Meet a History Major

kathleen

Kathleen White ’14

Extra-curricular activities: 

  • JustPeace
  • L.O.V.E.
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Campus Ministry & Social Action
  • Center for Academic Success

Read about why Kathleen chose her major [+]

 

Why did you choose your major? 

I’ve always enjoyed history and knew I wanted to focus on that area once I was in college. I love learning how and why specific events of the past occurred because those events help us understand the things that are occurring today. My history major also pairs perfectly with my second major, which is peace studies.

What has been your favorite class? 

The independent study course, History of Modern Africa, that I took during the fall of my junior year was my favorite because the topic of Africa has always fascinated me, and this class gave me an opportunity to study the continent in depth. I also loved this class because it challenged me. Although it consumed most of my time, the readings, papers and discussions were worth it and I learned more than I thought was possible in one semester.

Have you done any internships?

During the summer of 2012, I attended The Fund For American Studies' Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. This program consisted of two classes and an internship. I interned at the Culmore Safe Youth Project. As an intern, I assisted the program coordinator with disadvantaged youth as a tutor, mentor and field trip coordinator.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to work in the research and strategy department of a nonprofit or human rights organization. I also hope to work doing international service and field work, and eventually work towards a master’s and Ph.D. in human rights.

What are the faculty like?

The whole History department is very supportive of its students and available for any questions or concerns we may have. One professor who has had a big impact on my academic experience is Dr. Jeff Horn. I’ve had him as a professor for four different courses and I was also the supplemental instruction fellow for his Roots: History class. He always wants the best for his students and is willing to work to help students achieve their full potential. 

What’s your favorite thing about this major?

My favorite thing about being a history major are the interesting topics I get to study and really look at in-depth to understand a particular point in history and why/how it happened. My other favorite thing is the feeling of accomplishment when you are doing a research paper, and you finally see your research and argument come together, and you can’t stop writing because it finally all makes sense and your work has a clear purpose.

What’s the most difficult thing about this major?

I believe one of the most difficult things about being a history major is balancing the coursework. Like most classes in the School of Arts, history classes come with a lot of reading and writing assignments, and sometimes I find it difficult to begin research for a paper on one topic when you need to be reading about something entirely different for another assignment.

What advice would you give to new students trying to select a major?

Choose a major you love — it makes all the hard work worth it. Also, if you are not sure what major to choose, talk to different professors and your advisers. Don’t just choose a major you are unhappy with because you think it will be easy or get you a job — in the long run you will be unhappy with your classes and yourself. Always choose something you have passion for!

 

tom

Tom Engelhart ’14

Extra-curricular activities: 

  • Scatterbomb (Improv Troupe)
  • Writing Center Tutor
  • Debate Team
  • Manhattan Magazine Contributor and Editor
  • L.O.V.E. New Orleans

Read about Tom’s favorite class [+]

 

What has been your favorite class? 

Every history class that I have taken at Manhattan College has been very rewarding. If I have to pick a favorite, it would be The Industrial Revolution (HIST& 358) because I am very interested in 19th century history, and the bulk of the class dealt with the economic history of that time period. Much of my curiosities about this period were satisfied by taking this class, but more importantly the class opened my eyes to historical and cultural themes that I did not expect to encounter. In teaching the class, Dr. Jeff Horn employed his extensive background in economic history but also focused heavily on the aspects of industrialization from the perspective of labor. The class realized the true consequences of industrialization that are usually overlooked by the modern collective memory of such events.

Why did you choose your major? 

I have always held a strong interest in history, and it was always my favorite subject in school. When I applied to college, I applied as a history major because I was unsure of what my post-graduate goals would be and figured I would enjoy focusing my academic efforts on topics that I find interesting. I also thought that this decision would allow me to achieve the best grades because history had always been my best subject. This thought was changed almost immediately after beginning school. I found my history classes to be very challenging and requiring a lot of work, but I would not have wanted it any other way because the amount of work and dedication required for each class has forced me to engage with the material fully.

