The University of Iowa

Message from the Chair

The members of the History Faculty welcome you to the department and to the study of a subject to which we are personally and professionally devoted. We hope that you share the enthusiasm we have for the study of past societies and cultures. For many of us, the study of history unlocks important insights into the world we inhabit and the interactions of its peoples. Where did the problems we confront come from? Why are communities and societies constituted in the ways they are? What legacies have those developments left us to contend with? How have problems similar to those we face today manifested themselves in the past, with what differences, and with what resolutions? We are not simply ransacking the past for what might be useful. We also find intellectual satisfaction, and maybe a trace of wisdom, in understanding the past on its own terms.

Students of history develop an understanding about change--how it happens and why it happens the way it does--that has real utility in their engagement with the world as citizens. History majors, by virtue of the geographical breadth of their studies, develop a global consciousness--a historical sense of the richness and diversity of human experience--which may prove useful as they navigate the streets of Iowa City or Toronto, or Nairobi. We know from the testimony of past graduates and their employers that the critical, research, and writing skills many history majors acquire are tangible assets.

The world beyond The University of Iowa values those skills as much as we do. While a history major does not provide “training” for a specific niche in the job market, it is preparation for work and life in a world that demands flexibility and adaptation, and that often requires the rapid acquisition of new knowledge. We firmly believe that “training” in understanding the Medieval Church, the Meiji Restoration, or the Marshall Plan may be precisely what gives history majors an edge in the fluid job market.

In addition to teaching undergraduates, faculty members teach graduate students, do research, write essays and books, and serve on university committees and in university administration. Sometimes we offer advice to museums, radio and television programs, and teachers designing new curriculums for schools. We are very interested in your concerns, and are willing to provide whatever guidance we can.

We rely on you to take the initiative to engage us in helping to plan your course of study, to advise on specific courses or sequences of courses, to interpret comments or criticisms of your written work, or to consult on career objectives. Our office hours are posted on our office doors; you can get a list in the History Department Office, Room 280 SH. We are interested in ways to make your work in the history major more meaningful and your relationship to the department more satisfying. Read the bulletin boards in the department for current news and announcements. Savor with us the remarkable refurbished quarters we inhabit in century-old Schaeffer Hall. Get acquainted with the office staff—including Pat Goodwin,and  Sheri Sojka. We are happy to have you as a history major and trust that you will find your association with the department both challenging and rewarding.

Stephen Vlastos, Professor and Chair
Department of History