Q. What can I do with a degree in history?
A. The history major cultivates habits of mind, skills in research, and a perspective on the past that help to prepare you for a range of careers. Wheaton College history majors have gone into business and finance; journalism; local, state, and federal government service; law; medicine; teaching and educational administration; archeology; the ministry; missions; and many other callings. Students also have pursued masters degrees in specialized fields of history such as museum studies and archival work. With the advent of the History Channel and the popularity of “living history” sites, opportunities for careers in public history are growing. Other students pursue the Ph.D. and academic careers.
A sampling of graduate schools our students have attended includes: Ph.D. programs at Northwestern, Yale, Notre Dame, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Miami University (Ohio); M.A. programs at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Marquette University, the University of Maryland, Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, and James Madison University. Students also have studied law at the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, and Kent Law School.
Q. How do professors in the History Department relate the Christian faith to the study of history in their teaching and research?
A. Of course each professor has his or her own specific approach, but, in general, faculty relate faith to history in ways that are implicitly rather than explicitly theological. That is, we do not attempt to tell students explicitly how God has worked through past events and people. Instead we follow the conventions of academic or critical history that focus on the human dimension of the past, including Christianity as one element in that dimension. We try to help students understand and interpret people, cultures, and events in the past through careful research into historical documents and artifacts. In fact, we think there are some sound Christian reasons for following these well-established historical procedures. Even so, “implicit" does not mean unimportant. There are key theological assumptions that inform what we do in the classroom. These include, for example, assumptions about the nature of human beings, the realities of sin and grace, and the importance of ethical and moral questions. We also take seriously the reality of religious faith and religious ideals as causal factors in history.
Q. What are the specific strengths of the Wheaton College History Department?
A. In terms of course offerings, the department is particularly strong in the areas of modern and early modern Europe and East Asia. In addition, the department offers a rotating selection of elective offerings in U.S. history. Another strength of the History Department is its faculty. The six full-time and two part-time faculty members include both veteran teachers and early-career faculty. All are engaged in research related to their areas of specialty, and they bring the fruit of that research to the classroom experience. The Department also benefits from its location twenty-five miles west of Chicago, with easy access via commuter train to the museums, libraries and historic sites of the Chicago metropolitan area.
Q. What is the typical size of a history class?
A. Classes range from about 10-15 students in seminars to about 25 in general survey courses. A few of our most popular classes occasionally reach a peak of 30 students. The introductory general education course, HIST 105, World History, meets twice a week as a team-taught lecture course of about 130 students, but students also meet once a week in a seminar of 15-18 students for discussion. History majors have many opportunities for personal contact with department faculty, both in and out of the classroom.