History: Our discipline
History is the study of the human past as it is constructed and interpreted with human artifacts, written evidence, and oral traditions. It requires empathy for historical actors, respect for interpretive debate, and the skillful use of an evolving set of practices and tools.
As an inquiry into human experience, history demands that we consider the diversity of human experience across time and place.
As a public pursuit, history requires effective communication to make the past accessible; it informs and preserves collective memory; it is essential to active citizenship.
As a discipline, history requires a deliberative stance towards the past; the sophisticated use of information, evidence, and argumentation; and the ability to identify and explain continuity and change over time. Its professional ethics and standards demand peer review, citation, and acceptance of the provisional nature of knowledge.
We pride ourselves in the care we provide to our pupils both in the classroom and out. Small classes enable students to hone both their written and oral abilities and permit us to provide greater individual attention. While many in the history faculty have received national and regional honors for their work, they are above all teachers and mentors, as evidenced by the recognition accorded to them for their work with students. The department features an innovative and rigorous curriculum designed to train students in historical methodology, research skills, and critical thinking. It regularly offers more than 50 undergraduate courses on a wide range of topics, including offerings in ancient Greece, Rome, or India; the history of the U.S., China, Latin America, and Europe; Native American history and the history of women; the history of Buddhism, Judaism, or Medieval Christian history; and history methods.
- The 13 full-time members of the history faculty are active scholars who have received national and international recognition for their books, articles, and scholarly work. The department boasts professors who have published widely in U.S. history, modern European history, medieval history, Asian history, Latin American history, and ancient Roman history.
- History faculty have received a number of prestigious grants and awards from local, national and international organizations. Louis Roper was recognized with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Kristine Harris received the Liberal Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Service. Professor Susan Lewis was inducted into the New York Academy of History. Two of our faculty have received Fulbright Awards for their research (Michael Vargas in Spain and Heather Morrison in Austria).
- Our faculty have also been active in the public and community. Hamilton Stapell’s expertise in modern Spain has led to appearances on NPR and an article in Foreign Affairs magazine. Lee Bernstein’s work on US Prisons led to an article on horrible prison food in Edible Hudson Valley. Reynolds Scott-Childress researched a historic property for the National Parks Service. Akira Shimada has worked as a fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is developing a database of ancient Buddhist sites.
- The History faculty are known for excellence in teaching. Four current members of the department have received the Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award, and Professor Hamilton Stapell also won the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Michael Vargas has been recognized with his personalized work with students through a campus Award for Excellence in Mentorship
The department connects students with regional historical societies and historic sites to provide opportunities for seminars, fieldwork experiences, and internships. History majors have completed internships at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.; Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz; Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and the D&H Canal Historical Society and Museum in High Falls, N.Y., among others.
An Alum's Perspective: Gabrielle Segal '14
Editorial and Social Media Manager
"I may have walked away with a degree in history, but I learned so much more, from Spanish to geography to biological anthropology. You really never know when and where that tidbit of information you learned from a random class will help you. A liberal arts education gives you a broad prospective and provides you with a well-rounded understanding of the world. As a writer and editor, I've used my education to provide depth and sensitivity to my work--something I would not be able to do without a liberal arts degree."