History is by necessity interdisciplinary as historians seek to analyze and understand the diversity of human experience across time and space; to communicate clearly and accessibly about the past, which is an act of informing and preserving collective memory; and to develop the capacity to see matters from multiple points of view. As a discipline, History is unique, because it requires a sophisticated use of a variety of types of evidence and argumentation, with special attention to the contingency of human knowledge.
At Illinois Wesleyan, history majors often combine their love of history with study in a variety of other fields. Many of our history majors complete a second major or minor in these and other Liberal Arts disciplines or in one of the professional schools or programs. Our History majors are encouraged to follow their passions by combining knowledge from their majors, minors, General Education experiences, and where relevant, professional interests into a researchbased Senior Capstone Project that is meaningful to their lives and purposeful for their professional interests. Students, in consultation with their advisors, chart their own paths through the curriculum, which culminates in a senior capstone project. This seminar (HIST 490) and the department’s sophomore seminar (HIST 290) emphasize researching, analyzing, writing and verbal communication skills. These are indispensable skills required in many 21st-century professions, and they are essential for understanding the complex and changing world we live in. For these reasons, Historical studies at IWU emphasize the analytical and communication skills that help prepare students for diverse careers in private US and international businesses; US and international non-profit organizations; law; journalism; state, local and federal governments; private and public education; the military; the ministry; and as entrepreneurs in fields such as entertainment, publishing, commerce and more. Although a majority of our graduates seek careers in fields beyond history, they maintain a passion for history throughout their lives. IWU History majors also successfully pursue careers as professional historians in education and in public history at museums and historical sites and agencies, and at state and federal historical societies, as well as at private auction houses like Sotherby’s that deal in historical artifacts. Others may pursue careers as professional historians for businesses and private and non-profit organizations that hire historians to manage their records, publish monthly or quarterly bulletins, and write books about the company or organization. Regardless of the IWU History graduate’s career path, many pursue MA degrees in museum studies, public history, and education, while others continue the studies to become documentary filmmakers, and some seek PhDs to become college professors and independent writers.
Public and Applied History Pathway
The History Department at IWU offers a Public and Applied History Pathway (PAH) for students interested in careers that bring history to life for a public audience. Students focus on debates in public history, including questions of history, memory, commemoration, and identify in the public sphere, as well as issues related to the presentation of public narratives of history (e.g., in textbooks, museums, documentaries, online). Within specifically designated courses, listed in the History Student Handbook, PAH students will apply their skills of historical analysis on the practice of public history – e.g., by curating physical and/or digital museum exhibits, by creating public history websites or blogs, by creating short documentary films, and/or by interning at historical sites and in museums and archives. In doing so, students will apply historical knowledge to address issues of contemporary relevance and will demonstrate, to those outside of academia, the importance of historical thinking for understanding issues in the contemporary world, as well as the nature of history as a process of continual re-interpretation. For students interested in documentary film-making, we strongly encourage a minor in Film Studies, or at a minimum FLM 330: Digital Videography. Students following this option may choose to create a senior project in Public and Applied History or in History 490.