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.

By David Kinkela

Institution: SUNY Fredonia
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: Fredonia, NY
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

History at Fredonia embraces more than the study of the past. A diverse faculty engaged in innovative scholarship provides students with the skills to analyze historical events, as well as the tools to apply that knowledge to understand the contemporary world and to plan for the future. History is by nature cross-cultural, international, and interdisciplinary. Fredonia history majors learn to connect the present and the past, the local and the global; to create and communicate new knowledge through their research and writing; and to engage constructively with their profession, their communities, and the world.

History is also a craft, where students develop an understanding about the professional duties and responsibilities of historians, which can include: high standards of fidelity to evidence; creative thought; engagement with diverse approaches to obtaining, interpreting, and applying knowledge; problem solving; and the ability to communicate that knowledge to various audiences.

Characteristics of the Program

Faculty in the Department of History strive to inform students about the past and to provide them with lifelong tools to learn, analyze, and communicate in a diverse and changing world. These tools have universal value in every career, every place, and every relationship. History is a core discipline of the liberal arts: its subject is the totality of recorded human experience; its methods draw upon the fields of the humanities and sciences; it informs every element of our lives.

Distinctive features of Fredonia’s Bachelor of Arts program in history:

  • all faculty are active scholars committed to teaching and learning
  • a blend of traditional and innovative courses taught by scholars who are experts in their fields
  • all tenure and tenure-track faculty teach courses from the first-year introductory courses to senior seminars
  • all history courses for the major are capped at 35 students, while research seminars are capped at 15
  • faculty meet with students in an advising capacity to develop individual learning pathways to ensure successful completion of our program
  • courses available from a wide range of fields, including World, Asian, Latin American, African, American, European, Middle East, Religion, Environmental, Urban, Gender, Race, Conflict, and Consumption
  • two undergraduate research seminars
  • undergraduate internships
  • research work in the University Archives, including Holland Land Company, Stefan Zweig Collection, Records of the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Our program is designed to help students understand the complexities of the human experience. We also recognize that most of our graduates do not become professional historians. As such, our program prepares students to meet career challenges ahead regardless of their chosen paths.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top personal qualities employers look for in college graduates include: the ability to work on a team, leadership, written communication skills, problem-solving skills, verbal communication skills, detail-oriented, flexibility and adaptability. The History Major is perfectly suited to meet these needs. Working closely with Fredonia’s Career Development Office students begin thinking about these skills during the first semester on campus and develop them further as they move through the curriculum. Graduates from the History program have found successful careers as historians, archivists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, sales, political consultants, educators, librarians, editors, diplomacy, international education, and law. Recent graduates are in leadership positions at the HARBORCENTER Project in Buffalo, the Offices of New York Senator Charles Schumer, Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village, and Evergreen Health Services of Western New York, for example. Recent graduates attend advanced degree programs at Carnegie Mellon University, Boston College, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, University of Buffalo, and the College of Charleston to name just a few.

Educational Style

Our curriculum is designed to foster intellectual growth by providing students with broad foundational knowledge in United States, European, and Global history. They also choose primary and secondary concentrations and explore these areas more deeply. Taking a series of methodologies classes, students are able to “Do History.” These courses train students to read closely, analyze and evaluate sources, conduct research, and communicate findings in writing and orally, culminating with the senior capstone, which asks students to integrate their learning into a fully developed research project. Upon completion, students will have had a broad range of learning experiences about the past, but will have developed the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the future in whatever career path they choose.

Throughout the curriculum, we believe that students need to be exposed to the full range of research materials, including written primary and secondary sources, material culture, visual materials, data sets, oral sources, other non-textual materials, the archives, and the library. Working with our research librarians, the history department has created a series of workshops that teach and promote information literacy. Together we attempt to encourage students to become independent life-long learners by teaching students to locate, evaluate, and constructively utilize information.

The History Department draws on a range of “high-impact practices” that enhance student learning, engagement, and retention. The curriculum incorporates broad survey courses, writing-intensive courses, undergraduate research, honor research and methodology courses, internships, and capstone projects, which may include a conference presentation. The department offers short-term study abroad courses and encourage students to seek out study abroad experiences to enhance their learning. Recent graduates have travelled to France, England, Belize, Russia, Australia, and Ghana.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

The Department’s Student Learning Objectives have been formulated with close attention to the standards of the American Historical Association (AHA), the leading professional organization in the discipline of History.

The Department of History’s Student Learning Objectives are as follows:

  1. Develop Historical Consciousness
    • Expand the student’s knowledge of important historical developments and understanding of these developments’ significance
    • Movement from a presentist to an historical point of view, and from an ethnocentric to a global world view
    • Read, interpret, and understand, and differentiate primary and secondary sources
  2. Develop Historical Research and Analytical Skills, including:
    • Ability to locate historical sources (primary and secondary) for student research
    • Ability to analyze and evaluate primary and secondary sources
    • Ability to develop and support/sustain a thesis based on multiple primary and/or secondary sources
    • Ability to understand and incorporate historians’ interpretations (historiography) into written and/or oral presentations
  3. Develop Professional Skills and Values
    • Develop an understanding about the professional duties and responsibilities of historians, which can include: high standards of fidelity to evidence; an understanding of the role of the historian as both an individual scholar and a member of a cooperative community of scholars sharing their work in public venues; creative thought; and engagement with diverse approaches to obtaining, interpreting, and applying historical knowledge.