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: Millsaps College
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: Jackson, MS
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

Millsaps history majors study the variety of human experiences, ranging from the United States and Europe to many other parts of the world. Professors encourage the free exchange of ideas and interpretations. Together we understand that the really important historical questions – the “why” questions – have no single right answer, but that all interpretations must be judged on the basis of the evidence that is offered to support them. By learning how to analyze and write about the past, history majors make a positive contribution to classes in other disciplines, too, including the arts, science, and business.

Characteristics of the Program

Millsaps history majors learn side-by-side with distinguished faculty who have achieved national recognition as teachers and scholars. Two have been recognized as the state professor of the year by the Carnegie Foundation for Teaching, while three have been awarded the state’s Humanities Teacher Award. Professors are especially noted for their teaching about the history of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Professors mentor student activities, such as our active chapter of the history honorary, Phi Alpha Theta, while facilitating numerous student internships off-campus. Faculty members either direct or are involved in study-abroad programs in England, Ghana, and Vietnam. A generous gift of one million dollars from the parents of a recent graduate enables the department to support select students who wish to participate in summer internships or in the British Studies at Oxford program.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Millsaps history majors are employed in a variety of fields. Some have gone on to find jobs in fields directly related to history. Many graduates now teach students in middle schools and high schools – our department has a close working relationship with the Millsaps education department, which helps to place history majors as student teachers in Jackson-area schools. Four recent history majors now work in historical preservation and restoration (in both the private sector and public sector), while two recent graduates now work for a national firm that assesses history education. Other common career paths include law and public policy. Three recent graduates have gone on to work on Capitol Hill. One, who holds a graduate degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins, helps to lead a non-profit for women in Mississippi, while another – a graduate of Harvard Law School — defends death-row inmates in Texas. Others have become prominent doctors, journalists, and clergy members. Several have started their own businesses, including one recent graduate who sells historical clothing. History majors have pursued a variety of graduate degrees, ranging from the MA and PhD in history, to professional degrees such as the JD, MD, M.Ed, and MBA. Noted graduates include David Donald, Professor of History at Harvard University; Randall Pinkston, CBS News Senior Correspondent; and Rev. Luther Ott, founder of Jackson’s Stewpot Ministries.

Educational Style

History majors learn about history in a variety of settings, all of which emphasize close work together with professors. The department’s 2000-level classes, such as the surveys of U.S. and European history, tend to enroll between twenty and twenty-five students. These classes blend together lectures, discussions, and group activities. The department’s 3000- and 4000-level classes aim to enroll between ten and fifteen students, so that a discussion-based seminar may take place. Most classes are writing-intensive, with shorter assignments in the 2000-level classes building toward the longer, original works produced in 3000- and 4000-level classes. In addition to writing, students present archival research findings in digital formats. The department expects that students will engage in one internship for credit at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, located near campus, where we have a close working relationship with curators and archivists. Students have also worked with mentors at other approved sites. In the senior year, student writing and research skills are assessed through an original essay, as well as through a written and oral comprehensive examination that asks general questions for which students have had extensive preparation. Comprehensive examinations, original research papers, and off-campus internships, are all considered to be “high-impact practices” by the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

Millsaps history majors have the same competencies as those recommended by the Tuning Project of the American Historical Association. (1) Students engage in historical inquiry, research, and analysis. (2) They understand change over time by developing empathy for their subjects. (3) They understand the complex nature of the historical record. (4) They are able to generate significant, open-ended questions about the past and devise research strategies to answer them. (5) They are able to craft historical narratives and arguments. (6) They practice historical thinking as a part of their own civic engagement.

Millsaps history faculty assess these student competencies formally, in the senior year, by means of the senior essay and the comprehensive exam. Students are prepared for their examinations during their course work, internships, and studies abroad, by learning the ways in which historians analyze the past. Students develop a disciplined, skeptical outlook on the world. They become familiar with making arguments from evidence and context. They understand the dynamics of change over time, while appreciating the complexity of the human experience. They develop a body of historical knowledge that is both broad and deep. They are able to gather, sift, summarize, order, and argue about evidence. They also understand that there may be a variety of possible interpretations and that these may be debated in respectful discourse.

Millsaps history students achieve these competencies by regularly engaging with each other and their professors in the following ways:

  • Generating class discussion questions from historical sources
  • Engaging the ideas of others constructively in discussion and in writing
  • Explaining differences between source materials
  • Demonstrating how various sources may be synthesized
  • Finding appropriate materials online, in a library, or in the community
  • Documenting materials responsibly
  • Evaluating the works of fellow historians
  • Narrating, in written or oral presentation, events from the past
  • Presenting and analyzing different perspectives on past events
  • Compiling a transcript that shows courses whose content ranges over time, space, culture, and methods
  • Identifying existing and compelling questions about historical subjects
  • Posing appropriate research questions
  • Write a proposal for the development of a work of history in any medium
  • Completing a successful capstone, senior research paper with appropriate citations
  • Participating in an internship or another engaged learning experience
William Storey
William Storey

Millsaps College