The American Studies Department at Macalester encourages students to undertake an honors project in their senior year by offering students the opportunity to pursue advanced work in the field through the Honors Program. Participation in the Honors Program involves the completion of a rigorous thesis on a scholarly issue of the student’s choice. The program offers American Studies majors a chance to take an in-depth look at an issue important to the field and allows them to take their undergraduate work to a new level in terms of research and length. The department suggests that students begin planning for their honors projects in their junior year and advises them to begin work on it as early as is practical.

The Thesis

The Thesis required for successful participation in the American Studies Honors Program is to be focused on a single scholarly subject in one of the departments three areas of emphasis: Racial Concepts and Theories; Cultures, Histories and Practices; and Activism and Social Justice. The department expects that the normal final product will be a substantial written thesis, which demonstrates independent critical thought and original research. It differs from a senior seminar paper (the normal capstone) in its breadth, depth, and scope. The senior capstone may not be used for this thesis. Typically, a thesis is composed of an introduction and several chapters, with the total length of the paper normally exceeding fifty pages. The paper must be backed up by well-documented research. The project is to be done in English. The honors project should be in the form of a typed thesis, but other formats may be used to support the thesis during the oral defense. Final projects may include literary scholarship or pedagogical studies and may be interdisciplinary in their approach.

A committee of three faculty members will evaluate each honors student. At least one committee member must come from the American Studies department. This committee will read the honors thesis and will engage the student in an oral discussion of her/his project. The committee will decide whether to recognize the student’s work with “honors.” The individual project advisor will be responsible for assigning the student a final letter grade for his/her independent study course.


Participation is open to all Macalester College students who either have already completed an American Studies Major or will have completed one by the time they graduate (students must have declared a major in American Studies). Honors students must complete all regular requirements for the American Studies department degree. Before finishing the honors project, the student should have completed twelve courses in American Studies of which not more than eight credits are independent research courses. Participants must have maintained at least a 3.3 overall GPA.

All honors students must register for or have already taken AMST 400, the American Studies senior seminar.

Honors applications can be downloaded here and can either be submitted to via email or delivered to the American Studies Office in Neill 114.