At Hillsdale College, the history major is one of the most popular on campus; for it includes courses in a wide variety of subjects, all fashioned to draw students into the great conversation about those things that Matthew Arnold called “the best that has been thought and said.” The Hillsdale History Major is a liberal arts history major. This means that we teach and study history because as human beings we know it is worth doing for its own sake, not because it provides technical job training for a specified career path. Knowledge of history is crucially important, equal to if not surpassing mere job training. Knowledge of our past is fundamental to sustaining an ordered civilization and to maintaining what Edmund Burke called the “eternal contract” between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. We study the past in the spirit of the great teacher Jacques Barzun, who said, “History being the story of mankind, and men being by definition interested in themselves, it follows that history cannot avoid being interesting.” Of course, when the student of history studies it as a liberal art, that student invariably acquires a host of useful skills, each of which find application in a wide set of vocations. Hillsdale history graduates have gone on to successful careers in teaching, business, medicine, politics, religion, and numerous other fields. This is one of the many beauties of liberal education – when history is pursued for its own sake, for the love of learning, such study produces graduates able to succeed in so many practical endeavors. We welcome you to one of the grandest avenues of study in the humanities.
How can one make the most of being a history major at Hillsdale?
Phi Alpha Theta
Founded in 1921, this international history honorary has as its purpose the recognition and encouragement of excellence in the study of history. To be eligible for election to membership, a student must be at least a junior, must have completed twelve semester hours in history with a grade-point average of 3.3 or better, and must have a grade-point average of 3.0 in the remainder of his academic work. The Hillsdale College Chi Upsilon chapter was founded in 1976. Since then our chapter has hosted history conferences on campus and sponsored a variety of field trips and social events. Qualified students majoring or minoring in history are encouraged to consider joining the honorary. For more information, contact Dr. Brad Birzer.
The privilege of writing a thesis and graduating with departmental honors is not automatically granted to all students majoring in history. Students wishing to do so must submit an application which will be reviewed by the entire department. Only successful applicants will be admitted to HST 575. Applications are available from the department chairman. The student intending to write and defend a thesis must identify a professor who agrees to be his advisor for the project, as well as two other members of the department who agree to be readers of the thesis. These three faculty members will constitute the student’s thesis committee. Theses are defended in the senior year during the semester in which the student enrolls in HST 575.
The student intending to defend his thesis during the autumn semester should begin consulting with his intended advisor not later than the opening weeks of the spring semester of the junior year. Applications for admission to the autumn section of HST 575 must be made no later than April 15 of the preceding semester. Fall theses must be defended no later than November 15 of the autumn semester of the senior year.
The student intending to defend his thesis during the spring semester should begin consulting with his intended advisor during the early weeks of his senior year at the latest, preferably during the preceding academic year. Applications for admission to the spring section of HST 575 must be made no later than November 15 of the preceding semester. Spring theses must be defended no later than April 15 of the senior year.
Failure to meet the relevant deadlines will disqualify the student from candidacy for departmental honors.
What About Graduate School?
While most Hillsdale history majors do not proceed immediately upon graduation into a graduate school history program, many history majors seek a course of study at Hillsdale that will lay a solid foundation for possible future graduate studies in history, law, public policy or other related fields. For students intent upon entering graduate school or simply wishing to keep it as an open option, we strongly recommend the following five steps:
Letters of Recommendation
Each year seniors request letters of recommendation from faculty members. While most faculty members are pleased and honored to comply with such requests, students should never presume that faculty members are under obligation of any sort to recommend them for graduate programs or employment. Indeed, in the common case that multiple students wish to apply to the same graduate program, prudence may require that only the best students receive recommendations. This is an example of a problem that can be overcome by regular consultation with departmental faculty. Do not presume that a professor will be willing to write a reference just because you ask for one. In the event that a faculty member does agree to write a reference letter, the student should supply the faculty member with all relevant information (résumé, summary of courses taken with grades, necessary application forms, stamped addressed envelopes, etc.) not later than three weeks before the letter needs to be mailed.
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