Learning by Doing in American Studies

The American Studies program encourages you to test your career goals through internships, and it requires an individual research project to help you broaden your knowledge, deepen your research skills and explore your particular interests.

During the school year and over summers, internships are available with various government agencies, businesses and non-profit organizations. Summer internships and study programs can be arranged throughout the country to fit your interests. And of course - back on campus - there are numerous ways to learn by doing, starting with most of our courses, which link theoretical, classroom and book learning with experiential activities.

Recently - for her senior research on "Andrew Jackson, Indian Dad" - Karen Winkle used money from the Hague-Critoph Fund to travel to Jackson's home (the Hermitage), to research in the archives about Jackson's adopted Native American son, Lakota.

Student-Faculty Collaborations

Students have opportunities to collaborate with faculty at every turn, including class projects, collaborating on research and office-hour advising on coursework and careers. The department and the university also offer a number of opportunities for further collaboration between students and faculty:

The Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) offers summer grants to students to work on a research project with a faculty mentor. A number of American studies majors have won SURE grants, and for each of them, the grant was a crucial part of their senior research project:

  • Susan Hartley studied race relations in St. Augustine in the years since the long hot summers of 1964-1965.
  • Sara Cotner researched the impact of gender on primary school children's performance.
  • Michael Chronister studied the impact of technology on copyright and the public sphere in issues of intellectual property.
  • Michael McCombs investigated boot camps for girls in Central Florida and presented his work at a WGS roundtable presentation, "Your Mother Wears Combat Boots: Gender Modeling, Deviance and Military Rehabilitation in a Boot Camp for Adolescent Girls"

» More information about the Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience

Each spring Stetson University hosts a conference for students from every major to present their research and creative work. A number of American Studies students have been presenters:

  • Karen Winkle (1998)
  • Krista Brindle (2001)

» More information about Stetson Showcase

The course Pragmatism and American Culture has exercises in old magazine browsing, film viewing, and interviewing after each segment of learning from books, lectures, and discussions. As part of AMST 452, Nature and the American Marketplace, students visited the Disney-Wilderness Preserve and learned hands-on and on-site about the work of restoring the landscape that the Nature Conservancy is pioneering at this park south of Orlando that was created as a mitigation project for the environmental destruction generated by the Disney theme parks. The students in another class, AMST 154, Environmental Issues, read the book, The Ecology of Hope, co-authored by the preserve's former director, Jora Young, and she visited the class in person to discuss the book, the preserve, and her vision of environmentalism.

Learning the Built Landscape... The class AMST 261, Material Culture: Things and Their People, regularly requires four hours of field experience, with experiences that could include learning about architectural salvage, visiting local archeological sites, documenting historic buildings, leading visitors on the West Volusia Historical Society's Candlelight Tour of Homes, and taking field trips to local cemeteries and the historic DeLand House.

Campus Outreach was a major activity for Ann Jerome Croce during 1996-98, when she served as Director of the Discovery Program, which was then a new program to help undeclared students to understand liberal education. She initiated and directed the Discovery Course, a multidisciplinary introduction to thinking about pressing issues such as health care, gender roles, and environmentalism. The course involved, during every semester, as many as eighty-five students, seven faculty members from across the University, and seven student assistants. Ann Croce's innovations live on in the Discovery program, which is currently directed by Leonard Nance.

Stetson offers a Washington Semester for selected juniors and seniors who wish to study American government and politics in the nation's capital. Credit earned during the Washington Semester counts toward an American Studies major. Students can choose a broad program in government and politics or a more specialized area such as American foreign policy, the criminal justice system, mass media and journalism, or economic or urban policy. The program includes an internship in a government agency or congressional office, and an individual research project. We also encourage students to consider other learning experiences such as those offered by the Fund for American Studies (202-986-0384), the Institute for Experiential Learning, and the Student Conservation Association.

Students can apply courses from study abroad, from work at other universities and in other programs within the United States, and to a certain extent even from other departments at Stetson toward the major, especially toward the four-course focus area. This is a place where students can apply their interdisciplinary thinking to the integration of their course work around a theme that because a focus of concern. This part of the requirements encourages our majors to take an active part in organizing their liberal arts learning and to take the initiative in constructing part of their education.

Work to Learn/Learn to Work

In American Studies, we are dedicated to supporting you as you explore American culture, as you learn about yourself and your values in relation to your general education, and as you prepare for your working life.

