Undergraduate Program

Newsboys in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1908. Photo courtesy of National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress.

Welcome to the UC Santa Cruz History Department’s undergraduate program. If you are looking at this website, chances are you are considering studying history. Here you will find information about courses, our outstanding faculty and staff, major requirements, and complementary programs. Before you get into the details, however, let us briefly tell you why majoring in history at UCSC is a great choice in the 21st century. If you are curious about the world around you, interested in making an impact on it, and ready to develop flexible skills that will serve you in your life and your work, the history major provides an excellent path through your undergraduate career that will give you a strong foundation for deciding where you want to go next.

Students often think of studying history as a matter of memorizing names and dates. While having a command of basic facts is important, college-level study of history shifts the focus to learning how to ask illuminating questions about the past. UCSC history majors cultivate a broad understanding of human history across time and space and develop deep knowledge of a particular region of the world. At the same time, they learn how to ask transformative questions, develop their ability to answer them through effective research, and convey their ideas clearly and persuasively through strong communication skills.

In the course of an ordinary day, we are deluged with information in varied forms: textual, visual, oral, sensory. Learning how to evaluate information as evidence is central to the history major. By cultivating critical reading, of both primary sources generated in a particular historical moment and secondary sources that present narratives about the past, students learn to identify and evaluate arguments. As students learn to think historically, they begin to recognize possibilities where others see inevitabilities, asking not just what happened, but why it happened the way it did. They cultivate empathy and imagination in order to understand multiple perspectives on past events and what gives rise to those differences. These are skills that are invaluable for almost every job and essential to meeting the responsibilities of being citizens in a complex, dynamic, and global world. That is part of why you will find UCSC history graduates making valuable contributions in a wide range of fields, including education, law, government, film, journalism, finance, business, and activism.

Studying history entails not only cultivating individual knowledge about the past but also sharing one’s insights with others. History majors at UCSC learn how to work collaboratively in developing shared knowledge, from the first steps of identifying and gathering important sources, to developing interpretations and arguments, and finally through sharing findings in a variety of forms. Writing clearly and persuasively is a skill undergraduates cultivate throughout the major by working in multiple genres ranging from brief synthetic essays to long-form papers based in original primary source research. History majors also develop innovative ways of sharing their work, including digital exhibits, oral history archives, and public presentations of their research. Students who graduate as UCSC history majors should go out into the world with confidence in their abilities to evaluate and make sense of varied kinds of information and their capacity to share their knowledge with others. These skills leave them poised to thrive both professionally and personally.

Undergraduate education should be at the heart of the mission of every university, and UC Santa Cruz has a well-deserved reputation for its dedication to that goal. The UCSC History Department is known for the strength of its undergraduate program. The campus has recognized the excellence of the department’s teaching by conferring distinguished teaching awards on multiple members of our faculty. When you study history at UC Santa Cruz, you work with scholars known not only for their scholarship, but for the quality of their engagement with students. We encourage students to get to know faculty in their fields of interest as soon as possible, and become participants in our intellectual community. Faculty and staff are here to support you through your undergraduate career and to offer guidance on postgraduate possibilities, including work and graduate school.

As you browse the website for information about the major, please feel free to contact individual faculty members in areas of particular interest to you.

See Also