History at Alma combines practical experience with global understanding, producing graduates with a unique understanding of the complexity of factors that affect human behavior in historical context.
The study of history provides a historical perspective, which contributes uniquely to an understanding of the complexity of factors—economic (E), social (S), political (P), intellectual (I) and technological (T) - that affect human behavior as well as the historical interpretation (H), which explains that behavior. Course offerings in history vary in emphasis. Students may identify central course themes by noting the explanatory caption (e.g., ESPI). All courses that satisfy the general education requirement focus on the principal economic, social, technological, political and intellectual problems in particular historical eras.
Through the generosity of our alumni, we offer special awards that provide unique financial support to our outstanding history majors.
In the junior year, Alma history majors can apply for the Jean Fox Abruzzino Award, which recognizes academic excellence and provides additional financial support for study in the last year at Alma.
In the senior year, history honors majors may apply for the James C. Mitchell and the M.J.J. Smith Scholarships. Each scholarship offers up to $25,000 toward graduate or professional school tuition. Virtually no college or university offers such support for students to attend graduate school, and the award reflects the historic commitment of our program to support our majors.
For more information, see the “Scholarship Requirements” section below.
All courses require students to analyze historical factors and to communicate the results of such analysis in oral and written forms. History is appropriate for careers in law, journalism, industrial management, banking, civil service, library and museum management, ministry, politics and teaching.
Many history students take advantage of the exceptional off-campus opportunities. Each year several participate in the Posey Global Fellows Program for support of international internships. We also offer a variety of specially funded summer internships, such as the Kinney Scholarship to support study of a Bill of Rights-related issue.
Since we historically have been a department that trains many future attorneys, we offer courses in both U.S. and continental legal traditions. To assure the quality of these offerings, our U.S. legal history courses are taught by a professor with both a Ph.D. and J.D. from one the nation’s best law programs.
History Spring Term classes are exceptional, taking full advantage of Alma’s one-month semester when students take only one course. Professor Liping Bu has offered Spring Term class trips to China to study Chinese history, culture and society. Professor Furlong has taken classes to London for research in the British archives on World War II. Professor Lorenz has taken Comparative Public Policy classes to Mexico. Students also have the option of spending an entire semester abroad at a partnering university across the globe.
Virtually all history courses at Alma emphasize a multinational or global perspective—noted by the caption (GP). The commitment to a global perspective is a special feature of the study of history at Alma and has influenced our decision to staff our program with faculty trained in some of the best institutions in the world. While all our faculty hold one or more degrees from premier U.S. institutions, two of five full-time faculty also have a degree from a university outside the U.S. (Beijing University and University of Cape Town).
Phi Alpha Theta
Phi Alpha Theta (ΦΑΘ) is an American honor society for undergraduate and graduate students and professors of history. The society has over 400,000 members, with some 9,000 new members joining each year through 970 chapters nationwide.
Phi Alpha Theta was established on March 17, 1921 at the University of Arkansas by Professor Nels Cleven. Cleven had become convinced in his time at the university that a fraternity of scholars (which would accept men or women) was important for the study of history. He invited students to a meeting to form the society (then called the “University Historical Society”) on March 14, and the society was officially recognized on the 17th. In April, the decision was made for the society to be known by the Greek letters Phi Alpha Theta.
Undergraduate students must complete a minimum of 4 courses in History, achieve a minimum GPA of 3.1 in History and a GPA of 3.0 or better overall. A maximum of 3 credit hours of online, transfer, or AP credits may be applied to the membership eligibility requirement. Membership is not limited to History majors.
Phi Alpha Theta members are eligible to apply for the honor society’s awards and scholarships offered each year. Phi Alpha Theta awards scholarships and other prizes on the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level. All student members are eligible to present a paper at our Biennial Convention and at the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Meeting in their area. For a detailed listing of our extensive awards program, visit the Prizes/Awards section of the Phi Alpha Theta website.
Jean Fox Abruzzino Memorial Award
- Restricted to candidates who have declared an Alma College history major no later than March 15.
- The award will be given each spring to a student who will return to Alma College for the Fall Term.
- Candidates must have completed a minimum of 20 history credits in the Alma College History Department; or they must be enrolled in courses that, by the end of the Winter Term, will result in completion of 20 history credits in the Alma College History Department.
- Among the minimum of 20 credits taken (or being completed by the end of the winter term of the scholarship year) in the Alma College history department, a minimum of 8 credits must be from two of the following groups: (a) History 323, 325, 326, or 380 (4 credits U.S. topic); (b) History 331, 335, or 380 (4 credits; European topic); (c) History 353, History 360, or History 380 (4 credits; Non-Western topic); (d) History 400-level seminar.
- Eligible candidates must have completed, or be in the process of completing by the end of the Winter term in which the award is made, history course work from at least two full-time members of the Alma College faculty who regularly teach 50 percent or more of their courses in the Department of History.
- Eligible candidates must demonstrate a superior academic ability in coursework taken outside and inside the Alma College History Department. The minimum overall grade point average for candidates is 3.25; the minimum History Department grade point average is 3.4.
If you wish to be a candidate for the Jean Fox Abruzzino Memorial Award, please submit the following to the department chairperson by March 30:
- A transcript of your college work (including courses taken at other colleges or universities) through the Fall term.
