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: James Madison University
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

The History Major at James Madison University introduces students to the study of history as a discipline, inculcates habits of lifelong learning and cross disciplinary perspectives among its graduates, and provides important skills designed to meet the changing needs of our students in society. The faculty is dedicated to achieving the highest level of excellence within our academic programs, focusing on the student as an individual and as a member of the global community. The Department of History emphasizes that students be active learners who demonstrate excellent research, critical thinking, oral communication and writing skills, as well as technological skills.

The History major teaches students content, chronology and interpretations. It also teaches the methods of historians and how to apply them to locate, analyze, evaluate and interpret evidence, then present their results effectively in written and oral forms suitable to a variety of audiences.

Characteristics of the Program

  • Provides all students opportunities to study with a dedicated faculty who strive to teach and mentor.
  • Our program teaches students chronology, content and interpretations; to locate, evaluate, interpret, and apply primary and secondary evidence to research and writing; to analyze and synthesize multiple and sometimes conflicting evidence; to question all sources; to write effectively and creatively for print and digital audiences; to and use technology effectively in their research and communications.
  • Finally, the program offer students guidance and experiences to prepare them for a variety of career paths in business, industry or public service. The program also offers students guidance regarding continuing their education.
  • The program has systematically assessed its progress annually for more than twenty-five years and uses the data from these assessments to improve and enhance the programs.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Graduates of the program continue to compete successfully for admission into graduate programs in History or related disciplines, as well as law, medicine, and graduate business. Those completing the BA compete for careers in public service at the international, national, or regional levels, for careers in education, or for careers in business and industry. The department works closely with many federal, state, and private agencies to make certain our majors possess the skills and discipline to succeed in their chosen careers. Faculty encourage students to work with university career planning and placement staff and to participate in job fairs. We also encourage alumni to serve as mentors for majors seeking particular career paths. Career opportunities open to those receiving a BA in history include:

  • Archiving
  • Education
  • Industry
  • Local, state, and federal government
  • Museum curation
  • Private business

Students completing an undergraduate degree in history possess marketable abilities in:

  • Analyzing
  • Researching
  • Writing

They also possess computer abilities and skills in:

  • Database development
  • Statistical analysis
  • Website development

Educational Style

The program blends traditional learning styles with newer techniques and strategies. Surveys offer traditional lecture formats, while seminars provide students with opportunities to develop their own research, analytical, and writing skills. Other courses blend advanced technologies to present students with occasions to master new approaches and learn new skills. Students also have many experiential opportunities as well as occasions to study abroad. After the survey lectures, class size in kept to a minimum to encourage the fuller development of research and writing skills and provide more occasions for collaborative learning and mentoring.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

The program emphasizes that students be active learners who demonstrate excellent research, critical thinking, oral communication and writing skills, as well as skills in using various technologies. Assessment data for the past quarter century indicate majors complete the program with these skills and competencies and to compete as individuals in a global community.

Michael Galgano

James Madison University