In 1975, a group of faculty representing a variety of fields within the liberal arts at IUPUI collaborated on the creation of the Center for American Studies. The founding members of this center included many who would become the most distinguished faculty in the school, including Jan Shipps, Rowland (Tony) Sherrill, Miriam Langsam, Ralph Gray, James Smurl, Paul Nagy, Bernard Friedman, and Samuel Roberson.  The center served as an incubator for ideas that grew into significant academic endeavors, including, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, the POLIS Center, the Institute for American Thought, and the School for Philanthropy. From its beginning at IUPUI, American Studies sought to unite disciplines for the benefit of the campus.

In the spring of 2015, the faculty of IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts voted unanimously to approve the creation of a doctoral program in American Studies. In many ways, this act recalled the collaborative work of the faculty in the mid-1970s, advancing and leveraging the talent, scholarship, and community engagment of the IUPUI campus. In August of 2015, the Indiana Commission on Higher Education approved the establishment of a Ph.D. in American Studies at the Indianapolis campus, designating it as the third American Studies program in the state to award doctoral degrees. The program’s emphasis on training and graduating students for non-academic careers was a key aspect in this process. In August of 2017, the AMST PhD program welcomed its inaugural cohort of four students.