Have you done any research projects?

The introductory class for history majors, Introduction to the Study of History (HIST 200), requires students to do a major research project culminating in a 20-page final paper on a topic of their choosing. Working on the project can be a tedious, frustrating, difficult and frightening experience, but can be equally as rewarding if approached in the right way. I chose a topic that surprised some of my fellow students and caused me to second guess myself a few times. My topic was the American Whaling Industry of the first half of the 19th century. I know, it sounds fun. I used primary sources from the archives of the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum on Long Island.

In the early stages of my research I felt lost and scared that I would not be able to write a cohesive research paper with a specific topic. I spent many weekends travelling to Long Island to read 150-year-old letters and ships' log books. After putting in the time and effort, I was able to see certain themes and trends present in the documents. As shocking as it may sound, it actually was an exciting experience researching and then writing the paper. This was only possible because I chose a topic that I was wholeheartedly interested in. I had to thoroughly embrace the work that I was engaged in doing. I experienced many sleepless nights in the library giving up time that I would have rather spent with friends having more tangible fun, but I had a valuable academic experience that I would be willing to do again. I am now trying to expand my research and embark on a larger project with the same material by applying for a Branigan Grant with the College. My involvement in this research project fostered my ability to learn on my own which is a very important skill to have and is crucial in the environment of higher education.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am still unsure of what profession I will go into after graduation, but I know that it will be one that values and requires a lot of writing. Writing is a true passion of mine, whether creatively or academically. This has been nurtured by the work I have had in my history classes. History is without a doubt a writing-intensive major. It forces students to hone their writing skills and constantly improve. Various careers that I am considering include law, publishing and media. History is not a major that places students on a track to a certain profession, which is undervalued by many. This characteristic offers freedom to students offering them many options, training them in many valuable general skills, which are applicable to many professions. Upon graduation I may not have the knowledge necessary to participate in a certain career, but I know that I will have the skills needed to acquire and express that knowledge, whatever it may be.

Have any professors particularly influenced you?

I have had great experiences with many of the professors in the History department. Dr. Jeff Horn is one that I have spent a lot of time with and have taken many classes with. Dr. Horn has the reputation of being one of the hardest professors in the College, if not the hardest. He has high expectations and really challenges them. I have always found him to be an extremely fair grader who pushes students to articulate their understanding of course materials in the best ways that they can. Dr. Horn is always available during office hours for consultation on papers and exams, and he answers emails with astonishing speed. He also has a great in-class presence, giving interesting emotion-filled lectures laced with his trademark dark sense of humor. Dr. Horn makes sure that dialogues take place within the class, usually evaluating primary sources or specific historical analyses by certain important historians. He is a great educator and historian with a passion for course material and how it is understood and applied by his students.

What’s your favorite thing about this major?

I love the ability to specialize my study of history. High school history classes focus on synthesizing long periods of time, while college-level classes deconstruct periods and events and delve into the material in order to fully understand the many aspects of those historical moments. This allows for a more human and less legendary understanding of history, which makes it much more real and accessible.

What’s the most difficult thing about this major?

Initially it was hard for me when my preconceived notions about certain historical events were shattered. What we hold to be true in our collective memories are often at odds with actual historical fact. This has become fun and exciting, however. I now expect to have my knowledge profoundly altered upon entering my history classes everyday.

What advice would you give to new students trying to select a major?

If you are not sure what you want to do after graduation, don’t force yourself upon a vocational major. You have four years to figure out what you like and are good at. In fact, that is what the majority of your college time will be devoted to. Expose yourself to as many different fields as you can. Take advantage of your roots classes and develop relationships with professors as early as you can. The greatest strong point of Manhattan College is the community of professors that the students have the opportunity to learn from and get to know. Choose a major in a department that you like because you will be spending your class time with those people. So choose people who you like and respect, and the major you belong in will magically appear before you.