Information for History Majors
The links below contain information specific to VCU history majors. Please also see the College of Humanities and Sciences current student page for additional information about how to withdraw from a class, appeal a grade, see graduation requirements, etc.
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Due to COVID-19, VCU is conducting advising sessions virtually for the time being.
History student advisor Ryan O'Hallahan is on leave effective November 17, 2020 through mid-May 2021. Please contact Jared Johnson to schedule advising appointments.
Also refer to the resource page "keep on learning" to help assist in the transition to online learning.
HIST 493 places students in a field internship for one semester, and students receive credit for work on historical projects with approved agencies. Students may receive 2, 3, or 4 credit hours for work per semester, for a maximum total of 6 credits. The work of the internship varies according to the placement, and we take care to place students in internships which match their interests and career goals.
Interested students should start by considering the area of history they are most interested in and potential places to intern. They should also contact the VCU history internship program director, Professor Brian Daugherity, for help in setting up and applying to be accepted for an internship.
To be accepted into the program, a student must:
- Be in good academic standing, and generally of senior status
- Have the ability to work with others and to work under supervision
- Carefully complete an internship application form (typed preferably)
- Generally have had academic training or prior work experience appropriate to the prospective internship
- Be interviewed by the director of internships and have explicit approval to enroll in Hist 493
An internship project must be defined in a formal, written contract agreed to and signed by the student, the agency supervisor and the director of interns. The internship agreement defines the student intern's tasks and must be consistent with the mission of the agency and the internship program. The document can be obtained from the director of internships and must be completed prior to enrolling in HIST 493.
Undergraduate students may, with the support of a faculty member, take an independent study in history, HIST 492, for upper-division credit toward the major or minor.
Independent study courses are usually developed when a student has already taken at least one course with a faculty member, and has an interest in further pursuing a topic related to that initial course work. If the faculty member has an interest in the topic as well, they may be willing to take on the responsibility of overseeing HIST 492 for such a student. As HIST 492 is taken on as an addition to a faculty member’s normal teaching responsibilities, not all faculty are able to consider offering HIST 492 at all times; therefore, students should not plan on HIST 492 as a fixed part of their path to graduation.
As with the Fall semester, each of your classes for the Spring semester may be online or hybrid format, or may be meeting on campus. As you tackle the Spring semester, you’ll want to make sure you have completed the following checklist in preparation:
- Complete the student onboarding training prior to your return to campus.
- Make sure that you understand the differences between course modalities, and identify which of your courses will use which modalities.
- Be sure you know how to access both online platforms in use for the 2020-2021 school year: Blackboard and Canvas. It would be wise to bookmark these sites on your computer.
- Take this time to review your syllabi before classes begin, and reach out to your teachers with questions about course requirements.
- Start taking steps to be successful online. You will need internet access and a computer to complete much of your coursework this semester. Financial aid may be available for students who are having difficulty gaining access to a laptop or other internet device.
Resources for Undergraduate Students
These resources are intended to help our undergraduates as they navigate the personal and professional challenges of a university education in history, and also to offer support as our students bring that education into the job market or go on to graduate-level education.
The VCU Dean of Students Office is available to advocate for and assist students dealing with life situations that are impacting their academic and personal success at VCU.
Safety and Support
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency and want to speak with a crisis clinician, then please call University Counseling Services at (804) 828-6200 day or night. Students will no longer need to call VCU police for mental health emergencies. For other emergencies or immediate safety concerns, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911. More information about safety and support >>
On Campus Resources
Links to the most commonly referred on campus resources that are pertinent to all students. Includes financial support, equity and access, crisis support, academic support, health and well-being, transportation, and much more. More information about on campus resources >>
Links to the most commonly referred on campus resources that are pertinent to all students. Includes crisis support, safety, health and well-being, and much more. More information about off-campus resources >>
Links to services such as Ram Pantry, off-campus housing, financial support, and more. More information about services >>
Coursework in history requires significant effort in written communications. This work fosters skills in critical thinking, logical argumentation, and convincing rhetoric, but some of it is specialized in ways that may be new to students in our courses. The following resources offer good support for writing in your History classes:
- Conceptualizing History Papers is an online guide from Rollins College which provides a straightforward discussion of what kind of work you are trying to do in writing a history paper, and how you should be thinking about it.
- Steps for Writing A History Paper is a guide from UCLA which lays out not the content, but the step-by-step process of writing a history paper.
- Chicago-Style Citation for Historians, hosted here at VCU, offers a basic discussion of Chicago-style citation, links to the Chicago Manual of Style, and videos that demonstrate how one creates footnotes or endnotes in Microsoft Word.
- Zotero: A Starter Guide for History Students, hosted here at VCU, offers information on the installation and use of free citation management software. This software can be especially helpful in managing documentation and source materials for longer research papers.
- The VCU Writing Center will see students one-on-one for appointments to help edit and improve their written work.
