Applicable Skills Developed by History Majors
Education in a liberal arts discipline like history emphasizes the development of research, writing, and analytical skills and communication abilities. Furthermore, it initiates you to a well-established field of knowledge in which you learn to distinguish truth from falsehood and to create new knowledge yourself. These transferable skills give you the capacity to understand complex problems and find innovative solutions to them. Unlike a vocational education, which teaches just one specific trade, graduates of liberal arts programs, like History, are much better equipped to handle changes in the job market or their work environment because they have learned how to learn. A major in History also provides students with excellent preparation for admission to professional schools and the pursuit of careers in any field where research experience, analytical skills and good writing are important. Penn State Behrend History graduates are employed in business, education, law, industry, pastoral ministry, state and local government, law enforcement, library and museum management, the military, and information technology.
The Classroom Experience
History majors at Penn State Behrend can avail themselves of all the advantages of a small college within the broader embrace of a major university. Most classes at Penn State Behrend are small, allowing close interaction between faculty and students. The largest enrollment for a history course is 44 students, with upper-level courses typically having between 15 and 20 students. Most of the courses in the major are taught by one of the eight full-time faculty members, each with a Ph.D. in his or her field of expertise. All are published scholars who actively engage in research, and all have published books or are working on them. Upper-level courses have a substantial discussion component to them and all are enlivened by the give-and-take between classmates and faculty.
Student Research Opportunities
Research is an important part of Penn State’s mission and the same is true at Behrend where there is a significant emphasis on undergraduate research. History majors have the opportunity to pursue their own research interests in upper level research projects, independent studies, and a senior thesis. During their coursework students work closely with faculty to develop their research and writing abilities and carve out a research topic. Student researchers have access to a vast array of sources in one of the U.S.’s top research libraries. These include a large number of extensive online databases that allow history majors to conduct advanced research. The college also provides nearly $100,000 annually in competitive undergraduate research scholarship that students can use to fund their studies. Some students pursue publishing their research, while others present it at the college’s annual Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Conference. Students also can compete for the endowed John Rossi Research Prize for the best undergraduate research paper in History.
Outreach is another important part of Penn State’s mission and history majors have the opportunity to apply and develop their research, writing, and communication skills inside and outside the college. Students have organized paper collections and written guides for them in the Behrend College Archives, conducted tours for grade school students at the Erie Maritime Museum, helped organize exhibits at the Erie County Historical Museum, and sailed on the Brig Niagara.