History professors discuss job readiness of history majors
Dr. Charles Reed July 16, 2012
Article History has been a common college major for decades. Efforts are underway
to make sure students are departing universities well prepared for jobs that require
or benefit from applicants who hold history degrees.
Dr. Charles Reed, an assistant professor of history at Elizabeth City State University,
said he is confident students at the university are well poised for rewarding jobs
after graduation. In June, he represented the university at the first national meeting
of the American Historical Association's (AHA) Tuning Project in Arlington, Virginia.
He was one of 60 faculty participants invited to a nationwide, faculty-led project
to articulate the core of historical study and to identify what a student should understand
and be able to do at the completion of a history degree program. This "Tuning" project,
supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation (Indianapolis, IN), will test the possibility
of harmonizing the nation's diverse degree programs in a single discipline. Initiated
in Europe a decade ago and extended since then to higher education settings in six
continents, Tuning has been adapted to the structure of American higher education
only in more localized settings.
The AHA's initiative to "tune the history major" encompasses three broad objectives:
1) To articulate the core abilities, habits of mind, and knowledge required of their
2) To develop a clear, common language to express the distinctive value of history
for students, employers, and public culture. Students who can see clearly what they
are learning, and why, are better equipped to direct their studies towards lifelong
learning, meaningful employment, and civic participation;
3) To provide a nationwide framework in which historians can design the systems used
by their institutions to measure their achievements as teachers.
Reed is a historian of modern Britain and the British Empire. His research focuses
on notions of identity, citizenship, and belonging in the nineteenth-century British
Empire. At ECSU, Reed teaches the World Civilizations sequence, for which he is the
coordinator, as well as upper-division courses in European and World History. As a
teacher and program assessment coordinator, Charles hopes that the tuning process
will help him and his department better serve ECSU's students.
The meeting represents the beginning of a three-year "Tuning" process. During two
days of sessions, participants led by the AHA's Teaching Division and representatives
from the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) were briefed on the history of
tuning in Europe and the developing methodology of the process in the United States.
Faculty participants collaborated in small groups to develop a disciplinary core and
learning objectives for the discipline of History. After conversing with colleagues
there, he returned confident about the level of instruction offered to history majors.
"ECSU is well ahead of the curve in our efforts to develop measurable student program
and course learning objectives based on national standards," Reed said. "Teaching,
learning, and assessment are all processes, however, and having an opportunity to
participate in a national conversation about how disciplinary standards are developed
is a very exciting prospect for the department."
According to Dr. Rebecca Seaman, chair of the ECSU Department of History & Political
Science, the "Tuning" process will be an ongoing project.
"Dr. Reed and our department are committed to not only looking internally at our departmental
and program structures, but to also examine our History Program's impact and interactions
with other areas of the university (such as General Studies and related degreed programs),"
"We are also required to collaborate with related disciplinary bodies, such as the
Museum of the Albemarle. Our program is already ahead of the curve in that we have
already begun the process of establishing a long term partnership with the Museum
of the Albemarle, as well as other partnerships and projects with the City of Elizabeth
City, the ROTC department at ECSU, and others."
Seaman envisions that, as a result of the Tuning process and the support the department
and program are receiving internally and externally, students who attend ECSU's History
program will graduate not only with a quality degree, but also with working and internship
experience that will make each graduating senior quite successful in a variety of
job markets, from museums, libraries, archives, education, research related industries,
national parks, and government positions, to name just a few.
The Tuning discussion continues online, and the group will reconvene in February 2013
in Washington, D.C.