Much of the material in American Studies is challenging both to your analytical brain and to the field of assumptions that most people carry around with them. It is not easy to learn about policies, ideas, and theories about society and thought; and it is also not easy to raise critical questions about movies, music, and sports to find the cultural messages embedded in everyday life. We don't aim to give you easy work but to help you learn how to handle difficult work easily.

Some undergraduate education is geared to direct preparation for a particular job. American Studies and most liberal arts majors are not so directly vocational-but that does not mean that we want to make sure you don't get a job! On the contrary, we provide an education in a breadth of subjects, and we offer training in flexible thinking. In American Studies, you will not only learn about American culture and raise probing questions about the American past and present, but also learn how to learn, so that in the future you will be prepared to take on new challenges. Who knows what they will be? surely these challenges will be ones that none of us can even dream of now. Understanding how we have gotten to the present will be a good platform for dealing with the future.

In addition, you can't know every fact you'll need to learn, but if you develop good learning skills, you can learn new things readily. The multiple disciplines used to understand the varieties of human experience in the United States provide settings for thinking about the connections among different topics, the themes that show their relations, and the cultural diversity that gives them color and distinctive shape. Future flexibility begins with learning about diversity and the relationships that often lie just below the surface.

Here are guides to help you think about how your training in American Studies courses can prepare you for future work. 

Internship Opportunities

These internships are administered through the Department of American Studies, and students interested in them must be approved by departmental faculty. Many more valuable internships are administered through the Office of Career Services (call 822-7315 for more information), and we encourage students to take advantage of the opportunities there as well.

For all internships in American Studies, please fill out the registration forms and bring them to the department (218 Sampson Hall).

Student Research in Science and Religion Program

In each semester since 1999, the American Studies Department has offered an "internal internship" for students interested in research on the cultural impact of science and religion. In my Templeton Foundation grant, I specified that part of the money would go to students for research with me on science and religion topics broadly conceived. The Student Research in Science and Religion (2SR) Program can pay up to $500.00 for a semester of work (fall, spring, and sometimes summer).


  • Open to all Stetson students
  • Good research experience is required


Good background preparation for many senior research courses

  • Excellent addition to applications for graduate school, law school, medical school, and many careers
  • An interdisciplinary opportunity for scientists to link their work to issues in the humanities and social sciences and for students in these fields to learn things from the sciences.
  • Production of a paper or publication to enhance the resume

Suggested Topics:

  • Changing attitudes toward science and religion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and today
  • Creationism and Evolutionism across the religious spectrum
  • Thought and life of William James or legacy of James up to the present
  • Theoretical and practical ways to understand the relation of science and religion
  • Impact of medicine on new and traditional approaches to the understanding of science and religion.
  • Survey of Stetson faculty activities inside and outside the classroom related to religion, ethics, and community outreach

Required Work:

  • Regular meetings to talk about topics, questions, sources, outlines, drafts, and writing
  • A research paper suitable for delivery at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, Stetson's Undergraduate Scholarship and Performance Day, or other outlets


  • Submit a transcript, a cover letter (one or two pages) outlining the topic of research, and the name of a reference person by the beginning of advising each semester to be considered for this program.
  • All applicants will be notified by the end of registration-allowing time to plan for the next semester's courses
  • Applications will be chosen based on their quality, the person's ability to complete the work and their compatibility with my current research

Work opportunities within commuting distance of Stetson's campus.

West Volusia Historical Society (DeLand)

This is a paying internship funded by the Historical Society. Students work at the Henry DeLand House and other sites as needed, performing tasks that address the Society's needs at the time. For example, previous interns have assessed and cataloged published and unpublished documents and photographs. This internship provides an opportunity for students to learn how historical associations preserve the past and to develop curatorial and cataloging skills.

Florida Department of Transportation, Commitment Compliance Program (DeLand)

This is a non-paying internship with the DeLand D.O.T. office, which assures its compliance with environmental regulations. It provides the intern with a first-hand look at how government operates, how laws affect government practices, and how development impacts the natural environment.

The Nature Conservancy (Altamonte Springs)

This is a nonpaying internship at the Florida chapter headquarters of the international environmental organization. Three interns, drawn from Stetson and other area colleges, work directly with professional staff in negotiations with business and government, in planning land management strategies, and in writing brochures and articles to communicate with the public. This internship is useful for students interested in working with environmental issues and pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector.

