Advanced Information about the Undergraduate Program
Where can you go in history?
Just about anywhere!
Studying the subject of history is an ideal form of liberal arts education that leads to almost any career you can imagine. The proof lies in the lives of our many graduates from this Department during the past ten years. Some of them go on to law school, and report back to us that they found our intellectual training a perfect preparation for the rigors of legal education. A small number go on to become history teachers in secondary schools, and we offer an excellent dual major program with our Department of Education for that purpose. But most of our History-major graduates go on to careers in business, government, non-profit foundations and the like, and take paths too numerous and diverse to summarize simply.
The History major at CUA can lead in so many directions because it is both an education in the "what" of history and a training in logic, research, and writing. How do you seek out and weigh the evidence of the past in all the forms it offers? How do you pose questions about it and arrive at some answers? And how do you learn to write and speak analytically about the results? In recent years, the discipline of history has exploded in all directions, and historians now involve themselves with questions that extend into the realms of art, literature, politics and economics. Our aim is to give you a rich, deep, and critical knowledge of the past and how to think about it.
We pride ourselves in offering a friendly, lively atmosphere of approachability and open doors for our students. As a CUA History major you'll engage in lively discussions in small classes: our upper-level undergraduate courses typically number well below twenty students in each class. Unlike the situation at many universities, full faculty members do the teaching, and our students value the close contact and open exchanges they can have with professors, both in the classroom and outside. You'll be challenged to read carefully, to think, speak and write clearly, and to master basic research techniques.
History students can get course credit toward the major through internships in Washington. We also strongly encourage study abroad, most typically in Europe or in Latin America. Catholic University has a number of programs for study abroad, including opportunities to work as Parliamentary aides in London and Dublin, and all these offer course credits, including the chance to study another country's history while living in its midst.
Guide to the Undergraduate History Degree
The purpose of this guide is to give students majoring in History, or thinking about majoring in History, as clear an outline as possible of the requirements for the major. The Department seeks to provide as high and consistent quality of advising as possible to its majors. But it also regards students as having fundamental responsibility for knowing the requirements. Any questions about these guidelines or their application to particular cases should consult the Department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator, who can rule on situations that might be unclear.
THE MAJOR, AT A GLANCE
To satisfy the major, a student must complete a minimum of eleven courses in history (university regulations permit a maximum of 14 courses in any one discipline) with a grade of C or better. Credit toward the major may also include Advanced Placement courses taken in high school, and comparable courses taken at other institutions prior to matriculation at CUA. In only the most extraordinary circumstances are students permitted to transfer courses from other institutions taken after enrollment at CUA and never without prior approval by the department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator.
The program must include the following elements:
- Two survey courses at the 100-200 level
- History 387 and 388, "Junior Seminar"
- History 401, "Senior Thesis Seminar"
- Six elective courses in History
ENTRY INTO THE MAJOR
At the end of the sophomore year students are formally accepted as history majors. In order to be accepted, a student must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and grades of C or better in all History courses taken up to the point of acceptance.
THE JUNIOR AND SENIOR SEMINARS
HISTORY 387-388 The core of the History major is two semesters of a reading/writing/discussion seminar, which students ordinarily take in the fall and spring semesters of their junior year. The purposes of both halves of the seminar are more or less identical: to develop deeper understanding of the varieties of approaches and methodologies currently used in historical research, to foster sophisticated analysis of historical writing, and to provide a background of perspectives from which students may eventually choose in preparing their senior theses. Each semester's work will consider a range of important historical topics from a variety of methodological and historiographical perspectives and may combine reading of secondary and primary sources in considering each unit or topic. The primary focus of History 387 is upon pre-modern history and that of History 388 upon modern history. History 388 also provides more direct preparation for the beginning stages of selecting a topic for the senior thesis. Students must ordinarily take History 387 before History 388. In some circumstances (late entry into major or disruption caused by semesters abroad) this might not be possible and students in such situations should consult with the Department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator as early as possible. This is particularly important when contemplating a semester abroad, in which case it is sometimes possible for a student to take History 388 in the sophomore year.
