Published Date

January 1, 2014

Resource Type

For Departments, Program of Study

AHA Topics

Academic Departmental Affairs, Teaching & Learning, The History Major, Undergraduate Education

This resource was developed as part of the AHA’s Tuning project.

Institution: Augustana College
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: Rock Island, IL
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

A Bachelor of Arts in History prepares students for:

  1. Employability in meaningful vocations
  2. Public life as responsible citizens
  3. A life well-lived, enjoyable to self and in service to others

We intend the History BA degree to make the inside of your head an interesting and principled place to live the rest of your life, and valued by others.

Characteristics of the Program

Does it matter if an Augustana history graduate knows the birthdates of all the presidents? Not to us. Because there’s a lot more to history than knowing facts and stories.

At Augustana, historical training is “brain training.” Every course reinforces a disciplined way of making sense of the world. Brain scientists call it “historical thinking.”

The mental habits and skill sets cultivated at Augustana include:

  • A lively, infectious passion for the study of the past
  • Knowing how to solve difficult, ill-structured problems that resist recipe-book analysis. Or, if not solving them, at least reducing the negative effects of the problem
  • A knack for recognizing nonsense
  • Evidence-based thinking, self-criticism, and intellectual humility
  • The ability to digest, analyze, and synthesize large data sets and quantities of information
  • Awareness of how historical contexts and processes matter for understanding our own time
  • A capacity for working effectively in collaborative, team efforts
  • Clear, effective communication, orally and in writing
  • Awareness of the development of differing values, systems, traditions, and societies
  • Discerning yet tolerant personal attitudes

Additionally, here are features of history at Augustana that set us apart from other programs:

  • Internships and practical experience in work outside the classroom, in museums, archives, historic preservation, etc., in the U.S. and abroad
  • Personal attention and mentorship from award-winning professors
  • For future teachers, training in how to teach historical thinking and how to think like a history teacher

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Some history graduates become historians, but most don’t.

That’s because the skills acquired in studying history are highly relevant to a wide variety of careers. History graduates commonly obtain employment in commercial, industrial, and public service management, business, finance, and consulting professions, marketing, sales and public relations, K-12 teaching and post-secondary education, librarianship, and archive and museum work. History also has a strong record of students continuing to further study at the postgraduate level.

Recent Augustana graduates are applying historical thinking to careers in:

  • banking and finance
  • the law
  • information technology
  • teaching
  • consulting
  • public service
  • library science
  • filmmaking

Crucially for the age we live in, the study of history prepares graduates for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Educational Style

The Augustana History Department views students as partners in an intellectual adventure. That’s different from thinking of them as customers to be pleased, raw materials to be shaped, or empty vessels to be filled.

This means that professors and students take joint responsibility for what happens in our program. Classes are small, with no class over thirty students. From the beginning, coursework emphasize “doing history” through deep and prolonged immersion in the practices, methods and materials of historical study itself. All coursework builds toward a capstone experience called Senior Inquiry in which students complete an original research project making a creative contribution to historical knowledge. For students training to be secondary history teachers, an advanced seminar reserved just for them prepares future teachers to not only “think like a historian” but also to “think like a history teacher.”

Of course, education is more than enrolling in classes. Studying history at Augustana involves opportunities to explore and discover the world, develop relationships with students and faculty members, engage in leadership opportunities, participate in activities, and formulate careers objectives.

The department recognizes that students are preparing for careers that will be multidimensional and for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Therefore, through internships and job placements, we foster an entrepreneurial mindset with our students so that they are set up to thrive as socially responsible, highly employable global citizens.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

What do we expect history graduates to know, do, and value?

1. History Graduates Love History.

A. They can explain what history is, and is not.

    • Distinguishes between three aspects of history: as “the past,” as “accounts of the past,” and as “a discipline for making sense of the past”
    • Names major types of history and divisions of the field
    • Explains the limits of historical mindedness

B. They can explain why history matters for widening human experience and developing vital qualities of perception and discernment.