Children's House Montessori School (DeLand)

The school, with children from preschool through middle school, practices the creative, experiential methods of Maria Montessori. Children learn by doing, they work on projects at their own skill levels, and they help the younger children. The intern observes the children's education and helps teachers with projects. It does not include pay.

Paxson Communications (Orlando)

Paxson Communications owns a number of regional radio stations, appealing to a variety of markets. The interns can qualify for a number of jobs at the different stations and in the company's various offices. The initial appointments are usually nonpaying.

Exhibit Builders, Inc. (DeLand)

This private company works with museums and companies to plan, design, and install exhibits and to help promote the museum's or company's products. They are looking for interns with research abilities and curiosity and some familiarity with social history and art history. Interns learn some basic curatorial skills. There may be some opportunities for pay.

Atlantic Records (Orlando)

Steve Robertson scouts musical talent for Atlantic Records. The intern would serve as his assistant, working directly with him in going to shows, listening to music, and meeting people in the music business.

Volusia County Manager's Office (DeLand)

Interns can become involved, on a paid or non-paid basis, in the variety of work directed by the county manager, including legal work, law enforcement, environmental regulation, growth management, and other governmental activities.

Howard Thurman House (Daytona Beach)

Interns can become involved in the academic and community work of the historic house and its community development center in Daytona and at Stetson's Thurman Center. Thurman was a theologian, preacher, author and mentor to Martin Luther King, Junior, and Daytona Beach native. The Thurman House and the Thurman Center, which are directed by Jefferson Rogers and affiliated with Stetson's Institute for Christian Ethics, are dedicated to empowering the African-American community in its neighborhood through speakers and cultural and educational programs.

News Channel 2: WESH-TV (Orlando)

Interns assist and learn about the operations of the newsroom. They work in sales, communications services, or news departments. Some of the activities include responding to beat calls, researching background information on news stories, answering questions from the public, and assembling and evaluating information for use on air.

Internships further afield away from DeLand (especially for summer work).

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Marathon)

This is a summer internship with some possibility for pay, sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The interns work with staff in planning and implementing the Strategy for Stewardship, a comprehensive plan for coordinating economic development and the public's interest in recreation with the fragile ecology of the Keys. The plan makes use of recent innovations in environmental reform in that it stresses education and citizen involvement in the enforcement and upkeep of the Keys.

Allegheny Heritage Development Corporation (Pennsylvania)

This summer internship is part of a community development project in southwestern Pennsylvania which matches the expertise of student interns with the needs of a wide variety of organizations within the nine-county region it serves. Interns are placed in organizations throughout the region to take on projects that encourage economic revitalization, build community and agency strength in heritage tourism and seek to improve the quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania. All internships are full-time and last 12 weeks, undergraduates receive a total stipend of $2000., and housing is located by AHDC for about $500. for the 12-week period.

Wildlife Center of Virginia (Virginia)

Wildlife Center offers three different types of internship experience: a) animal caretaker, whose duties include cleaning, feeding, and tending to orphaned and injured wildlife; b) environmental educator, who assists in school programs and workshops, using stories, activities, and contact with non-releasable animals; and c) communications intern, whose work is in public relations, fundraising, and marketing for the center's direct mail campaigns, publication designs, corporate and foundation sponsorships, special events and fundraisers. This is a nonpaying internship, but housing is provided, with no meals.


A academic enrichment program for disadvantaged middle school students; the program has 32 different locations (including Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, and Hong Kong) and seeks college students to teach during the summer; subjects range from math and public speaking to cooking and creative writing. In addition to a stipend, there is housing available for the intern.

International American Studies Faculty (Austria)

Interns help to plan international seminars, gather bibliographical information, and assist staff in developing American Studies programs around the world.

Alternative work options after graduation.

Teach for America

A network of recent college graduates who dedicate two years to teaching under-resourced schools; locations include the Mississippi Delta, Baltimore, the Bay Area, North Carolina, Phoenix, Rio Grande Valley, rural Louisiana, and Washington DC; teachers are recent college graduates in fields other than education. Teachers can work in schools from the elementary to the high school level. They begin after attending a summer institute and commit to two years of teaching.


The domestic version of the Peace Corps. Members can choose to be placed anywhere in the US. The commitment is for one year, which includes a monthly stipend, health insurance, student loan deferral, and assistance with housing.

