Mar 23, 2018  
2017 - 2018 Graduate Catalog 
2017 - 2018 Graduate Catalog

American Studies, Ph.D.

Students may enter the Ph.D. program by one of two routes. They may enroll directly into the sequential M.A./Ph.D. course of studies (link) at William and Mary, or they may matriculate in the doctoral program, after completing M.A. degrees at other institutions.

Through a program of coursework and dissertation, students are expected to attain a thorough grounding in their chosen field of specialization, competence in a second field, and a broad understanding of the field of American Studies as a whole. From an institutional standpoint, advanced graduate study involves two major steps: (1) the colloquium and Ph.D. qualifying exam; (2) the planning, completion, and defense of a dissertation. Each step involves extensive work with a faculty advisor and committee.

Course Requirements

Course distribution (36 credit hours) consisting of:

  • An introductory seminar (AMST 661), if it hasn't been taken in the first year of the M.A./Ph.D. program.
  • Formal courses and independent readings, chosen in consultation with the student's advisor and designed to prepare the student to present Major and Minor Fields for the comprehensive examination. At least 4 courses (12 credits) must be taken at the 600 level or above, including AMST 661. AMST 795 does not count toward this total.  These courses may include some instances of AMST 790: Directed Research, and twelve credits of AMST 795: Independent Research.
  • Students must take at least six credit hours of AMST 800, although these do not count toward the 36 hour requirement.

Colloquium Requirement

Students should assemble a qualifying examination committee and arrange a colloquium to confirm plans for the exam no later than the fourth week of the third year of study. Preparation for the colloquium is, in effect, an extensive assessment by students of what they have accomplished and where they wish to go. To this end, students must prepare three documents to be distributed to all members of the exam committee at least two weeks prior to the colloquium:

  • reading lists defining major and minor fields of study for the qualifying exam
  • an intellectual autobiography (not to exceed 1000 words in length), which traces the student's development through coursework, reading, internships, independent research, etc., from entry into the Program to the final preparation for the colloquium
  • a one-page summary of the dissertation topic or topics that the student proposes to address

Qualifying Exam Requirement

Candidates take a qualifying exam in one Major and one or more Minor Fields. Major fields encompass established disciplines, such as History or English, and area or interdisciplinary studies, such as African-American Studies, Material Culture, or Women's and Gender Studies. Minor fields may also be devised to suit the students' particular interests. The total number of examinations is usually four, each with a different examiner.  Customarily the major field consists of two or three examinations, and the minor field(s) one or two.

Dissertation Requirement

Ph.D. candidates complete a dissertation based upon original research that makes a scholarly contribution to the study of American life.

Language Requirement

Candidates should have a reading knowledge of a foreign language of scholarship by the end of the fourth semester.

Residence Requirement

Candidates must spend at least one academic year in continuous residence as a full-time student at the College.

Satisfactory Progress

To be eligible to graduate, all students must achieve a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in all courses undertaken for graduate credit at William & Mary after admission to a degree program.  A student who receives a grade of C+ (2.3) or lower in a course may repeat that course one time for credit, upon approval of both the instructor of the course and the graduate director for the student's program. When such a repeat attempt is approved, the grades for both attempts will count in the cumulative GPA, but only the most recent attempt will count toward the degree. No credit toward a degree will be allowed for a course in which a student receives a grade below C (grade point = 2.0).

The department conducts periodic reviews of all students. Students who fail to make satisfactory progress towards their chosen degree(s) or who fail to maintain the grade point average required by the Program (3.3) are subject to dismissal. Students whose grade point average falls below 3.3 are put on academic probation the following semester. If at the end of the following probationary semester the grade point average remains below 3.3, funded students will lose their funding, and students - funded or not - may be dropped from the Program.

All requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within seven years from the first term of enrollment in the Ph.D. program, excluding periods of approved leave and military service. For a student enrolled in a master's program in the College of Arts & Sciences who subsequently advances to candidacy in the doctoral program in the same field, the terms of enrollment in the master's program will count towards the seven-year limit for the doctoral degree unless otherwise stated in the letter of admission.

Full-time students will pursue three semesters of course work beyond the M.A. and then take the qualifying examination in the fourth semester of their doctoral studies. After successful completion of the qualifying examination, students will begin their dissertations.

The American Studies Program also enables students to pursue the Ph.D. on a part time basis. Students may take course work part-time, but they must spend at least one academic year in continuous residence as a full-time student at the College. After their courses are complete, part-time students must also meet the same deadlines as full-time students and have seven years to complete their doctorate after matriculation in the Ph.D. program.