Northwest Passages, the Department of History’s student journal, has again been awarded First Prize in the 2011 Gerald D. Nash History Journal competition, sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. This year’s award is the third time for the journal to take top prize, and it marks the fifth year in a row that the journal has won either first or second prize. Published in the spring each year since 2000, each edition of the journal includes several senior theses as well as a diverse sample of smaller papers completed in history courses offered throughout the academic year. The writings are selected by the editorial team which is staffed entirely by students.
Welcome to the Department of History! Studying the past is a fascinating window into the human experience. Thus, the History Major is designed to provide students with a well-rounded understanding of history from different times and places around the world. In fact, several courses offer a more global examination of a particular topic, such as disease and medicine or modern cities. Beyond more lecture-based courses, history majors take two discussion-oriented seminars in which students are able to focus on more specific topics often in the field of a professor’s expertise. Past seminars have examined, among other topics, the history of Portland, the history of the European family, women’s health in post-World War II America, and issues in the French Revolution. In these seminars, students learn about challenges that historians face when interpreting past events, and students begin to research as historians themselves. Our capstone senior thesis course, required of all majors, is where students put to use the skills that they have acquired to write a paper based on their own original research. Recent topics have included the Chinese immigrant experience in late-19th-century Portland, a comparison of environmental policy in West and East Germany, and the exploration of the North Pole.
Our faculty members are talented, personable, and student-oriented. Beyond sharing their love for history with students, our faculty prepares students for a future in any profession by helping them to develop independent research capabilities, oral and written communication skills, critical thinking skills, and a deep intellectual curiosity. Our graduates have gone on to such various professions as lawyers, professors, teachers, archivists, librarians, and foreign service officers. Graduates who have chosen to pursue graduate school have been accepted at institutions around the country and even abroad, including the London School of Economics, the University of Chicago, Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Villanova University, and Georgetown University.
Faculty members are also dedicated to giving students a taste of history outside of the classroom through leading students in activities such as presenting research at the regional conference of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honors society; publishing the department’s student history journal, Northwest Passages; or visiting a local museum. We also strongly encourage our students to supplement the knowledge gained through their coursework with first-hand experience in other cultures by studying abroad. Often, the history faculty themselves teach courses abroad in the European summer programs. Courses offered abroad by members of the department include “Europe in the Age of Dictatorship,” “World War I,” “Modern Austria and Bavaria,” and “Europe in the Cold War.”
Through our courses, research projects, and extracurricular activities, both students and faculty members in the Department of History share our love of history and its relevance for today’s world with each other and the greater campus community. We hope that you’ll join us!
Elise M. Moentmann
Chair, History Department