American Studies began at IUPUI as a center for interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship among faculty who built the School of Liberal Arts. From those early years in the 1970s, the Center for American Studies developed a number of other initiatives in religion and American culture, philanthropic studies, spatial humanities, and U.S. intellectual history and American philosophy.

In the 1990s, American Studies focused on developing an undergraduate minor that allowed students to work across departments. That minor continues to be a way for students to learn about topics and issues of contemporary as well as historical significance to American life.

In 2015, American Studies developed a doctoral program that offers students a way to leverage the social criticism and historical analysis of academic scholarship toward engaging problems and issues significant to contemporary American life. This program builds tracks for individual students in order to place them with research centers and external partners. American Studies seeks bring the public into the scholarship of the university in ways that our students will help us create.