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: Portland Community College
Degree Name: History Focus Award (History Pre-Major)
Location: Portland, OR
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

History is an academic discipline that relies primarily on written primary-source documents to study and interpret critically the human past. It calls on students to make sophisticated use of evidence to support their arguments, and to relate their findings through effective, well-organized communications. History also aims to develop a thorough understanding of the past and, in doing so, a better comprehension of present-day issues and cultures. Students who focus on history develop critical-thinking skills that are of great benefit to their subsequent collegiate and professional lives, and, more importantly, that foster the civic engagement and active citizenship that are the sinews of our democratic system.

Characteristics of the Program

The PCC History SAC does not award a degree, but it does offer students the opportunity to earn a Focus Award in History. The History Focus Award is aimed at students who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the discipline of history and who plan to major in history after they transfer to a four-year institution. Students earn the History Focus Award by successfully completing sixteen credit hours of history classes. The award not only recognizes the history coursework that students have completed, but also gives them the opportunity to receive formal guidance and support from PCC faculty.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Many students who complete the History Focus award and who then earn a bachelor’s degree in history from a four-year institution go on to earn graduate degrees and pursue careers as professional historians, secondary school teachers, or archivists. A number of former PCC history students have also completed the Public History program at Portland State University and now have careers working at museums, historical sites, and historical societies.

Other students use the competencies they develop as History majors to pursue careers in a wide variety of fields. Students who study history develop the ability to:

  • Analyze, assess, and critique problems
  • Find and manage information
  • Communicate complex positions clearly and effectively
  • Construct persuasive, logical arguments

These abilities make history graduates strong candidates for employment in fields such as publishing, information management, public administration, and health policy.

Educational Style

All history courses at PCC are lower-division courses designed to meet the needs of potential history majors and non-majors alike. PCC offers history courses in on-campus, hybrid, and online modalities. With enrollment capped at thirty-five students, each PCC history course provides an introduction to historical methods and thinking and a survey of the regional, topical, or temporal subject of the class. As such, PCC history courses are writing, reading, and critical-thinking intensive. PCC history faculty members encourage students-particularly those contemplating a career in public history-to complete a Service Learning component as part of their coursework.

Program Competencies and Outcome

Students who complete the Focus Award at PCC will be able to:

  1. Locate and interpret historical information
  2. Construct an evidence-based historical argument
  3. Communicate historical ideas clearly and effectively
  4. Understand and assess competing historical interpretations
  5. Evaluate and place primary sources in their proper historical context
  6. Identify and understand secondary sources

The following table identifies how students will demonstrate their command of these competencies:


Locate and interpret historical informationConstruct an evidence-based historical argumentCommunicate historical ideas clearly and effectivelyUnderstand and assess competing historical interpretationsEvaluate and place primary sources in their proper historical contextIdentify and understand secondary sources
Create an annotated bibliography on an assigned topic.Develop an argumentative essay in response to a given question using assigned primary-source documents.Compose a clear and graceful paragraph-based essay in response to an assigned question. Cite relevant sources correctly.Identify and summarize competing schools of historical interpretation on a given topic.Identify and assess the credibility and utility of primary sources.Summarize an historian's thesis and supporting evidence in a brief reading response essay.
Robert Flynn
Robert Flynn

Portland Community College