Hold on to your timelines: History is the hot new major at state universities

Denise Watt

Denise Watt

History has always been a part of Brian Baskerville’s life.

From family vacations to Sunday afternoon movies, “Everything I did was historically-related,” he said.

“It never really got old.”

And in South Dakota, Baskerville has plenty of fellow history buffs.

A Board of Regents press release reported that history enrollments in state universities have increased 37 percent in the last four years.

At SDSU, the program has increased from approximately 165 majors in 2004 to roughly 225 currently, said April Brooks, history department head.

“It’s not because there are teaching jobs out there,” she said.

Instead, students majoring in history are those planning to become professors or pursue careers in public service, library science and law, she said.

“I think that’s because law schools are beginning to ask for diversification.”

Corporations have become another popular career option for history grads, she said.

“(History students) can research. They can write a report.”

Baskerville, who plans to work in the Peace Corps and go to grad school, agrees.

“I think that the job market is actually a lot better than people think it is,” he said.

Brooks said the rise in history majors has brought changes for the department, including the addition of two new adjunct professors.

A course in the history of the American West “is a new thing for us, and will likely draw lots of students, she added.

Outside the classroom, a new history club drew about 20 students at its first meeting in October, said Baskerville, a leader in organizing the group.

Officially recognized in December, the club is “open to everyone that’s got a passion for history.”

“We just wanted an organization where history majors could get together,” said Baskerville, a fifth-year history major and president of the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta.

The club provides an opportunity for more faculty involvement and improved faculty-student relations as well, he said.

Last fall, the group met about half a dozen times, with about 10 students at every meeting, he said. This semester, the group will likely meet twice a month.

Activities include watching documentaries and movies, reviewing members’ research and playing Trivial Pursuit.

“We try to keep it fun and loose,” he said.

In March, the club plans to host an on-campus debate between Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry from Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

“We’re going to try to make it exciting for the students,” Baskerville said.

For more information on the history club, send e-mail to: [email protected].