the body of knowledge (see dissertation guidelines here). The dissertation is defended orally.  All dissertation defenses are open to the public.

Academic Progress Requirements

Only letter grades of B or higher may be counted toward graduation.  Students who earn a C+ or below must retake the course.  Students who earn two grades of C+ or below will be dismissed from the program.

Transfer Credit

With authorized approval, credit may be transferred from other GWU graduate programs.  Students in good standing may petition to transfer a maximum of six credit hours of graduate coursework from other colleges or universities.  However, only courses with grades of "B" or better may be considered for transfer credit.   



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