State Public Interest Research Groups

There are openings for program associate positions that are designed to give self-directed college graduates the opportunity to assume a high level of responsibility within the public interest movement. The job requires a two-year commitment and outstanding written and oral skills, and it includes lobbying, research, field organizing, media relations, political writing, and fundraising.

To receive academic credit for an internship, students must complete the Academic Internship Course Registration. This comes in two phases: (1) Initiate Academic Internship Course Registration and (2) Finalize Academic Internship Course Registration.

Initiate Academic Internship Course Registration

Once you have secured an internship, please follow the steps below to enroll in an Academic Internship Course. This Academic Internship Course is offered by your academic major/Department, for example, MKTG 397 for marketing and PSYC 297V for psychology.

  1. Identify the faculty member teaching the internship course related to your studies by conducting a Class Search for the desired semester. (We will refer to this faculty member as the Faculty Internship Course Instructor.) Select “Internship” from the Interdisciplinary Programs drop-down list. If you do not see a particular course listed, contact Career and Professional Development at [email protected].
  2. Meet with your Faculty Internship Course Instructor to request academic credit for your internship and learn about course requirements. It is important to prepare for this meeting using the Academic Internship GuideYour Faculty Internship Course Instructor will want to know about the details of your experience and your learning objectives. 
  3. If your Faculty Internship Course Instructor approves your internship for academic credit, ask them for a Permission of Instructor override, which will allow you to register for the appropriate internship course.
  4. Register for the course through MyStetson, as you do for all other academic courses.
  5. International Students, please contact WORLD regarding approval for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). 

Finalize Academic Internship Course Registration

After you have enrolled in your Academic Internship Course, you will receive an email with the following instructions below.

  1. Fill out and submit an Academic Internship Application Form: once you have enrolled in your Internship course, you can fill out the Application Form. You can also view video instructions on how to fill out the form.
  2. Track the progress of your Academic internship Registration Form: your application will need to be approved by your Faculty Internship Course Instructor, Department Chair and Internship Site Supervisor. Once you submit your form, you can track the form's progress through emails from [email protected]. If you are not receiving emails, please go back to your form and ensure you have clicked "Submit" at the bottom of the waiver.
  3. Internship Orientation: some majors/internship courses may require this orientation to be completed before the beginning of the internship and course, while others may suggest it as optional. Please contact your Faculty Internship Course Instructor to see if this is required for your academic internship. Note: Internship orientation is offered asynchronously via Canvas. 

All these requirements must be completed by the Internship Course Registration Deadline for each semester as noted on the Academic Calendar (DeLand Campus). Students who miss this deadline risk being administratively dropped from their internship course.

For general questions, please contact Career and Professional Development at 386-822-7315 or email [email protected].  

Internships are a wonderful way for students to gain work experience, test their vocations in particular professions, make contacts in the field, and earn some money or gain university credit in payment for their work. In keeping with university precedents, department internships can be for pay or for credit.

Most of the work of the internship is the same whether there is payment or credit involved: the student should turn in the completed Internship Agreement Form at the beginning of the semester and the Internship Evaluation Form at the end of the semester, and the work time should be 8-10 hours per week. However, to earn academic credit, the internship should have an academic component. The goal is to provide reading and writing experiences that complement and enrich the internship itself. The academic arena is often a good place to think broadly and theoretically, and the workplace is the setting for practical experience and familiarity with the details and daily feel of a job. Ideally, the academic material will foster better work by the intern and a clearer understanding of the professional field, and the work experience will provide concrete applications of the academic learning from this course and perhaps from others as well.

Here is an outline of a suggested set of "course requirements" for the AMST395, Internship. Please begin by developing a title to reflect what you will be learning on the job and in the academic work (and by doing so, you will also--at a glance--tell future readers of your transcript exactly what you did this semester):

AMST395, INTERNSHIP: [your own descriptive title]

  • Overview paper (3-5 pages): description of the workplace, the goals for the semester's work, the student's and the supervisor's expectations, and the questions that might be answered by this experience. Due in the first three weeks.
  • Two book reviews (5-7 pages each): critical evaluations of books on subjects related to the work experience. The books should be quality writings that provide a breadth of overview of the profession and/or analytical insight into issues of the field. Each of the student's book reviews should also include an evaluation of at least one professionally published book review, due during weeks 5 and 10.
  • Assessment paper (3-5 pages): evaluation of the work experience, especially in light of the overview expectations and the academic learning from the books. By comparing and contrasting practice and theory, this paper should assess the internship experience as a whole, due during the last week of the semester.