This fall semester, some 3750 students were enrolled in History Department courses, nearly 500 UNC-CH students were majoring or double-majoring in history, and another 300 or so were history minors. Although nationally, history enrollments have been declining, UNC-CH’s Department of History continues to attract students through its excellent teaching, diverse and intriguing course offerings, and stress on vital skills of research, analysis, and communication.
History majors are deeply engaged in their own, guided research projects. Eight sections of History 398, the Department’s capstone research seminar, were offered this fall, on topics including “The Civil War: Lived Experience,” “Florence: Cradle of the Renaissance,” “Slavery, Race, and Memory at UNC,” and “Antisemitism: History, Causes, Consequences.” Students in these seminars learn not only about their topics, but also about how to do research and craft a significant piece of historical scholarship of their own. The author of the best of these research papers is awarded the annual Josh Meador Prize at the department’s spring reception. In an additional research option, ten highly ambitious students are now enrolled in the year-long seminar leading to the production of a senior honors thesis. Through generous donor funding, four of them traveled to archives this past summer and another three did so during breaks this fall, in order to pursue their research in original sources. Several history majors each year also receive departmentally-administered, externally funded grants to help defray the costs of their life-changing study abroad programs.
The Department’s undergraduate program is administered largely through its Undergraduate Studies Committee, composed of select faculty members and undergraduate students. This year more than thirty students applied for the four open seats. The Committee’s first order of business is to consider and hone new history courses proposed by department faculty. We added nine new courses to the department’s offerings this year, on topics including “Dictators in the Twentieth Century” and a research seminar on “My Hometown.” We also continue to evaluate the effectiveness of our program through student surveys and assessments of student research projects.
Not only do students participate in the Undergraduate Studies Committee, but they are involved in UNC-CH’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (the national history honor society), and the newly revitalized History Club. Students can stop in the department office for free cookies every Tuesday afternoon, and the “Take a Historian to Lunch” program is in its third year of bringing faculty and students together for informal yet inspiring interactions.
Ethan Tyler won the 2016-17 Kusa award, which he used this past summer to do senior thesis research in London. His thesis is on British imperialism in the Persian Gulf region, particularly in Kuwait, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is working with Sarah Shields. Ruoyu Ji won a Boyatt research award to conduct research in the Harvard Library for a thesis on French views of China in the 18th century, under the direction of Lloyd Kramer. A brand-new Jonathan Lewis Archival Research Fellowship was awarded to Georgia Brunner and Michael Hensley for their senior thesis research: Brunner is working on the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide with Lauren Jarvis and Hensley is working with Marcus Bull on “Eyewitness, Self-Perception, and Identity in the Alexiad.”
Last spring, Boyatt scholarships to support study abroad programs were awarded to history majors Perla Castillejos, who studied in Ireland, and to Emily McKinney, who studied in Scotland. This fall, Boyatt study abroad scholarships went to history majors Marigny Kirschke-Schwartz (University of New South Wales), Ryan Kurtiak (University of Edinburgh), Grace Porter (Université de Montpellier), and Nick Teder (University of New South Wales).
–Lisa Lindsay, Director of Undergraduate Studies