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: York College of Pennsylvania
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts in History
Location: York, PA
Year: 2014


Characteristics of the Program

The study of history involves complex and creative inquiry, critical analysis, and communication skills. Those “C’s” characterize how the History program at York College of Pennsylvania prepares its students for their careers, personal lives, and engaged citizenship. These “three C’s” are also the basis for liberal education, regardless of major. The study of history is therefore essential for any student-all students, regardless of major, must be able to understand past and present connections, change and continuity over time, and cause and effect, as well as possess the skills, abilities, and mentalities listed below and in our student learning outcomes.

  • Complex and Creative Inquiry: We approach history as a creative act, one in which historians imagine the possibilities that exist within the world presented by our sources. Far removed from popular notions of history as the memorization of “names, dates, and facts”, we approach history as a dynamic and rigorous discipline and craft that is based upon QUESTIONS we put to the past and for which we seek answers based firmly upon evidence provided by our sources. Asking questions is the beginning of all knowledge, and we prepare students to ask original questions, to think creatively about new approaches to those or existing questions, and to develop and carry out a research strategy in order to answer those questions. Students of history must be able to “think on their feet” as they encounter obstacles posed by their diverse sources, solve problems, and endeavor to find new approaches as a way of surmounting those obstacles.
  • Critical Analysis: We approach history as set of intellectual skills that enable our students to develop a deep appreciation for evidence as the basis for all knowledge. Through our rigorous curriculum, our students are well-prepared to pursue evidence-based answers to questions, arrived at through careful identification of sources and critical analysis of them. Historians do not guess; we do not offer opinion as “scholarship.” We argue, and back up those arguments with actual evidence from our sources. Historians may differ with each other on their understandings and interpretations of the past, but we differ upon the basis of our evaluation of the evidence. Historians are well-equipped to locate sources appropriate for the research task, and they are equally well-prepared to critically evaluate those sources for credibility, perspective, and bias, and develop an argument that is firmly based upon a thorough and critical evaluation of the available evidence. The critical-thinking skills of the historian that we help our students develop allow them to approach problems and issues from multiple perspectives, develop a deeper understanding of the historical roots of contemporary issues, contextualize information (including having an understanding of the complexities of continuity and change over time), recognize the value of contending or conflicting perspectives, and engage in civil discourse and debate in a constructive fashion.
  • Communication: History done well is a well-articulated and engaging story of the past. We approach history as necessitating excellent oral, visual, and written communication skills up to that task of crafting narratives of cause and effect, or continuity and change over time. The craft of history demands excellence in writing, oral, and visual presentation skills, so that the dynamic aspects of the past can be conveyed to a variety of audiences. Students learn to adapt their communication skills and the means of communication for a particular purpose and audience. Our rigorous curriculum provides students with numerous opportunities to learn these valued communication skills.

To allow students to develop the “C’s”, we provide:

  • A challenging multi-disciplinary curriculum that allows students to become broadly educated, thus equipping them with creative and problem-solving skills that might be derived from multiple disciplinary approaches.
  • A rigorous curriculum that provides students with a firm understanding of historical methods of inquiry, research, and professional and ethical standards.
  • A flexible curriculum that allows students to pursue areas of interest in the specialties offered by departmental faculty, as well as to pursue an academic minor and public history internships that can enhance their professional knowledge and skills.
  • A curriculum that encourages inquiry and provides students with the opportunity to work both independently and collaboratively.
  • Study abroad opportunities that provide students with a global perspective that will enrich their own research, provide additional citizenship skills, and facilitate their personal development.
  • A curriculum that provides students with ample opportunities to present their work in writing and through presentations. Notably, the department has its own student edited and produced publication, Past and Present. Students work collaboratively with other students and a faculty member to produce a professional publication consisting of other student’s excellent research. This is a unique opportunity for our students.
  • Additional support for independent research through the Glatfelter Fellowship, which provides financial support for two semesters’ of research on a topic of interest to the student.
  • Attention to the individual student through engaged advising.
  • A curriculum that encourages students to think critically and constructively about past and present issues as the basis for responsible citizenship, and discuss such issues civilly and respectfully.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Students graduating with degrees in History or Secondary Education Social Studies have found career paths in very diverse areas, which to us, is a badge of honor. We have prepared our students for multiple career possibilities. We can answer the question “what will I do with a history degree” with a multitude of ever-changing answers and possibilities. This is important given the challenges of the employment market, and employers are increasingly looking for individuals who are prepared with a broad set of skills, and the ability and flexibility to acquire more. History students are well-positioned for that challenge through the “C’s” of our program. Our students are sought after in area middle and high schools because of their deep understanding of historical method and historical knowledge. An increasing number of our students are entering the sphere of public history (archives, museums, historic preservation, media work, website design), and we provide an internship that exposes them to that field. We also offer courses in Public History, taught by practicing professionals, so that students can gain some academic familiarity with the aspects of the emerging and growing field. Our students are also employed in and as (sample list):

