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What History Honors Has Meant to Me

Kelsey Campbell (Class of 2013) writes to current history honors students: “You never know where life will take you, but you can use your history degree to help you get anywhere, no matter the field.”

Lea Cejvan
(Class of 2021) writes:  “History Honors has greatly assisted me in preparation for this Fulbright, not just the content and direction of my project, but also with my ability to read, analyze, and gather valuable resources towards my writing.”

Emily Dawes, class of 2009 She starts a PhD program in September 2017 in history.  She will examine missionary efforts in nineteenth-century China among Muslim communities of the northeast.  This work will undoubtedly be unique, since there are few who can do research in French, English, Chinese, and, inshallah, a bit of Arabic.  

Gregory J. Halmi (Class of 2010) Since he graduated he has served as Assistant Operations Officer of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Company Commander of the 198th Infantry Training Brigade, and is presently Chief of Operations of the 1st Infantry Division.  He has served in Italy, Afghanistan, Gerogia, and Korea.  Referring to the documents generated in the military, Greg insists that "writing as an army officer is an essential skill, and I have noticed in general that historians...have the strongest abilities compared to other majors."  He asserts that promotion in the army requires an officer to analyze battles and foreign countries, and the history honors program has given him an advantage in the research and writing of these required reports: "overall, ...history is an excellent major for a military officer."

Lauren Haslem (Class of 2015) says of History Honors, "The program's emphasis on original research and writing provides students a fuller understanding of what historians do outside of teaching. In allowing them time and guidance to develop independent projects, the two semester sequence gives students an opportunity to engage with the demands of historical study prior to pursuing it professionally."

Mark Johnson, class of 2008 In the History Honors Program I learned how to motivate myself.  In classes I had due dates and homework.  In the Honors Program I had to plan out my own time.  I have found my ability to motivate myself and keep myself on schedule useful as a graduate student and how as an historian.  I still use the time management skills I learned to complete all my necessary work and get ahead on future projects.

Andrea (Matio) Kirschling, class of 2016 Andrea writes that History Honors gave her tools that contributed to her professional success because she became a more independent and disciplined worker.  “Setting up an honor’s thesis,” she says, “really called on me to commit to a task and execute it at a higher level.”  Andrea tailored her honor’s thesis to her interest in Arab experiences, and she reports that this: “helped me empathize with different groups of people and piece together current events.  The world is forever changing, but history has helped me form a more thorough picture of what systematic discrimination looks like.”

Katie Martin, class of 2014 Katie Martin reports that during a telephone interview for a position, a potential employer “was really interested in my [Civilian Conservation Corps] history honors thesis.”  She wrote to her faculty mentors: “Thought you should know that all of your support and mentorship is still making an impact – even three years after I defended my thesis!”

Mark Robison, class of 2009 Although I had been writing research papers throughout my college career, the History Honors Program was different. The program requires students to conduct an original research project, independent of any specific course content. This freedom gave me the exciting (and, at times, daunting) opportunity to pursue a line of inquiry of my choosing -- an exercise that I would come to repeat many times throughout my graduate and professional career. 

The greatest strength of the History Honors Program is its robust educational approach to teaching students the historical research process. Many universities mistakenly assume that undergraduate students already know how to conduct research; the History Honors Program recognized that my cohort and I were still neophytes and had much to learn about conducting original research. The project was clearly sequenced across two semesters, asking students to submit a proposal, identify mentors, generate a primary source bibliography, review the scholarly literature, etc.  This sequencing walked me through the steps of a research process that I was just then learning.  Crucial to the success of the Honors Program are the faculty mentors, who advise each student throughout her/his process and ultimately serve as readers on the final thesis. My mentors, Drs. Stacy Holden and Yvonne Pitts, were invaluable to the project, offering expert guidance in navigating the primary and secondary source literature, as well as unrelenting encouragement during the toughest stages of my project. 

As a result of participating in the History Honors Program, I produced an original piece of research that I was proud of.  I also learned valuable lessons about the responsibilities that come with being a researcher, such as the need to participate ethically in the scholarly conversation and to be able to communicate one's argument clearly.  The History Honors Program prepared me well for the rigors of graduate school and for my career as an academic librarian, which requires me not only to conduct and publish research, but also to lead undergraduates through the steps of becoming researchers themselves.

Former Purdue History Honors Student, current Naval Officer
The fundamental difference between pursuing a degree with or without Honors is represented in the quality and depth of the professor instruction and peer discussion.  Professors are aware that Honors students 1) want to be there 2) have the mental capacity to receive and distill complex concepts and 3) are prepared to actively engage the classroom and provide value to the environment; an environment defined by real learning vice memorization of facts and timelines.

Moreover, honors students appreciate and understand that a higher standard of academic performance is required.  Here, in the honors classroom, is where students who seek challenge, understand that academic failure promotes growth and that opposing views presented by students who may be different from them truly leads to a more holistic understanding of the academic content.

As a career Naval Officer, I am frequently assigned tasks that require measurable legal and strategic research to meet my Commander’s desired end state.  Here, not dissimilar to the Honors program, critical reading, comprehension and concise writing are key.  Flag level officers, business executives and audiences of all types need and appreciate informed yet succinct delivery of thoughts via the written or spoken word.  The Purdue History Honors program introduced these concepts and made certain I understood how and when to use them.

Last, in a world growing more competitive by the moment, the Honors caveat identifies one as a top tier student who excelled in rigorous major programs and genuinely engaged course materials at a level of thinking that consistently exceeded that of his or her peers.  Future employers and business associates have reason to expect nothing less from Honors students; making their accession through any organization rapid and freedom to create and innovate possible = trust.