The Honors Program in History allows undergraduates to develop their critical thinking and historical skills in a rigorous and collaborative environment that guarantees personal attention.
The program is a four-semester sequence, the culmination of which is the writing of a senior thesis—a significant research paper prepared under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. There are two phases to the program. In the junior year, members of the honors cohort take two courses that focus on historical interpretation, historiography and writing. In the senior year, each student enrolls in two supervised, independent studies—with occasional group meetings—to research and write the thesis.
In the fall semester of the junior year, honors students take History 395, an introduction to general problems in the writing of history and to a range of historical approaches (political history, cultural history, women’s history, legal history, the history of gender, post-colonial studies, etc.). History 395 devotes equal attention to the critical reading of sources and to discussions of historical methodology. How do historians make sense of the past? How do they reconstruct events, change, experiences, mentalities? Which historical subjects and questions matter? Enrollment is limited to the cohort members (generally 10-14 students) and the atmosphere is that of a mini-graduate seminar. There is a fairly heavy reading load, and participants are expected to critically engage the course materials, both in seminar and in their written assignments. Then comes History 396 in the spring semester. Here students continue to address these questions by focusing on one historical topic, defined thematically and/or geographically and approached from a variety of perspectives. The topic (and instructor) change each year. In History 396 students are also encouraged to settle on a general area for their thesis and to seek out a faculty mentor who will supervise them during the senior year.
During each semester of the senior year, students enroll in History 499. The cohort continues to meet as a group on occasion to discuss the research and writing process and to compare work-in-progress. But the emphasis is on independent work, completed under supervision of a faculty mentor and in consultation with the honors director. By balancing group meetings, advising and independent work, the program assures that we have few "dropouts" during the senior year—and that no one is left to write a senior thesis at the last moment. Rather, students receive constant encouragement, critical feedback and supervision at every stage of the research and writing process. Cohort members who complete all of the program requirements graduate with honors at the departmental commencement.