Guide to the Major

The History program is tailored to allow flexibility and self-direction. Majors are encouraged to shape the path of their studies in consultation with their departmental advisor. This is an overview intended to outline the general structure of the History Major, and lay out requirements and options available.

Step 1: Declare

If you are interested in the major, talk with a history professor or email the department chair to make an appointment to discuss. To declare a major, fill out the attached Major Declaration Form and take it to the current department chair for signature. You will need to designate a faculty advisor, typically a professor you've taken a class with. You will meet with them and ask them to be your advisor.

(Minors may declare using the Minor Declaration Form)

Step 2: Follow Your Interests

The department encourages you to study broadly before finding your focus. Take classes that are interesting to you, across a variety of geographical and temporal topics. The required courses can be found here.


Step 3: Find your focus

As you enter your Junior year, you are encouraged to find an area of focus, which may be geographically based (American, European, African, Asian, Middle East), temporally oriented (medieval Europe, post-colonial Africa, early American, Classic Greece and Rome), thematic (e.g., gender, ethnic, environmental, post-colonial), or methodological (e.g., social history, oral history, intellectual, political history).

Your area focus will fulfill the concentration requirement of three credits at the 200 level or above and the senior thesis. In the spring of your sophomore year, meet with your academic advisor to determine a possible area of concentration.

Step 4: Historical Methods

Students should plan to take at least one historical methods class. Options include HIST 221W, Historiography (HIST 444W), and History in the Archives.

For students who want an introduction to historical methodology, the department strongly encourages the History Workshop, offered every semester. The class focuses on historical research, analysis, and understanding of different historical methods, which is intended to acquaint students with the scholarly process and prepare for both thesis and post-undergraduate work.

Example Workshops have included: Professor Cotlar, Slave Narratives ; Professor Eisenberg, Social History; Professor Jopp, American History; Professor Petersen Boring, Medieval History; Professor McCaffrey, Pacific War.

Step 5: Study Abroad

The department strongly encourages students to study abroad. Many students find Study Abroad  an invaluable portion of their college experience, and are able to shape their thesis around their experiences and travels. The department also encourages students to study a language related to their area of emphasis.

Meet with your academic advisor early in your sophomore year to determine your study abroad interests and how your study abroad experience can fit into your study of history. Many student's coursework and experiences abroad serve as a focal point and catalyst for thesis work.

The cost of study abroad is not typically more than a semester at Willamette, making it a viable option for all.

Step 6: Consider an Undergraduate Summer Research Grant

The LARC and Carson Grants: students often do independent research over the summer and expand on this for their thesis. These grants provide funding and recognition to particularly notable student projects, and past examples provide a window to the range and scope of subject material.

Learning by Creating (a Melon Grant) is another option for students to pursue, and is popular among history majors.

Step 7: Internship Possibilities

The Department of History encourages students to consider the possibility of an internship arranged through the department, of which there are numerous and diverse options. Students have found opportunities in a number of local locations and settings, both for academic fulfillment and career-building. If you have questions or wish to get involved with the History Department's program of internships, contact Professor Jopp at jjopp@willamette.edu.

Step 8: Senior Experience

The senior capstone can be fulfilled in a variety of ways. Most commonly, students take the Senior Tutorial (HIST 499W)  and develop an independent capstone project. In this case, students work one on one with a faculty member in your chosen area of focus who will guide and advise your work. Thesis is typically written in the spring of the senior year, and consists a review of the literature in your field, work with primary texts, and a comprehensive essay of approximately 30 – 60 pages.

Other options to fulfill the capstone requirement include: Humanities Senior Seminar, History in the Archives, or an internship with a significant final project developed in consultation with your faculty advisor. 


Start Today: Make an appointment
Meet with a current History professor to talk through the process, and find out how you can become part of the Department.