Students of history, through investigation of the past, gain skills and perspectives that foster a better understanding of the world and their place in it. The study of history contributes to the goals of a liberal arts education by enabling students to gain a deep appreciation of the diversity of human experience over time. Through the study of history, students learn how to interpret their own experience and to shape their own values by engaging in dialogues with the past. The study of history also nurtures the ability to view the world from multiple perspectives, including interdisciplinary ones. Finally, history provides the foundation for informed participation in both the local and the global community by teaching how to apply critical thinking skills to solving problems. The study of history offers excellent training for a variety of occupations, from teaching to law, government, business, and the arts.
The Department of History encourages active engagement in historical inquiry, whether at the introductory survey level, in seminars, or in community-based learning. Active engagement requires students to learn how to master basic knowledge, ask historical questions, access and evaluate information, and communicate what they have learned in both written and oral forms. Helping students master the use of a variety of sources and tools to unlock the past is a goal of all history courses.
The combined expertise of faculty in the Department of History encompasses a diversity of fields ranging from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest to world history. The department offers lower-division surveys in World History, and U.S. history, but the gateway course for the major is Hst 300 Historical Imagination, which provides an introduction to the discipline—both the theory and practice—of history. Advising is critical, because majors are encouraged to develop their own thematic, chronological, or geographical focus through their choice of upper-division elective courses. Upper-division offerings include a wide range of subject areas, from the ancient Near East to American Family History. Reading seminars (Hst 491) and research seminars (Hst 492) on specialized topics—such as medieval Spain or Japanese nationalism—provide the opportunity for majors to write a substantial research paper and to participate in intensive reading and discussion of topics. Hst 495 Comparative World History—a thematic course—is required for the major to ensure that students develop the ability to frame what they know in a world historical context and to apply comparative analysis to important historical topics.
In line with the University’s mission as an urban, public institution, the Department of History supports partnerships with the Oregon Historical Society and other local and regional museums, archives, and historical societies and offers training in public history. All faculty consider both teaching and research, along with community service, to be part of their responsibilities as members of the Department of History. The creation of knowledge, as well as its dissemination through teaching and publication, is a vital part of the department’s mission.