Tycho de Boer, Ph.D., Chair
The history department supports the mission of the university by providing education in history, a discipline which is a core component of the liberal arts. As such, it seeks to instill in students a thirst for lifelong learning; a commitment to participation in the civic culture of a democratic society; an appreciation for context and contingency; an inclination towards critical thinking and an appreciation for evidence in making judgments; and the ability to communicate those judgments and other ideas.
The department seeks to enhance the personal and professional lives of students who major or minor in history or take history courses as part of the General Education Program. Through a study of the past, students develop an understanding of the national and global societies of which they are members. The goal is that students, for example, come to understand the forces which mold the institutions of their own society and of the global community. The department also hopes that students discover where their generation fits in the historical development of the human race, and come to an appreciation of what is of value and therefore to be preserved.
History and history/social studies majors develop not only knowledge of the past, but also a variety of skills, including the ability to analyze and explain complex issues, the ability to research and present new information, and the ability to effectively communicate research and analysis in written and oral form. Through the social studies education major, the history faculty—as scholar-teachers and in cooperation with the School of Education—contribute to the formation of elementary and secondary school teachers through the instruction of history content and academic advising.
General Department Goals
Students demonstrate a strong foundation in historical thinking by successfully completing the history or history/social studies majors, whose goals are:
- To develop students’ ability to think historically, that is, to use historical methods in analyzing problems;
- To develop students’ ability to critically read and analyze historical works (secondary sources);
- To develop students’ ability to find and interpret historical evidence (primary sources);
- To develop students’ ability to construct an evidence-based interpretation of the past and communicate it effectively both in writing and orally; and
- To develop students’ ability to navigate from the academic world of the university to the world of work, professional development, and lifelong learning.
History majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad for a semester, preferably during spring semester of sophomore year or fall semester of junior year. Advanced consultation with one’s academic advisor relative to major requirements is recommended.
The history department encourages all students to study foreign languages. Students who are planning to attend graduate school are strongly advised to pursue language study.
History Department Distinction & Awards
The history department grants departmental distinction to graduating seniors who have earned a department GPA of 3.700 or higher, a cumulative GPA of 3.300 or higher, and at least an AB in H470 Senior Thesis I /H471 Senior Thesis II . Departmental distinction is reserved for students majoring in history, history/social studies, or social studies education who perform academically at the top level of all graduates from the department. The Brother J. Robert Lane Historical Essay Prize is awarded to students for excellence in historical research and writing whenever applicable. The history department book prizes are awarded each semester to outstanding students in each history class.
The history department sponsors the Lambda–Lambda Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. It also sponsors a student-funded History Club. Both the department and the club are active in inviting speakers to campus to discuss topics of interest and use to both majors and the entire university community.