An interdisciplinary introduction to American culture and society, past and present

The Department of American Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences provides an interdisciplinary introduction to American culture and society, past and present. The department offers a Bachelor of Arts degree and an undergraduate minor in American Studies, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree and an undergraduate minor in Sport Studies. All course offerings and more detailed requirements are available in the UI General Catalog.

American Studies

What exactly is America—and how has American-ness shaped folk and popular culture, political life, media and the environment, social movements, and global economics? As the 2020 census makes clear, the United States is becoming increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. American Studies provides students with an opportunity to develop fresh, incisive interpretations of America’s multifaceted past and present, while preparing them for the future as deft critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers.

Whether by exploring the invention of the 40-hour workweek, the summer of love, the quagmires of U.S. imperialism, assimilation and food cultures, or national parks and Indigenous and environmental cultures, American Studies expands the sources through which students interpret core tenets – including equality, justice and the pursuit of happiness. Classes tend to be dynamic and student-centered, emphasizing hands-on social and cultural analysis. Students visit museums and archives, explore nature sites, stream media, and design projects with faculty mentorship.

Many of our students are double majors, pairing American Studies with Communication Studies, Enterprise Leadership, Journalism, Political Science, and other fields. Majors and minors in American studies take their critical thinking and problem-solving skills into an array of professions and endeavors, including museums and national parks, consulting and marketing, museums and national parks, teaching and education, sports management, business, and community leadership.

Sport Studies

Sports are a pervasive feature of contemporary life. They sustain billion-dollar industries, enjoy an outsized presence in media, and unite and divide people across regions, nations, and the globe. Sports are valued as an important public health practice, and as a symbolic way to work out shared cultural values. But how did sports come to occupy this prominent place in daily life? Why do sports take the forms that they do? How do they influence culture and society? How have they changed over time, and how might they change in the future? The curriculum in sport studies invites students to explore these questions. 

The sport studies major at the University of Iowa offers courses that explore the past, present, and future of sports in the state of Iowa, in the United States and in the world. We provide a rigorous, humanities-based investigation of the meaning, significance of sports as a cultural practice. Graduates of our program leave with skills in writing, critical analysis, archival work, and digital presentation. 

Many of our students are double majors, pairing Sport Studies with American Studies, Communication Studies, Enterprise Leadership, Journalism, Political Science, and other fields. They pursue a range of careers - from law to marketing, to sport journalism, to sport administration.

Bachelor of Arts in American Studies

The Bachelor of Arts in American Studies provides broad training in cultural analysis and communication. Students take courses that make sense of the contemporary world, both nationally and internationally, using a variety of approaches to the study of culture, including film, the digital humanities, art, theater, and literature. Faculty members have particular strengths in racial and ethnic studies, gender, sport studies, journalism, American literature, history, and American popular culture.

Learning Outcomes

Students are expected to demonstrate:

  • a deepened knowledge and critical understanding of American history, cultures, and society;
  • the ability to interpret a range of sources and to integrate those sources into a persuasive argument about American culture; and
  • the ability to explain one’s own perspective on American identity and to place that identity in the diverse, global context of our time.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts in Sport Studies

The Bachelor of Arts in Sport Studies examines sport in its historical and contemporary cultural contexts. Course work provides students with the critical skills necessary to understand the cultural significance of sport as it relates to the media, the economy, the political system, and the educational system. A focus on the race, class, and gender differences in the sport experience is central to the major.

Learning Outcomes

Students must demonstrate an understanding of:

  • contemporary U.S. sport’s relationship to institutions and contexts including media, politics, and the economy;
  • the diversity of sport experiences in the U.S., including how opportunities for and the nature of participation are influenced by social class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, age, and ability/disability;
  • the historical and cultural forces that shape U.S. sport from the 19th century to the present;
  • how U.S. sport relates to global sport and the historical, political, and social factors that impact it; and
  • the theories and research methods that allow students to forge their own well-informed and clearly communicated critical studies of sport.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

Minor in American Studies

The minor in American Studies provides the opportunity to develop both broad training in cultural analysis and emphasis of particular interests within the study of American culture.

Learning Outcomes

Students are expected to demonstrate:

  • a deepened knowledge and critical understanding of American history, cultures, and society;
  • the ability to interpret a range of sources and to integrate those sources into a persuasive argument about American culture; and
  • the ability to explain one’s own perspective on American identity and to place that identity in the diverse, global context of our time.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.

Minor in Sport Studies

The minor in Sport Studies examines sport in its historical and contemporary cultural contexts. Course work provides students with the critical skills necessary to understand the cultural significance of sport as it relates to the media, the economy, the political system, and the educational system. A focus on the race, class, and gender differences in the sport experience is central to the minor.

Learning Outcomes

Students must demonstrate an understanding of:

  • contemporary U.S. sport’s relationship to institutions and contexts including media, politics, and the economy;
  • the diversity of sport experiences in the U.S., including how opportunities for and the nature of participation are influenced by social class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, age, and ability/disability;
  • the historical and cultural forces that shape U.S. sport from the 19th century to the present;
  • how U.S. sport relates to global sport and the historical, political, and social factors that impact it; and
  • the theories and research methods that allow students to forge their own well-informed and clearly communicated critical studies of sport.

Want to get started?

Learn more about the program, including courses, curriculum, and requirements here.