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Sarah Shields
Director of Graduate Studies

The University of North Carolina Graduate program in History strives to train historians to serve in a wide variety of areas: as teachers of the next generation of university students, as scholars struggling to make sense of the past, as public intellectuals working to explain how history matters to the present.  Our Ph.D.s teach at major research universities, at liberal arts colleges, in military academies, at community colleges, and in K-12 schools.  They work for the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Park Service, and a wide variety of both public agencies and private companies.  This diversity reflects the rich variety of our subject fields, theoretical approaches, and thematic areas of historical investigation, as well as the flexibility of our MA and PhD degree requirements.

Our program is defined by a spirit of collaborative inquiry, a culture of faculty mentorship, and a tradition of mutual support.  The work of the History Department at Chapel Hill is facilitated by an excellent library system (the combined resources of UNC and Duke place our library collections in the top ten nationally) and vibrant relationships with all the institutions of higher learning in the Triangle area. This broad sense of intellectual community helps to guide the innovative teaching and research of faculty and students alike.

We have a remarkable group of historians-in-training who contribute to the intellectual life of our university as scholars, teachers, and activists. Our students win fellowships and grants from prestigious organizations such the Fulbright-Hayes program, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Medieval Academy of America. They garner fellowships from the Graduate School and other units within the university. They present papers at major conferences, and they publish in leading journals such as History and Memory. Together they form a community that engages in common pursuit of excellence. They are also proud members of an enduring tradition of graduate studies in history at UNC. Since 1926 the History Department has conferred 887 PhD degrees. Our graduate students form the core of numerous intellectual gatherings, including many of the university’s Carolina Seminars, speakers’ series, and individual lectures. Our students help improve the program through their participation in our Town Hall Meetings. They have mobilized to help others, and to protest injustice and intolerance, during these uncertain times. Graduate students organize the department’s ongoing conferences and exchanges with the History Department at King’s College, London, and during the summers our graduate students participate in a variety of internships and in outreach programs with the National Humanities Center.

Please do contact me with questions about our program, sshields@email.unc.edu

Fields of Study

The graduate history program at UNC-Chapel Hill is committed to training professional historians to be both scholars and teachers, so we require both broad general historical knowledge and specialized study Our degree requirements and departmental culture encourage comparative and interdisciplinary study, and most of our graduate students get extensive experience as Teaching Assistants in broad survey courses in many fields.  While we expect our students to choose one field in which to specialize, we also insist that they have a second field of special knowledge for comparative and teaching purposes.

Graduate study in History at UNC is organized around the following fields of study:

These “major fields” of the Department are particularly important for shaping (a) a student’s curriculum (most major fields have a few required courses) and (b) the structure of his/her comprehensive examinations. When applying for admission, each student indicates the major field of history in which he/she wishes to concentrate.

In addition, graduate students are encouraged to be aware of and to take advantage of, the presence of faculty members who may work outside a student’s major field but who share similar thematic concerns or have experience in research methods relevant to a student’s developing research. See the Faculty page to see a list of faculty in one Interest or Concentration.

For details about the graduate program including information about funding, degree requirements, field-specific comprehensive exam requirements, graduate student teaching, and other information, please consult the Graduate Student Handbook.

Our graduate students form part of the vibrant scholarly community of the History Department, but their opportunities for intellectual and social engagement do not stop there. As part of the wider UNC campus, the Graduate Program in history offers access to a variety of venues for forging interdisciplinary connections and working across departments, as well as various programs, centers, and curricula. Looking further afield, the History Department has neighbors at Duke University, North Carolina State University, and other institutions of higher learning, in addition to the National Humanities Center. Taken as a whole, the Triangle offers graduate students nearly limitless possibilities for professional and intellectual growth. Not to mention, in terms of lifestyle, the Triangle possesses many of the cosmopolitan advantages of a larger urban area, but without many of the “big city” expenses and headaches.

Graduate Student Life

Among many other activities, graduate students in the History Department can take part in:

THE CAROLINA SEMINARS SERIES

The Carolina Seminars provide faculty and graduate students from around the Triangle with a vibrant venue for discussing current scholarship, including seminars in German Studies, Intellectual History, the Working Group in Feminism and History, Medieval Studies, Russia and Its Empires, Jewish Studies, and others. For more information, see http://www.carolinaseminars.unc.edu/index.html

THE DEPARTMENT RESEARCH COLLOQUIUM (DRC)

Held three to four times a semester, the DRC provides a public forum in which graduate students can present their dissertation research and receive valuable experience and feedback. Each DRC meeting consists of two twenty to thirty research presentations followed by a fifteen minute comment on the papers by a faculty member. The remainder of the meeting, usually about thirty minutes, is devoted to questions and discussions involving the audience. Any ABD student who is eager to deliver a research presentation at the DRC should contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

DEPARTMENT-RELATED SOCIAL EVENTS

Along with more formal events, the graduate student community hosts a fall picnic, outings to local restaurants, and other events.

 

Graduate Program News

Graduate News Archive