We seek to graduate students who have learned quite a lot about expository writing. However, job hunting or graduate school applications require new written genres, and can pose new challenges for students.
We recommend to any VCU student who is concerned about their resume, cover letters, personal statements, or other written materials which support the building of a career to seek support through the Department of History and also through VCU Career Services, both of which offer workshops which may be of value. We have also found the following resources to be of value to students:
CV and resume writing
The following links lead to sites with information on resume generators. But before you try to write a resume, be sure to revisit our page discussing , to remind yourself of the skills you bring to the table!
Cover letters are often the first point of contact between a job seeker and an employer. It is difficult to offer one-size-fits-all advice for the content of a cover letter, because they should be adapted to the position and field for which you applying. These resources may be of value:
- VCU Career Services offers workshops and support.
- Free Cover Letter offers this how-to guide for conceptualizing cover letters.
- Free Cover Letter also offers templates and samples for a variety of careers and job types.
Many forms of graduate education require a personal statement as a part of the application – and unfortunately, historians are not well-trained to talk about themselves. The following resource may be of help to students applying for graduate programs:
- Writing Personal Statements Online is a guidebook written by a professor from Penn State, and it provides an excellent all-around resource for writing in this genre.
Letters of recommendation from instructors, employers, or others who can evaluate a student's work are important for jobs, graduate school applications, and even scholarship or study abroad applications. A good letter of recommendation is an expression of a student’s achievements, professionalism, and relationship with mentors. Unfortunately, on the surface, the process looks like a series of meaningless bureaucratic forms. If students treat recommendations in this way, they harm their chances to make the most out of their past efforts. What follows here is a series of tips intended to help students approach the professors or other mentors from whom they intend to seek recommendations as professionally and productively as possible.
- Prepare yourself to ask for a recommendation. The professors you intend to ask for recommendations may or may not remember you, depending on how long it has been since you took their classes and how large those classes were. They may also know nothing at all about the program for which you are applying. Before you seek out recommenders, prepare a current resume, gather up any papers and tests from the class you took with that professor, and prepare copies of or links to descriptions of the program you’re applying for. Be ready to give all of these things to the potential recommender. That way, he or she gets a chance to refresh his or her memory about your work, catch up on what you’re doing now, and gear a letter towards the program you’re applying for.
- Ask, but do not assume that you will automatically get a recommendation. Recommenders stake their professional reputations on the students the recommend and the truth of what they say about those students. Since the process affects the careers of recommenders, no professor or mentor is ever under an obligation to recommend any particular student. The appropriate way to seek a recommendation, then, is to ask whether or not a professor or mentor is willing to offer a recommendation. It is rude not to leave a potential recommender the opportunity to decline your request, if they feel ethically unable to fulfill it. It is not appropriate to simply send someone a set of forms, or leave them in a work mailbox or email in-box, assuming that he or she will recommend you just because you handed over the forms. Please note that this holds true even if that professor or mentor has recommended you at some time in the past.
- Communicate professionally about the recommendation. The best way to ask for a recommendation is in person, bringing with you all of the materials you’ve gathered. Your recommender may want to ask you some questions about the program, your educational or professional progress, and so on, and a face-to-face meeting is the best venue for such a discussion. If you cannot ask in person because of time conflicts or distance, an email is acceptable. This email should be written like any other business letter, in clear and formal prose, addressing the professor with his or her preferred name and title, and signed with your full name and address.
- Make the job easy for your recommender. Provide plenty of information, but also leave as much time as possible between your request and the application deadline. Provide your recommender with all the relevant forms/online links, and a clear understanding of where the letter should be routed and how (digitally, in hard copy, etc.) If the deadline date or the destination of the letter is not clear on the forms, be sure to include that information in a cover letter/email which also thanks the recommender. Furthermore, where possible, you should investigate the content and functionality of any digital forms before you send them along to a recommender. Is the .pdf writable, or will your recommender need to print it off and fill it out in hard copy? Does the recommendation form, though digitized, contain a section that you, the applicant, must fill out before the recommender begins his or her work, and how must you fill it out (i.e., digitally or in hard copy)? All of these things will affect the flow of work in getting the recommendation completed.
- Contact your recommenders about outcomes. It’s polite to let your recommender know afterwards if you were given the job, scholarship, internship, etc, and to thank him or her for supporting you.
- VCU Writing Center
- VCU Libraries
- American Historical Association
- Organization of American Historians
- National Archives
- Library of Congress
- Smithsonian Institution
- National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections
- H-NET (Humanities and Social Sciences Online)
- Library of Virginia
- Virginia Department of Historical Resources
- Guide to Virginia Historical Resources
- Virginia Heritage Database
- Virigina Museum of History and Culture (FKA: Virginia Historical Society)
- The World-Wide Web Virtual Library History Central Catalogue - European University Institute, Florence, Italy
- Center for the Study of the American South at University of North Carolina
- Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi