Certificate in American Studies (CAST)


The Certificate in American Studies (CAST) is a multi-disciplinary program offered at GU-Q. It focuses on the American experience and its influence on politics. The program provides students with an understanding of the historic development of the American people and the evolution of American society. It explores political, cultural, economic, religious, and social themes across a variety of disciplines, as well as the activities of American institutions, at home and abroad.

CAST is modeled on other regional studies programs offered by GU-Q and the Washington, DC campus of Georgetown University. Students take core courses in American Studies, focusing on government, history, and literature, which in different ways examine the thought, communications, and behavior that have shaped society in the United States. Students then select appropriate elective courses that match their specific interests of study. Finally, under the direction of a faculty member, each student writes a senior research thesis that organizes and focuses their studies.

Program Goals

As an interdisciplinary program, American Studies:

  • Enables students to make connections across diverse fields of inquiry
  • Facilitates the students’ ability to make cross-disciplinary connections and to consolidate their area of interest
  • Exposes students to theoretical, analytical, and methodological approaches from diverse perspectives, including cultural studies, history, the humanities, and the social sciences.

CAST Specific Requirements

  • HIST 1801: United States History to 1865, or HIST 1802: United States History since 1865, or HIST 2301: US Diplomatic History II.
  • GOVT 1200: US Political Systems
  • One class designated as either HALC or AMST focusing on American Literature & Culture (or otherwise approved by the CAST curricular committee)
  • Minimum of three elective courses of choice, which have been designated as applicable for the American, studies program.
  • Completion of an original research thesis or ePortfolio

American Studies Sample Electives

GU-Q offers a variety of courses that fulfill the requirements of the American Studies Certificate. Below are some recently offered elective courses:

  • ECON 4411: Economics/Strategy of Sport
  • ENGL 2750: Cultural Politics of Migration
  • GOVT 3240: Campaigns and Elections
  • HIST 3609: America and the Muslim World.

Final Research Thesis or ePortfolio

To complete the CAST requirements students must complete a thesis or electronic portfolio. Students also taking Honors in the Major must complete their CAST thesis their junior year, however if they choose the portfolio option, Honors in the Major students may also pursue CAST their senior year.

Thesis Option

The research thesis enhances and advances the student’s research interests and skills and is undertaken under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

Thesis Requirements

  • Must have a faculty mentor
  • Students can elect to revise and expand the thesis project previously undertaken as part of a seminar
  • Thesis must be reviewed and approved by the American Studies faculty in order for the Certificate to be awarded
  • Student must give a formal seminar attended by all American Studies faculty in residence during the spring semester in which the thesis is completed.
ePortfolio Option 

The ePortfolio is a cumulative project that encourages students to reflect on the work they have  done in the program as a whole. The ePortfolio will serve as an online repository for student organization and learning and for advisor mentoring and monitoring. On the student end, it visually organizes and stores CAST materials and facilitates reflection, interdisciplinary and  experiential connections, and critical evaluation. On the faculty side, it facilitates student-advisor interaction and monitoring of progress. 

The e-Portfolio is meant to be a dynamic and holistic learning and advisory platform that  provides a foundation for creating the assessments (reflective essay, oral presentation). It is not an assessment tool of its own. Therefore, grading is pass/fail, based on completion of the basic checklist, as well as a reflective essay. A committee appointed by the CAST faculty chair will grant a certificate upon evaluation of the student’s eportfolio, reflective essay, and oral presentation.

ePortfolio Requirements 

  • Portfolio: Using the provided ePortfolio platform, include the following for each of the six required courses:
    • 1) a representative/culminating written work;
    • 2) any selected relevant artifacts (e.g. videos, images, presentations, etc.); and
    • 3) a 500-word reflective essay on the experience of the course as part of the certificate. The  reflective essay should ideally make interdisciplinary connections, connections to  experiences, demonstrate a critical evaluation of these connections, demonstrate  reflection and self-assessment and be clearly and well-written and organized (see rubric below) 
  • Meetings: At least meeting with mentor per semester documented using the “mentor supervision form” including feedback and next steps
  • Activity: One (minimum) co-curricular enrichment activity (e.g. lecture, workshop, field trip, etc.) relevant to certificate attendance/participation followed by written reflection describing the activity’s connection to the certificate
  • Presentation: Oral Presentation of ePortfolio required in senior year (15 minutes followed by question and answer section) 

ePortfolio Reflective Essay Rubric (Benchmark) 

Learning Outcomes  
At the completion of the essay, the student will be able to:
Excellent SatisfactoryNeeds Improvement 
Interdisciplinary Connections  
Make connections  across disciplines and perspectives 
Independently synthesizes or draws compelling conclusions by combining examples, facts, or theories from a variety of subject areas in the field of American Studies. Connects examples, facts,  or theories from a variety  of subject areas in the  fields of American Studies. Presents examples, facts, or theories from a  narrow subject area within the field of  American Studies. 
Connections to Experience  
Connect relevant experience and  academic knowledge 
Meaningfully synthesizes connections among experiences outside of the  formal classroom (including workshops, speaker series, etc.) to deepen understanding of fields of study, to illuminate concepts, theories, or frameworks of fields of study, and to broaden own points of  view. Effectively selects,  compares, and develops  co- curricular experiences  and academic knowledge  from a variety of contexts to infer differences, as well as similarities, and  acknowledge perspectives other than own. Identifies connections  between a minimum  amount of co-curricular  experiences and those academic texts and  ideas perceived as  similar and related to  own interests. 
Critical Evaluation of Connections  
Evaluate the suitability and usefulness of concepts, theories, and contexts to interdisciplinary questions 
Thoroughly (systematically and methodically) analyzes and carefully evaluates the relevance of disciplinary concepts or theories to interdisciplinary contexts. Identifies the advantage of interdisciplinary  research. Identifies own and others  disciplines and articulates  the differences in approach between disciplines as well as the areas of commonality. Shows a limited  awareness of own and other disciplines. 
Reflection & Self Assessment  
Demonstrate a developing sense of self as a learner, building on prior experiences to respond to new and challenging contexts 
Recognizes and evaluates changes in  own learning over course of  certificate/minor, recognizing  contextual factors (e.g., inter disciplinarity, importance of analyzing  context from multiple perspectives,,  etc.) that have shaped those changes.  Examines how the course contributes  to personal and intellectual growth  and development. Articulates strengths and challenges of own personal and intellectual growth and development. Demonstrates limited recognition and understanding of  personal and intellectual growth and development. 
Organization & Style  
Display a mastery of  structure, tone, and diction 
Writing is flawless (grammar, spelling,  coherence, flow), the argument is  original, well- organized and clear, demonstrating a superior ability to  creatively and appropriately organize and express ideas. 
Learning outcomes and rubric for ePortfolio reflective essay

CAST Thesis Timeline

2023-2024 Deadlines:

  • October 5, 2023: Progress report due to respective mentor(s) (mandatory)
  • January 11, 2024: Thesis/eportfolio draft due to respective mentor(s) (mandatory)
  • February 22, 2024: Final thesis/eportfolio Essay due to respective mentor(s) (mandatory)
  • March 7, 2024: PowerPoint presentation slides due for Certificate presentation
  • Mid-March 2024 (exact date TBD): Certficate Project presentations (mandatory)
  • March 31, 2024: Final thesis/eportfolio Due to Committee Members
  • March 31, 2024: CAST applications due for Juniors (and Sophomores wishing to pursue Honors)

2024-2025 Deadlines:

  • October 5, 2024: Progress report due to respective mentor(s) (mandatory)
  • January 11, 2025: Thesis/eportfolio draft due to respective mentor(s) (mandatory)
  • February 22, 2025: Final thesis/eportfolio Essay due to respective mentor(s) (mandatory)
  • March 7, 2025: PowerPoint presentation slides due for Certificate presentation
  • Mid-March 2025 (exact date TBD): Certficate Project presentations (mandatory)
  • March 31, 2025: Final thesis/eportfolio Due to Committee Members
  • March 31, 2025: CAST applications due for Juniors (and Sophomores wishing to pursue Honors)

How to Declare

Interested students should contact Dean Christine Schiwietz and the faculty chair of the Certificate in American Studies Program.


  • If a student receives advanced credit for American Government, American History and/or American Literature, the student will take upper-level American Studies electives in place of the core foundation courses, as approved by his or her primary academic advisor for the American Studies Program.
  • Two American Studies certificate courses may be completed at academic institutions other than Georgetown University with prior approval.
  • Eligible students are encouraged to take a Junior Year Abroad, which usually means one semester or two of their junior year on the Washington, DC, campus of Georgetown University.
  • Most courses will be completed during junior and senior year. 

Frequent Questions

By April 5th

The expected length of the thesis is 25-30 double-spaced pages, including references and endnotes. The submitted thesis will receive a Pass/Fail grade and not a letter grade.

Students are encouraged to formulate a topic before the beginning of their senior year. Within the first three weeks of the academic year, the student submits to the American Studies Certificate Director a completed and signed thesis declaration form. The student will be expected to submit the revised and final version of the thesis early on in the spring semester.

Pursuing Honors in the Major and a Certificate simultaneously is a heavy workload, and students must plan accordingly based on whether they will be submitting a thesis or eportfolio for their final requirements.

  1. Thesis: In order to pursue CAST with a thesis and Honors, the student MUST complete the Certificate thesis in the junior year. The deadline for submitting the certificate thesis in its approved form would be the first day of classes in the student’s senior year.
  2. ePortfolio: If the student chooses the ePortfolio option for CAST, they may do both a certificate and Honors in their Senior year.