C. They respect the ethical conventions of the discipline.

    • Does not fabricate, falsify, or willfully misrepresent sources, evidence, and ideas
    • Properly cites documents and evidence so that other researchers can verify sources and research methods
    • Acknowledges and properly cites the work of other researchers and scholars
    • Respects the rights and welfare of individuals during the research process
    • Respects preservation concerns related to handling and using historical materials

D. They ask open-ended questions about the past.

2. History Graduates Work Skillfully with Information.

A. They find pertinent, high-quality information.

    • Identifies and locates historical research sources, online and in print, at the researcher’s institution and at other institutions. Understands when these types of resources are preferable to an Internet search
    • Identifies appropriate tools and resources for specific research questions
    • Consults reference resources that are authoritative, current, and most relevant to the topic
    • Considers and applies suitable techniques when searching databases and search engines. E.g., Boolean searches, knows when to narrow or broaden terms, uses subject headings/controlled vocabulary to discover related resources
    • Applies specific search strategies to locate primary sources. E.g., uses appropriate subject headings, print indexes, and finding aids; identifies archives; and uses searchable full-text primary source databases
    • Mines references from secondary sources and uses source-appropriate tools to locate them

B. They analyze and interpret information drawing on specialized subject knowledge and historical thinking skills.

    • Distinguishes primary from secondary sources
    • Differentiates between popular treatments of a historical topic and peer-reviewed, scholarly analyses written by and for historians
    • Recognizes that there are gaps in the historical record
    • Assesses the credibility of sources
    • Determines and considers the credentials and intent of authors before using sources
    • Considers how the historical context in which information was originally created, accessed, and distributed affects its message
    • Addresses questions of genre, content, perspective, and purpose to generate subtexts that illuminate the intentions of the author
    • Recognizes that people in the past existed, acted, and thought differently than people in the present
    • Contextualizes primary and secondary source materials within larger historiographical debates

3. History Graduates Tackle Difficult-to-Solve Problems.

A. They pose good questions.

    • Distinguishes historical from other types of questions: moral, philosophical, psychological, etc.
    • Deploys signature questions of the discipline; E.g., change/continuity; causation; context; limits to knowledge
    • Selects and defines interesting, original, yet researchable questions

B. They use historical thinking to improve the structure of ill-structured problems.

    • Corroborates evidence
    • Sources information
    • Contextualizes information
    • Identifies absent evidence
    • Recognizes continuity/change

C. They analyze causality.

    • Avoids monocausal explanations and reductionist thinking
    • Distinguishes between enabling conditions and proximate causes
    • Employs counterfactual reasoning appropriately

D. They persevere through uncertainty.

    • Resists simple certitude; i.e., the language of “proof” and “inevitability”
    • Resists easy relativism; i.e., the language of “every view is equal”
    • Accepts limited relativism: i.e., the language of “plausibility/implausibility”

4. History Graduates Construct Sensible Accounts of Events in Question.

A. They synthesize information from a wide range of sources, including a variety of formats and viewpoints.

B. They substantiate arguments with evidence from primary and secondary sources.

C. They acknowledge, concede, or refute evidence that runs counter to an argument.

D. They arrange accounts in the form of explanations that can take many forms: e.g., narrative, exposition, causal model, analogy.

E. They assess and improve the quality of accounts with criteria of:

    • Coherence: organizes accounts around a central theme
    • Chronology: sequences events in time
    • Completeness: uses all available evidence that supports or opposes the expressed ideas and arguments
    • Contextualization: places the subject matter of an account into broader perspectives
    • Causation: links events/actions to demonstrate how an event or action produces particular consequences

F. They recognize the plausibility of alternative accounts.

5. History Graduates Communicate Effectively What They Know.

A. In dialogues with others, they deliberate toward conclusions.

    • Sustains a reasoned line of argument in conversation
    • Listens to and summarizes accurately the views of others
    • Engages in sustained debate
    • Amends views as necessary in light of evidence and argument

B. In writing, they express themselves in clear, lucid, and compelling prose.

    • Writes accurate, short summaries of an account offered by another
    • Sustains a written argument for 20+ pages
    • Chooses appropriately among rhetorical strategies for justifying an account: narrative, exposition, argument, etc.
    • Follows disciplinary conventions for citations

C. In oral presentations, they express themselves clearly and persuasively.

    • Attends to audience
    • Conveys “presence” and confidence
    • Uses technological aids appropriately and creatively
Lendol Calder

Augustana College