In the 21st century, college graduates need to be prepared to live as global citizens. They will need to acquire knowledge of the diverse people with whom they share this world. Moreover, as the world is experiencing a virtual revolution in information and communication technologies, college students need to be trained to acquire and critically evaluate the abundance of information. Finally, they need to acquire skills that allow them to communicate their knowledge and ideas.
Studies in history at the university level are especially well suited to the preparation of students for this kind of world. History students develop the ability to understand highly varied cultures, to see issues with the clarity provided by historical perspective, to discern patterns amid the complexity of past societies, to appreciate the context surrounding particular texts or images, and to express ideas clearly and cogently.
Above all, the discipline demands that its practitioners learn to acquire, analyze, critically evaluate, and interpret information. Students who intend to teach history and social studies at the pre-college level or who plan to become professionals in the discipline as college teachers or public historians will have a critical need for this kind of advanced education in the field. The department will continue its traditional mission of providing excellent degree programs for these students.
Most of the students, who take courses in the department, including many who major in one of its programs, will pursue careers with no direct relationship to the field. The department already vitally serves the needs of these students, but it can do even more. It can better serve these constituencies by providing direct instruction in the way that history courses can prepare them for other professions and by linking the curriculum more closely to such pursuits. The benefits of this change can be multiplied, moreover, by making a special effort to apprise the university and the larger community of this aspect of the department's programs. Turning in this direction will be a special mission of the department as the new century begins.
Students drawn to the study of history will learn much more of what they need as citizens as the department intensifies its emphasis on the history of the diverse populations of the world, especially by frequent and direct interaction with those populations. Expanded use of communications technologies in the classroom will enhance the fulfillment of this mission.