  • State and local government /agencies (current PA governor’s office, Lancaster Office of Aging)
  • Archivists and librarians (various institutions, including the Birmingham, Alabama Public Library; York College of Pennsylvania; The York Public Library; School of Contemporary Music in NYC; Adult Info Services, Barnegat, MD)
  • The Vietnam War Memorial in their education and development offices
  • Law School/Graduate school (Miami of Ohio, University of Arizona, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, University of West Virginia, CUNY, American University, Villanova, Penn State, Rutgers)
  • Teachers and administrators at the secondary school level (Instructional Coach at Henderson Collegiate Charter School in NC, Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit Civics educator
  • Publishing industry (Sports Illustrated)
  • The National Park Service (West Virginia)
  • Real estate (home-sales, various agencies)
  • Alumni Relations (Weill-Cornell Medical College)
  • Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical Trust
  • U.S. Military (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Explosives Captain, U.S. Army/Afghanistan)
  • Police (State Trooper, PA, MD)
  • Public policy organizations, such as women’s health (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)
  • Small-business (restaurant) owner
  • Emergency Room nurse, Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Federal Agent (U.S Dept. of the Treasury; Defense Intelligence Analysis; FBI)
  • Industry (Graham Packaging Human Resources Department)

Educational Style

The History faculty are committed to providing rigorous educational experiences for our students through requiring them to be active and responsible contributors to course activities. We use diverse approaches in the classroom, recognizing that students benefit from different styles over the course of their time with us. We recognize the value of the history lecture as a means for helping students understand how history is understood, interpreted and communicated, but we also want students to engage in the methods of history for themselves. Consequently, we ask them to engage actively in the “doing” of history beginning with our introductory courses through Methods and Theory in History through upper-level topic-specific history courses and Proseminars through History Seminar, typically taken in their senior year. We ask them engage in the authentic activities of historical practice: to inquire, research, debate, discuss, interpret, reinterpret, evaluate, critique, provide feedback to peers, respond constructively to feedback from faculty and peers, identify/find/evaluate sources and provide evidence, argue, write, and present, just to name a few of the skills required of the historian. Courses taken as part of our curriculum will include lecture, discussion (large and small group), debate, simulations/role-playing, and faculty and student multimedia presentations.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

What our students can do as a result of our curriculum:

  • Students will use course materials and content to make connections between past and present issues
  • Students will explain understanding of the interconnectedness of historical development across the globe
  • Students will convey an accurate understanding of the narrative of major historical periods and their associated events, individuals, developments, causes and effects
  • Students will construct an appropriate research agenda and questions suited for the length and purpose of the project
  • Students will identify and use range of primary sources relevant to assignment/project
  • Students will identify and use range of secondary sources (historiography) relevant to assignment/project
  • Students will demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills necessary for interpreting and using sources as basis for thesis/argument
  • Students will present a well-founded thesis that is supported by main points and evidence
  • Students will synthesize relevant scholarship and positions research project within that scholarship
  • Students will demonstrates understanding of and employ the conventions necessary for correctly citing sources using professional standards and forms, such as Turabian, in footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography
  • Students will solicit and respond appropriately to feedback from peers and faculty
  • Students will present work with professional appearance and demeanor
  • Students will be able to write competently, including using correct mechanics and style appropriate for audience
Kay McAdams

York College of Pennsylvania