Why Study History?
As one of the core disciplines of the liberal arts, history provides a classic mode of learning that has been around for more than 2,000 years. By studying the past, history majors learn to think rigorously and creatively, analyze problems carefully and completely, interpret complex events, write with clarity and precision, and organize and assess evidence. In short, they learn to read, write, and think!
History is also interesting. It deals with real people and events. Studying history provides access to the whole world – and not just to the past, but to the present that grew out of the past. It offers unlimited variety for selecting topics and pursuing personal interests. Everything has a history: nations, wars, ethnic groups, sexuality, music, food, even postage stamps. History is also visible everywhere: at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm; on television; in film; and in public debates (about school curriculum, about health care, even about the very principles upon which the United States was founded). One of the best reasons to major in history is because you enjoy it and can continue to enjoy it after you graduate. History combines the excitement of exploration and discovery with the sense of reward born of successfully confronting and making sense of complex and challenging problems.
Finally, historical knowledge is important and historical ignorance is dangerous. As George Orwell famously wrote in 1984, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." While it may not be true that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," as George Santayana observed, if we don't know where we've come from, we can't know who we are or where we should be going. There are numerous examples of historical ignorance or willful distortion of the past being closely linked to wars and catastrophic miscalculations. Ironically, studying history can also free us from its grip, which explains why many modern social movements demanding change – racial and ethnic minorities, women, gays and lesbians – have turned to history to find a usable past.
Additional reading and related articles:
- Rachel Maddow, "History is King" at Stanford University
- Nicholas Goldberg, "Why it Matters if Students Don't Know U.S. History" from the Los Angeles Times
- Katherine Brooks, "Why Major in History?" from Psychology Today
- Dr. James Sefton, "Why Study History?" (A short essay by CSUN Professor of History Emeritus)
- Peter N. Stearns, "Why Study History?" from the American Historical Association
- Famous History Majors, CalPoly Humbolt
Careers for History Majors
Studying history helps you develop fundamental job skills.
The study of history enables you to analyze social, economic, political, and cultural change over time. You learn how to identify a problem, gather information, evaluate explanations and understand relationships. History teaches you how to place issues in context, investigate events, and weigh alternatives. The content and skills gained from a major in History strengthen your professional abilities in all areas and in all fields.
A History major opens the door to career opportunities in a wide range of fields. While many graduates find jobs as secondary school teachers, history majors are also employed in business and in the public sector. Insurance and marketing companies need people who can analyze risk and profitability. Public relations and human resources need employees knowledgeable about ethnic and foreign cultures. Museums, libraries and civic organizations seek people with an appreciation for and commitment to learning.
Employers – whether in business, government, education, or any other field – are desperate for employees who can read carefully, write clearly, think logically, learn independently, and analyze an array of problems against a broad background of information and experience. They in turn will provide training in particular job specific skills, whether in law, finance, sales, foreign service, journalism, or marketing. Moreover, in our modern economy, individuals may need to learn half a dozen different jobs in their lifetime, putting a premium on those people who possess critical thinking skills and can process & analyze information. This global economy will increasingly reward those who have the general skills of literacy and analysis over training in particular job categories. If you enjoy studying history, you will enjoy the rich career possibilities to which it may lead.
- As a Teacher:
- Elementary schools
- Secondary schools
- Community colleges and universities
- Historic sites and museums
- As a Researcher:
- Museums and historical organizations
- Librarians and Archivists
- Historic preservation
- Public Policy Think Tanks
- As a writer / communicator:
- Documentary editor
- Producer of multimedia content
- Information manager
- As an Advocate:
- Lawyer or paralegal
- Legislative staff work
- In Government:
- Diplomatic and Civil Service
- Policy Analysis
- Urban planning and Historic Preservation
- In Business:
The student internship program places History Majors and California Studies Minors in pre-professional positions in public, commercial, and advocacy institutions. This hands-on experience allows you to earn 3 units of credit in a directed program of applied field study while acquiring pertinent skills and knowledge in your field of interest. In the past 5 years, we have placed over 100 students in positions at 70 different institutions.
How an internship can benefit you now and in the future...
- It can provide you with an opportunity to apply knowledge of your field in a pre-professional position.
- You will establish professional contacts and recommendations facilitating your career objectives.
- With the guidance of a professional, you will learn how institutions and programs in your field of interest work, and develop an ability to assess their strengths and weaknesses.
- You can help strengthen the ties of service and communication between the university and the community.
What is required to complete the Internship Program?
- You must have attained upper division or graduate standing with at least a 3.0 average. A demonstration of writing and analytical skills is also required.
- You will work 120 hours at the host institution during the semester. Transportation will be your responsibility. At the conclusion of the internship, you will submit an assessment paper on your experience.
- To complete the course satisfactorily, you must meet the expectations of both the host institution's supervisor and the History Department Internship Coordinator.
If you are interested in pursuing an internship, please contact the History Department office at 818-677-3566 and ask to schedule an appointment with our Internship Coordinator, Dr. Jessica Kim.
