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: New College of Florida
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: Sarasota, FL
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

The history program at New College seeks to give students an understanding of the complexities of the past as well as our own role in its interpretation. The program encourages students to engage with a broad range of historical sources, emphasizing the in- depth study of particular historical moments as well as geographical and chronological breadth. This gives them an appreciation for the past on its own terms as well as a sense of how past events formed the world we live in today. Students learn to identify and explain historical patterns such as continuity and change, to be conscious of multiple perspectives, to acknowledge the limitations of the available evidence, and to accept the provisional nature of all historical knowledge. They also develop an appreciation for the importance of the choices made by the scholar at all stages of the interpretive process, from finding and organizing evidence to evaluating its meaning and significance. As a core part of a liberal- arts curriculum, the program acknowledges the inherent interdisciplinarity of historical study, since it shares both materials and methods with other fields in the humanities and social sciences. These principles prepare students for a wide variety of professional careers and lives of global citizenship, giving them a sense of moral responsibility and broader context for their thought processes and actions.

Characteristics of the Program

Distinctive features of the History AOC at New College of Florida are:

  • a firm commitment to teaching and learning in a seminar environment, with an average class size of 17;
  • written evaluations instead of letter or numeric grades, for a fuller, more holistic, and more personalized learning experience;
  • faculty specialization in a range of fields including Asian history, medieval & Renaissance history, modern European history, and US history;
  • options for dual or joint concentrations with other subjects, as well as coordination with interdisciplinary programs in Gender Studies, International & Area Studies, Medieval & Renaissance Studies, and Urban Studies;
  • the Biennial New College Conference on Medieval & Renaissance Studies, held on campus every other March;
  • the opportunity to pursue subjects not taught in the standard curriculum through individual and group tutorials;
  • internships at local institutions, including the John & Mable Ringling Museum, the South Florida Museum, Mote Marine Aquarium, and local historical societies;
  • support and funding for independent research and archival work, whether with local collections or national and international repositories requiring travel;
  • undergraduate teaching assistantships;
  • a commitment to the presentation and publication of undergraduate research;
  • the capstone experience of the senior thesis, which is based on primary and secondary sources, and defended before a committee in a public baccalaureate exam.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

The New College History program not only provides specialized academic training to students planning to pursue graduate degrees in history and related fields, but also prepares graduates to work in a wide variety of fields. Thus it develops students’ ability to:

  • investigate problems
  • identify reliable sources
  • analyze information
  • contextualize complex questions
  • communicate conclusions in a clear and thoughtful manner

Such skills are in demand by employers in many areas: our graduates manage Fortune 500 companies and local businesses; work in government, administration, and nonprofit organizations; train as lawyers and medical doctors; join the armed forces; and teach at every level from K–12 to university.

Some history graduates go on teach in schools and universities, while others find employment as “applied” historians, working as librarians, curators, and archivists in museums and libraries, classifying and preserving materials, setting up exhibits, and working with researchers. Still others work as preservation historians for historical societies, collecting data and working to preserve historic sites. History graduates’ strong analytical and writing skills also make them strong candidates for any job requiring writing and analysis. Some enter the field of publishing, while others have found employment in journalism, management/consulting, advertising and marketing, the health sciences, and information management. Many also enter the world of politics, whether in public office, policy and administration, advocacy, or the civil and foreign services.

Even among those students who have gone on to graduate school, the range of fields they have pursued demonstrates the versatility of a degree in history: along with history, recent graduates have received advanced degrees in creative writing, education, law, library sciences, medicine, philosophy, psychiatry, public policy, publishing, and religion.

Educational Style

The History program seeks to ensure that students gain experience with a broad range of historical periods, regions, and methodologies while allowing significant flexibility for students’ personal preferences and plans of study. Thus, while it eschews prerequisites, the program structures its courses so that students have acquired a solid grounding in historical method by the time they reach the thesis process in the final year.

  1. Lower-level courses are aimed at first- and second-year students, non-concentrators, and concentrators who have no prior background in the course material. These assist students in developing the knowledge and skills necessary for historical study, while introducing them to a broad range of chronological periods, geographical regions, and scholarly methodologies.
  2. Historical Methods (offered every spring) is aimed at second- and third-year students who plan to declare a concentration in History. This foundational course introduces students to the concepts, controversies, history, and techniques of history as a discipline, from both theoretical and practical standpoints. The class aims to prepare students to do advanced work in History (in particular, the thesis); as such, strong emphasis is placed on research and writing skills.
  3. Upper-level courses are aimed at (but not limited to) students in their third and fourth years. These allow advanced students to pursue more rigorous historical study focused on particular periods, societies, and themes, while enabling less advanced students to broaden their experience of the discipline and to practice more introductory skills.
  4. The thesis process (in a student’s final year) draws seniors into an intensive, year-long research project to develop an original piece of historical scholarship, which the student must defend before a faculty committee in a public baccalaureate exam prior to graduation.

In line with New College’s founding principles, the History program is designed to engage students with the practice of history from the very beginning of their studies-especially through close work with faculty who are active scholars in their respective fields-and to equip them to conduct their own independent research by their senior year. The program thus prioritizes students’ development of strong research, analysis, and communication skills.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

Students who complete a BA in History at New College of Florida should be able to:

  • find, select and interpret various types of historical evidence carefully
  • place both primary and secondary sources in appropriate historical and historiographical context, with attention to chronology, geography, and methodology
  • understand, synthesize, and engage with the ideas of others
  • identify and evaluate continuity and change, causality and coincidence, voice and agency
  • accept and/or resolve differing perspectives or conflicting evidence responsibly
  • formulate a persuasive analytical argument, and use evidence to support it
  • present their ideas clearly and professionally to audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with a given topic, in both oral and written format

A student demonstrates mastery of these skills when s/he:

  • completes a clearly-written, persuasively-argued thesis incorporating the original analysis of primary sources and comprehensive secondary research on a chosen topic
  • proves her/himself able to defend the structure and concepts of the thesis-as well as to position it in broader historical perspective-orally in a baccalaureate exam
  • acquires a satisfactory evaluation in Historical Methods
  • compiles a transcript featuring historical breadth (courses in a range of periods and geographical areas) and depth (both introductory and advanced courses)
  • includes on his/her transcript a relevant range of courses in complementary disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and/or natural sciences
  • demonstrates familiarity with a range of global perspectives through competence in a second language, and/or off-campus study and travel
  • works with primary sources in an archive, museum, library, or other historical institution, either through an internship or independent research
  • publishes his/her work or presents it at an academic conference
Carrie Benes
Carrie Beneš

New College of Florida