HISTORY 401 In History, the senior thesis is the Department's equivalent of the comprehensive examination that is required for the B.A. by the School of Arts and Sciences at CUA; it is thus a requirement for the major and not an option. Students ordinarily must plan to do the senior thesis seminar in the fall semester of their senior year, and must ordinarily have taken History 387 and 388 as a prerequisite. The Department always offers several sections of History 401 each fall semester. These sections are offered in a variety of special topics. During the preceding spring semester, students in History 388 are given presentations of the seminars and their topics, and choose which topic to opt for. There are usually limits placed upon the number of students who can enroll in each section, so students may be asked to give first and second choices. The senior thesis is a substantial piece of research and writing: requirements for length are subject to each section instructor's guidelines, but typically entail finished papers in the range of 35-40 pages.
The senior thesis must be based upon primary sources, whether published or unpublished, and whether in English, translation into English, or where feasible in another language. Equally importantly, the senior thesis must place its own original research within the context of current historiography on the topic in question, and so must engage the secondary literature. A good senior thesis requires preparation starting in the preceding semester, when topic and section are assigned.
Senior thesis seminars meet weekly as regular classes, and instructors of 401 sections may assign common readings to the class as a whole before emphasis shifts to the direction of individual thesis topics. Students must also meet a series of intermediate deadlines (for example, preliminary bibliography, detailed outline, oral presentation and group critique of early stages of the project, first draft) throughout the semester. The grade for 401 is not given exclusively for the finished paper, but also takes into account students' progress through the intermediate stages of research.
While in ordinary circumstances students must take History 401 in the fall term there are certain extraordinary circumstances when this might not be the case. If a student has gotten out of sequence, for instance as the result of a semester abroad in the junior year, he/she might need to take 401 in the spring semester, in which case he/she must make arrangements with the advice of the Department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator for an individually-directed 401. It is important to emphasize that planning and consultation well ahead of time are critically important for any student contemplating such circumstances.
NOTE: It is important to emphasize that preparing and writing a senior thesis is intended to be the work of one semester. Therefore, as with any other course at CUA, no "Incomplete" ("I") grade may be given for History 401, except for documented major emergency outside the student's control. No "incomplete" will be allowed for the purpose of furnishing more time to complete the project.
ELECTIVE COURSES IN HISTORY
A History major must take, in addition to the 5 core courses outlined above, a minimum of 6 elective courses in History. The following rules apply:
- No more than 4 of the 6 elective courses can be in the same area of History (that is, US, Latin America, Medieval Europe, or Modern Europe).
- At least 2 of the 6 elective courses must deal with "pre-modern" periods of history: that is, roughly before the era of the French Revolution for European history, before the era of the American Revolution for US history, before the era of Republican revolutions for Latin American history.
- At least 4 of the 6 elective courses must be offerings at the 300-level or above.
- Occasionally courses in other Departments that use a different numbering system may qualify as History elective courses; students contemplating taking these should consult the Department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator to ensure that these courses will qualify.
UNIVERSITY UNDERGRADUATE HONORS PROGRAM
Students in CUA's Undergraduate Honors Program may count a maximum of 2 semesters out of the Program's 4-semester sequence in Humanities as elective courses toward the History major. In addition, students entering the History major from the Honors Program may, with the permission of the Department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator, opt not to take any 100 or 200-level surveys, but in their place may substitute 300-level History courses.
THE HISTORY MINOR
To qualify for a minor in History a student must take as a minimum the following courses:-
- 2 of the 6 courses taken for the minor must be pre-1800
- Two 100-200 level surveys
- Four elective courses in History at the 300-level or above
OTHER DEGREE PROGRAMS
There are two other undergraduate degrees programs in History: A special combined major in History and Secondary Education offered in collaboration with the education department, and a 5-year joint B.A/M.A. in history. Students who might want to opt for these programs must be aware that course planning for them must begin very early in their undergraduate careers; consult the Department's Undergraduate Advising Coordinator for more details.
Transfer Students Welcome
The department welcomes transfer students and makes every effort to ensure an efficient process of admission. Evaluation of courses is handled on a course-by-course basis. In general, credits from another accredited institution must be applicable to departmental requirements and to the general school curriculum. Courses to be transferred should be equivalent in quality and quantity of work to CUA courses. A student must have earned a grade of C or better when D is considered a passing grade) for transfer credit. Students who transfer into the junior-year level must be accepted as such by the department and the school. Distribution requirements may be reduced.
May 1: For Fall semester
Dec. 1: For Spring semester