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Undergraduate Program

Why study History?

First of all, history is fascinating. The past is a strange, wonderful place, endlessly intriguing. But studying history is also useful. It illuminates the patterns that have shaped the present, revealing how the society we live in came to be. It also reveals the diversity of the human experience, helping us to understand how dramatically people have differed in their ideas, institutions, and practices, and to discover shared aspects of that experience. It provides the cultural background to function effectively in a global world. It also builds essential practical skills. The study of history teaches us problem solving: how to search for answers, to tell important stories and make convincing arguments, and to make sense of complexity. The range of skills and perspectives offered by our curriculum is set out in more detail in the 2016 History Discipline Core from the American Historical Association's Tuning Project.

The UMass Amherst History Department prides itself on its devotion to undergraduate education. History majors work closely with our nationally recognized faculty to explore the past in all its intricacies, while developing the ability to think critically and to write and speak eloquently. Students in the UMass Amherst History Department can also take classes at any of the four colleges in the area (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges) at no additional cost, providing access to worldclass history instruction at not one, but five institutions.

Each semester, the History Department offers a wide range of undergraduate courses. The requirements for a B.A. in History are flexible. Department advisors can help students plan an effective curriculum. In addition, Commonwealth Honors College students can follow a Departmental Honors Track, which culminates in researching and writing an honors thesis in history.

Through internships, independent research, and study abroad opportunities, history students extend their learning beyond the classroom setting. The department sponsors a History Cluband a chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. We award prizes for outstanding undergraduate research and writing, and the UMass History Journal provides an opportunity for undergraduates to publish their scholarship. Our Undergradute Internship & Career Office connects history majors with internship opportunities and provides career direction and practical advice. The department's Law and History Advisor provides guidance to students interested in a legal career.

Wondering what to do with your BA in History? Check out these blog posts from the American Historical Assocation, this AHA article "History Is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data," and visit the Undergraduate Internship & Career Office!

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