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: St. Francis Coll.
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

Historical inquiry provides a broad understanding of the institutional and cultural foundations of contemporary civilizations. By studying history students become informed citizens, gain an increased understanding of diverse viewpoints, and learn how to use historical context to make knowledgeable decisions about the future. History majors also gain a variety of skills such as planning and organizing projects, gathering and analyzing evidence, and clearly communicating their conclusions that are in high demand in a wide variety of professions.

Characteristics of the Program

The history major at St. Francis College provides students with a scaffolded progression of skills and content knowledge. At the beginning of the major, students take two 1000-level courses. These classes provide a survey of modern US and world history along with an introduction to historical skills and methods. History majors are also required to take 15 credits of 2000-level courses, including at least one class in European, Global, and U.S. History. Courses at the 2000 level provide chronological and geographic surveys of various countries and regions, introduce varying historical interpretations, and continue the development of historical skills and methods. Majors are required to complete 15 credits in 3000-level courses as well, with at least one course in European, Global, and U.S. History. Courses at this level utilize the historical knowledge and skills that majors have already developed to focus on a particular topic, idea, or area. The capstone of the history major is a two-course sequence at the 4000 level. All majors take a research methods and historiography course during the spring semester of their junior year. They then complete a senior thesis the fall semester of their senior year that utilizes the knowledge and skills they have developed as history majors. Additional 4000-level courses allow students to gain credit for internships and work with a professor to conduct in-depth independent research on a specific topic.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Majoring in history provides students with knowledge and skills that can be utilized in a wide variety of careers. History majors learn to place contemporary events in a larger historical context and better understand viewpoints that differ from their own. They also develop communication, research, analysis, organization, and problem-solving skills prized by employers.

St. Francis College’s history alumni have utilized the wide-ranging knowledge and skills they gained as majors to pursue a variety of careers. A few have obtained their PhDs and become history professors, and there are several recent alumni currently studying history in graduate school. Many other graduates are now middle and high school teachers. A significant number of graduates have successfully pursued careers in business and law. Large numbers of history alumni also work for the government in jobs ranging from U.S. Congressman to Federal Judge to various positions in law enforcement. Other graduates have pursued careers in journalism, IT, and even accounting.

Students receive guidance on career options and instruction on how to explain their skills and qualifications to employers as a component of the capstone course. Throughout the curriculum, students are given opportunities to engage with people in various history-related fields as well.

Recently, the History Program has increased its course offerings in public history, and we hope to soon introduce a minor in that field. This new emphasis will help future alumni pursue careers related to public history such as archival work, documentary filmmaking, genealogy, historical preservation, and museum studies.

Educational Style

History classes vary in instructional method based on the course level. Upper-level courses are often organized as seminars, while lower-level ones typically combine lecture with student discussion. Assessment of student learning also varies based on course level. The knowledge and skills of students in 1000-level courses is assessed through assignments and exams. Although students in these courses are given writing assignments, only basic skills are required to complete them. At the 2000-level students are required to complete substantial writing assignments such as synthesis papers, book reviews, and reflections in addition to taking exams. Assessment of student learning in 3000-level courses focuses on a substantial research project that requires students to utilize primary and secondary sources. The first half of the 4000-level capstone sequence has students write a series of short response papers and one long research paper on historical methods and historiography, assesses students’ ability to conduct electronic and archival research, and requires them to create a project proposal for their senior thesis. During the second half of the sequence students utilize extensive research on primary and secondary sources to write a senior thesis that is at least 35 pages in length. Rubrics are used extensively throughout at all levels to assess student learning.

Despite these differences, all courses in the history major emphasize close interaction between the professor and students. Professors encourage discussion in the classroom at all course levels, and there is an emphasis on keeping class sizes relatively small. There are an average of 18 students per class in upper-level courses, and even some 1000-level classes are capped at 15 students. Students are also given ample opportunity to work together with professors to conduct independent research. Every history major works closely with a professor to research and write their senior thesis as well.

In addition, students in the history program are given the chance to enhance their digital literacy and technological fluency. Professors provide instruction on appropriate internet research methods and the constantly-evolving challenges of information access in the online world. Students in a range of classes also produce technology-based projects, including blogs, websites, online exhibits, and contributions to history-related apps.

The History program also strives to utilize the opportunities presented by its central location in New York City. Over the past few years it has developed a close relationship with the nearby Brooklyn Historical Society. History classes visit the Historical Society numerous times each semester to work with its archival sources, many history majors intern there, and students are encouraged to utilize its resources when working on their senior thesis. Other courses go on walking tours to explore New York City’s history, while still others utilize the city’s world-class museums. Lecture series take advantage of the many scholars and important historical figures living in New York City as well.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

Students who complete the history major will:

  • Think historically and critically
  • Evaluate primary and secondary sources effectively
  • Display an understanding of history across periods and geographic spaces
  • Utilize history research methods
  • Communicate their ideas and arguments effectively both verbally and in writing
  • Understand how historical analysis is useful for various careers

Students demonstrate attainment of these competencies when they:

  1. Understand causation, context, continuity, and change in the study of the past
  2. Analyze contemporary problems and civic affairs through the lens of history
  3. Utilize both electronic and print research tools to retrieve and analyze historical data from a variety of primary sources, including printed works, manuscripts, artifacts, visual sources, and living witnesses
  4. Evaluate various historians’ arguments on key topics and have the ability to compare them
  5. Display a familiarity with the history of the United States, Europe, and at least one other region of the world
  6. Complete an original history research project utilizing both primary and secondary sources
  7. Explain how historical thinking and skills can be used in careers such as law, government, business, secondary and higher education, and public history
Eric Platt

St. Francis College