Our faculty and staff are here to help in your success! Please don't hesitate to visit your professors during their office hours, meet with your academic advisor, or get support from our writing tutors!
All academic advisement is by appointment only. Please contact the Department Office at 818-677-3566 to schedule your advisement appointment. Remember: make your appointments early in the semester to avoid the year-end rush!
- Undergraduate Advisor: Demetrius Evans
- Transfer Advisor: Demetrius Evans
- Graduate Student Advisor: Dr. Rachel Howes
- Teaching Credential / FYI/JYI / SSSMP Coordinator: Dr. Patricia Juarez-Dappe
- Internship Coordinator: Dr. Jessica Kim
Department of History Writing Center
The Michael Patterson History Writing Center is open for appointments. Our friendly tutors are eager to help with your history writing assignment.
Need assistance organizing your paper, clarifying your thesis statement, refining your argument, proofreading your prose, citing sources, or formatting a bibliography? We can help with that! We love to read drafts! Perhaps you just don't know where to begin? DON'T PANIC!
We can help with brainstorming, outlining, deciphering paper prompts, and time management.
Book an hour long session with one of our History writing tutors. Call the History Office at 818-677-3566, or stop by 610 Sierra Tower (History Office) to make an appointment.
Not a fan of planning ahead? We have walk-in hours! Please call the department office for those hours. All you need to do is show up at the writing center, and we'll take it from there.
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Tutoring
The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences offers free drop-in statistics, methods, and writing tutoring!. The Tutoring Center is located in SH 121 (first floor, down the hall from the big globe). For more information, visit the CSBS Academic Success webpage.
Through the generosity of donors, the History Department is very pleased to be able to give out a number of scholarships and awards to outstanding students every spring. Applicants must have declared a major in History, or be enrolled in the M.A. program. In Spring 2013, the Department awarded students over $50,000 worth of scholarships and awards.
Scholarship applications are typically available mid-February, and winners are announced in May. History majors will be emailed as soon as applications become available. Details will also be posted on our homepage.
For general financial aid and scholarship opportunities, visit the CSUN Financial Aid website.
The mission of The History Club is to promote interest in global, regional and local history through lectures, discussions, debates and other extra-curricular activities. The History Club is a place for students to share their passion for history with their peers and exercise their historically curious minds. In the past, The History Club has organized outings into the community, roundtable discussions, game and movie nights... and a whole lot more
More recently, or Department Ambassadors have hosted a weekly "Study 'Sesh,"" a designated space where our undergraduate and graduate students can discuss papers, projects and readings. Dates, times and locations of the "Study 'Sesh"s will be announced by email each semester, as well as posted on our homepage.
Phi Alpha Theta
Founded in 1921, Phi Alpha Theta (PAT) is the national honor society for history students. The organization boasts over 350,000 members across the country. PAT is a professional society with the mission to promote the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication, and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. PAT seeks to bring students and teachers together for intellectual and social exchanges, which promote and assist historical research and publication by its members in a variety of ways. Each spring semester, CSUN's chapter of PAT (Theta Tau, established in 1962) recruits new members.
Benefits of Membership
Membership in Phi Alpha Theta...
- is an honor and an important addition to your résumé.
- allows you to compete for a wide range of PAT-sponsored scholarships and prizes.
- gives you opportunities to participate in PAT conferences.
- connects you to other students and scholars who love history.
If you are an undergraduate student, you are eligible if you have:
- completed 12 units (4 courses) in history; and
- an overall GPA of 3.0 or better, and a GPA in history of 3.1 or better.
If you are a graduate student, you are eligible if you have:
- completed at least 12 units towards a master's degree in history; and
- a GPA of 3.5 or better.
Becoming a Member
Membership applications are available in the spring semester. Please check your CSUN email as well as the department's website at the beginning of spring semester for application forms and deadlines.
Memberships are processed once a year, usually in late April, with an induction ceremony and party that follows in mid-May.
If you have additional questions, please contact the Phi Alpha Theta Advisor, Dr. Miriam Neirick.
History students have opportunities to travel and take classes abroad. Biennially, our faculty members take a group of our students to a foreign region to experience the history and culture of cities they have studied in their coursework. Countries we have visited recently include Argentina, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. For information about upcoming trips, please contact the department office.
Workshops and Topical Events
Throughout the year, the Department welcomes our students to join us for workshops, seminars and lectures of topical interest. Annual events include:
- Annual Whitsett Lecture in California / Western History
- Career Day: Meet Graduates of the History Program and Transform your Degree Into a Career
- Graduate Student Research Symposium: presentation of research
- Workshop: "An Insider's Guide to Spring/Fall Registration": learn how to select classes, organize your schedule, what to expect from different classes, which faculty teach what and how, and how to find resources in the History department
- New student "Welcome Workshop," including presentations to support your success with critical thinking, comprehension, research, and Chicago style citations
- Annual Scholarship and Awards Presentation and Graduate Celebration