- Two copies of at least one research paper written for a history course taken at Alma College. (You may, if you wish, submit copies of more than one research paper.)
- A one page up-to-date résumé of yourself.
- Any additional supporting materials you care to supply. Please note: Do not request letters of recommendation from any current full or part-time members of the Alma College History Department faculty.
The History Department review panel will assess each candidate in terms of the following:
- Written and oral communication skills
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Research skills
- Intellectual curiosity
- Intellectual creativity
- Reliability, honesty, and integrity
M.J.J. Smith Scholarship
Candidates for the M.J.J. Smith Society Scholarship must complete graduation requirements in the academic year preceding the Fall semester of their matriculation in graduate or professional school. In addition, they must have:
- Met the requirements for graduation with honors in the department of history and had their senior history honors thesis approved for final revisions and for inclusion in the April commencement program by both their first and second readers; or earned a 3.25 overall grade point average and a 3.3 average in the history major by the end of the term in which they graduated and presented a quality research paper at a regional or national professional conference;
- Evidenced serious interest in graduate or professional school study and have been accepted by a graduate or professional school for work leading to the Ph.D., J.D. M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., or some other graduate/professional degree at a challenging [in Prof. Smith’s words a non-quicky quacky] program at a school that is not a diploma mill;
- Demonstrated strong academic performance in a minor, second major, or the Public Affairs Institute. Acceptable minors or second majors include, but are not restricted to, such disciplines as political science, computer science, business administration, biology, and physics;
- Shown evidence of personal and professional integrity, honesty, respect for the law, and potential for professional success; and
- Reviewed materials on the academic career of Professor Emeritus M.J.J. Smith [there is a DVD on Dr. Smith that should be viewed by any applicant in the library].
If you are a history major who graduated in December or expect to graduate in April, May or August with honors in the department of history, to apply for a Smith Society Scholarship you must provide the department chair with the following:
- An unofficial transcript of your academic record at Alma College and other colleges/universities where you completed academic work;
- Your academic résumé;
- Photocopy documentation providing that you have been accepted into a “non-quicky quacky” graduate or professional school degree program.
If you did not or will not graduate with honors in history, you must submit 1 through 3 immediately above and one copy of a research paper completed for a history course at Alma College and presented (or soon to be presented) at a regional or national professional conference.
The deadline for submission of your application materials to the department chairperson is March 30.
James E. Mitchell Scholarship
Candidates for the Mitchell Scholarship must complete the requirements for graduation at the end of either the Fall or Winter term.
In addition, they must have:
- earned a 3.3 overall grade-point average and a 3.5 average in the history major by the end of the Fall term;
- evidenced serious interest in graduate study and have been accepted by a graduate or professional school for work leading to the Ph.D., J.D., M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., etc.;
- had their senior history honors thesis approved for final revisions and for inclusion in the April commencement program by both their first and second readers;
- taken and performed well on the Senior History Department Comprehensive Examination, prepared and administered by the Alma College History Department; and
- demonstrated evidence in their academic work at Alma College of intellectual honesty, creativity, reliability, initiative, an unusual degree of self-discipline, and outstanding potential for success in graduate or professional school.
To apply for the scholarship, you must
- answer the questions on the form below;
- submit photocopy documentation providing that you have been accepted into a graduate or professional school degree program; and
- submit a brief essay in which you present evidence of your intellectual honesty, creativity, reliability, initiative, and unusual degree of self-discipline, and outstanding potential for success in graduate or professional school.
Although you may feel reluctant to promote yourself in your essay, please do not be shy in discussing evidence of your qualifications for the Mitchell Scholarship. You may want to mention some of the following if they apply to your case: Is there evidence that others have recognized your initiative and creativity by selecting you for membership in honorary (but not social) societies, such as Phi Alpha Theta or Phi Beta Kappa? How have you demonstrated self-discipline? By the timely submission of papers and other assignments, by accelerating your progress toward graduation, by double-majoring, by combining a heavy academic load with a job, or by participation in unusual intellectual or creative activities? How did you fare in science and humanities courses? Have you given papers at regional Phi Alpha Theta meetings, the Michigan Academy, or Honors Day? Have you been accepted for submission by a quality graduate or professional school?
There is, however, no need to summarize your senior history honors thesis, since at least two members of the department will have read it. Deadline for receipt of this form, photocopy documentation of your acceptance into a graduate or professional school degree program, and your essay is March 30.
To apply for the James E. Mitchell Scholarship, please answer the questions on the form below, sign your name, and return the form to the department chairperson by March 30.
James E. Mitchell Scholarship Application Form
Have you graduated at the end of the Fall term, or will you graduate at the end of the Winter term?
Yes ________ No ________
Have you earned an overall grade-point average of 3.3 and a 3.5 in the history major by the end of the Fall term?
Yes ________ No ________
Have you evidenced serious interest in graduate or professional school study and been accepted by a graduate or professional school degree program?
Yes ________ No ________
Has you senior history honors thesis been approved for its final revisions and for inclusion in the April commencement program by both your first and second readers?
Yes ________ No ________
Deadline for submission of this application and supporting materials to the department chairperson: March 30.