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Department of History
Graduate Program Outcomes Assessment

The Graduate program of the History department assesses student outcomes, and works with students to help them succeed within the program, in several different ways: students at the M.A. and Ph.D. level work closely with faculty advisors to plan their graduate course programs, to prepare for their comprehensive examinations, and to prepare and defend theses or dissertations. Mindful of difficulties encountered in the past, the Graduate program has introduced several key reforms the goals of which are twofold: (1) to help graduate students perform at a high level in course work, examinations, and research projects; (2) to help them prepare more effectively for the academic and non-academic job markets.

M.A. Program

How Student Outcomes/Accomplishments are Assessed

All M.A. students, whether taking the 30 credit hour non-thesis option or the 24 course credit hour plus thesis option, must earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 in coursework. No grade lower than "B-" counts toward completion of any course work requirements for the MA degree. If a student's grade point average falls below 3.0, the student is placed on probation with one semester to raise the grade point average to at least 3.0; failure to accomplish this will terminate the student's participation in the program. Upon completion of coursework, the student must pass a written comprehensive examination, set by the studentís faculty committee (see below) and comprising 6 essay questions based on the studentís reading list and coursework. All three members of the student's committee must certify that they find the examination acceptable. The chair of the committee submits the examination to the Director of Graduate Studies, who, in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee, reviews the examination and approves it or returns it to the student's committee for revision and resubmission. When two or more students are to be examined in the same field, the Director must ensure that the several examinations are of comparable difficulty. To pass the examination, the student must obtain a cumulative score of at least a B- (2.666); if the student fails the written examination, he/she may retake it once. Students who choose to write an M.A. thesis must defend the thesis at an oral examination, with three faculty members on the examining committee.

Preparing Students for Degree Requirements

All M.A. students, whether specializing in American, European, or World Areas history, work with an advisor and two other faculty members who serve as the studentís advisory committee. This committee helps the student develop a coherent, well-structured program of study, define a reading list for comprehensive examinations, and, for thesis students, learn how to write a thesis based on extensive use of primary sources. After an initial meeting with the committee in the studentís first semester on campus, the student meets regularly with his or her advisor and with the full committee if needed. Each spring the student and advisor meet to assess the student's progress; the advisor then prepares a report for the student's file. If the advisor and the studentís committee believe that there are problems with the studentís progress to degree, the committee and/or advisor brings these problems to the studentís attention and work with the student to develop a course of action to address the problems. In most cases, this course of action does not entail the studentís withdrawal from the program; in some cases, however, the student is urged to reconsider whether graduate study is appropriate.

New Initiatives

Two initiatives have been introduced in the past five years to increase opportunities for M.A. students in History: the Museum Studies Certificate program, and the Dual M.A. with Religious Studies and East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Museum Studies certificate program allows students who pursue a combination of course work and internship opportunities to prepare for employment in museums and historical societies. The Dual M.A. allows students to pursue concurrent degrees in any two of the three departments currently participating in the program. This is an especially attractive option for M.A. students considering a career in secondary education, or for those who hope to move on to an explicitly inter-disciplinary Ph.D.

Ph.D. Program

How Student Outcomes/Accomplishments are Assessed

All Ph.D. students must complete 45 hours of course credit before taking a two-part comprehensive examination. They must define a major area of concentration, and two secondary fields, one of which must be in World Areas. They must pass a four-hour written examination in their major (or "A") field (e.g. U.S. History since 1865) before qualifying to take a two-hour oral examination in each of their three fields. All A fields have standard reading lists, and the student is expected to have mastered the reading list before taking the comprehensive examination. A student is admitted to candidacy after having passed both the written and oral comprehensive examination. These exams are rigorous: students who prepare extensively and work closely with their advisory committee are likely to succeed, but they must pass each field in order to pass the entire exam, and some students do not pass on the first attempt. Graduate School procedures allow students who fail the comprehensive examination on the first try to take the exam a second time. Students who pass the comprehensive examination are ready to prepare a dissertation prospectus, which must be approved by the studentís dissertation committee and by the departmentís Graduate Studies Committee. Once the prospectus has been approved, the student proceeds to work on the dissertation. An oral defense of the dissertation is required before graduation: at the defense the student is examined by a five-person committee, one member of which must be a member of the graduate faculty from outside the History department.

Preparing Students for Degree Requirements

At the beginning of a student's Ph.D. program, each student works with relevant graduate faculty to establish a 3-person subcommittee for the A field. Its function is to advise that particular student on courses to take, reading lists to work through, and exam preparation for the A field. It is the committee's responsibility to set the A-field exam, based on the standard A-field reading list, for that particular student. The three-person committee is chaired by the faculty member who in all likelihood will be the student's dissertation advisor.

To help students prepare for the A-field comprehensive examination, the program requires that they take designated colloquia in either American or European history. These courses introduce students to important works in the major fields, and constitute an introduction to the A-field reading list.

New Initiatives

To develop the studentís capacity to examine historical problems within a global context, the History Department recently introduced a World Areas component that is required of all Ph.D. students. Each Ph.D. student must take at least 6 hours of course work in one World Area (the department offers courses in the histories of Japan, China, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America), and must prepare for examination in this field at the oral exam. Our recent experience suggests that students who have completed the World Areas component of the degree are better able to think comparatively across time and cultures, and are better positioned to compete for teaching positions, many of which require a teaching competency in World history in addition to research and teaching expertise in the studentís principal field.

Indicators of Success

Our current, and recently graduated, students have been very active in presenting their scholarship at national conferences and some have established publication records comparable to students from the top graduate programs in the country. Our more advanced Ph.D. students have received national fellowships and grants, including a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Italy, two Gilder Lehrman Research fellowship for research in New York libraries and archives, and a Garrison Fellowship in the History of Military Medicine. Several recent graduates have received book contracts from major university presses for revised versions of their dissertations. In the last academic year, our recent graduates were especially successful in securing academic positions: five of the six Ph.D. students who were on the academic job market received tenure-track jobs or major post-doctoral fellowships. In the last seven years, we have placed graduates in tenure-track jobs, in public history administration, in secondary and post-secondary teaching, and in museum positions.

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Last revision 01/28/03


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