History

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

Applicants to the doctoral program must hold or be near completion of the master's degree (or its equivalent); all others will be considered for admission to the master's program, even if it is their ultimate intention to pursue a doctoral degree at Penn State.

To be considered for admission, applicants must submit a completed online Graduate School application and payment of the nonrefundable application fee. In addition, applicants must submit official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended that show:

  1. substantial course work in history,
  2. a minimum GPA of 3.50 (on a 4.0 scale),
  3. at least three semesters of college-level work in a foreign language (additional language training appropriate to the fields in which the applicant proposes to work may also be required for admission) and
  4. where applicable, a minimum GPA of 3.50 for all graduate work previously undertaken.

The Department of History requires a statement of intent outlining proposed fields of study and career goals, as well as a sample of written work (undergraduate history thesis, master's thesis, seminar paper or equivalent research paper) as evidence of historical research and writing skills. Three letters of recommendation are required; it is strongly preferred that at least two of them be from historians. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are not required.

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

The Director of Graduate Studies, who supervises the overall graduate program in history and maintains student records, will assign newly admitted graduate students to advisers on the basis of each student's expressed area of interest. Advisers provide assistance in planning courses of study, guidance in choosing scholarly papers and dissertation topics, direction in conducting research, and career counseling.

Students who serve as graduate assistants will be given a variety of experiences as they assist different professors, ranging from paper-grading and administering exams, to preparing and delivering occasional lectures, to conducting review or discussion sections for large lecture courses.

Candidates for the M.A. degree must earn a minimum of 36 credits of course work that can be counted towards a graduate degree, of which 12 credits will be in the student's primary area and 6 credits in one secondary area. At least 30 credits must be at the 500 level, with no more than 6 credits of HIST 596. The only required course is HIST 500. Course work offered by outside departments may be scheduled as part of the student’s program with approval of the student’s academic committee and the Director of Graduate Studies. In some cases, students may be required to take additional credits in order to make up deficiencies in foreign language skills and/or undergraduate coursework.

Reading proficiency in at least one foreign language must be demonstrated no later than the beginning of the second year of residence.

Students are required to convene two separate, formal meetings with their advisers and master's committees: Committee Formation Meeting and the Master's oral examination. The convening of the student’s master's committee must take place no later than the end of the first year in the master's program. Every student should, in consultation with the permanent adviser, select at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty to serve on their master's committee (for a minimum total of three faculty members). There must be faculty representation of each of the students' two fields (selected from the department's list of officially recognized fields). At this first meeting there should be a discussion and approval of the general program plan (seminars, courses and other requirements).

Students must hold a Master’s oral examination. The examination consists of an oral defense of two research papers written while in the M.A. program in two department-defined fields of study (e.g., 19th century US and Modern Europe). The research papers must be of a length, substance, and quality that the committee deems to be of journal article-caliber. Students must submit the papers to the committee a minimum of two weeks prior to the oral examinations; the papers then must be orally presented and successfully defended before the committee in the M.A. examination. Submission and defense of these two research papers constitutes the culminating experience for the Master of Arts degree.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

The Director of Graduate Studies, who supervises the overall graduate program in history and maintains student records, will assign newly admitted graduate students to advisers on the basis of each student's expressed area of interest. Advisers provide assistance in planning courses of study, guidance in choosing scholarly papers and dissertation topics, direction in conducting research, and career counseling.

Students who serve as graduate assistants will be given a variety of experiences as they assist different professors, ranging from paper-grading and administering exams, to preparing and delivering occasional lectures, to conducting review or discussion sections for large lecture courses. Advanced doctoral students may hold lectureships while working on their dissertations; lecturers have complete instructional responsibility for one or two sections of an undergraduate course in their area of specialization.

Credits & Course Requirements

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in History must complete at least 27 credits of graduate-level work at the 500-600 level (with no more than one HIST 596 per academic year), of which 12 credits will be in the student's primary area and 6 credits each in two secondary areas. The only required course is HIST 500. The remainder of a student's doctoral program, including foreign language requirements, should be determined in consultation with the Ph.D. committee. Course work offered by outside departments may be scheduled as part of the student’s program with approval of the student’s Ph.D. committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Foreign Language Requirements

Reading proficiency in at least one foreign language must be demonstrated no later than the third semester of residency (not including summer semester).

English Competence

A student in the Doctor of Philosophy in History degree program is required to demonstrate high-level competence in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, and speaking. At the end of the first year of enrollment all students who are non-native speakers of English must submit a portfolio which includes at least two pieces of written work from every seminar. In addition, the Director of Graduate Studies will solicit evaluations from their adviser(s) and seminar instructors in order to identify any deficiencies. Students with any identified deficiencies will be directed into appropriate remedial activities. The deficiencies must be met before the qualifying examination. Competence must be formally attested by the program before the doctoral comprehensive examination is scheduled. (International students should note that passage of the minimal TOEFL or IELTS requirement does not demonstrate the level of competence expected of a Ph.D. from Penn State.)

Ph.D. committee Composition

By the end of the first year in the doctoral program, every student should, in consultation with the permanent adviser, select at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty to serve on their Ph.D. committee. Ph.D. committees for History Ph.D. candidates must meet all Graduate Council requirements.

Only those faculty who have been approved and designated by the Graduate School as members of the Graduate Faculty in History can serve as representatives of the three primary and secondary fields on any Ph.D. committee. The list of History Graduate Faculty is available online.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination may be taken after the completion of at least 18 credits of acceptable graduate work at Penn State and must be taken within three semesters (excluding summer sessions) of entry into the doctoral program. Following successful passage of the qualifying exam, a program plan will be submitted to the Departments of History and the participating program after consultation with members of the student's Ph.D. committee.

Formal Meetings

Students are required to convene two separate, formal meetings with their advisers and Ph.D. committees for:

  1. a discussion and approval of the general program plan (seminars, courses and other requirements) and
  2. their Ph.D. comprehensive examinations.

Doctoral Dissertation Defense

Upon the researching, writing, and completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense). The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dual-Titles  

Dual-Title Ph.D. in History and African American and Diaspora Studies

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in History and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to History, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the African American and Diaspora Studies dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the African American and Diaspora Studies Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in African American and Diaspora Studies prior to taking the qualifying examination in their home department.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the Ph.D. in History. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in History and African American and Diaspora Studies must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. in African American and Diaspora Studies, listed on the African American and Diaspora Studies Bulletin page.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination committee must include at least one member of the African American and Diaspora Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

The dual-title field must be fully integrated into the qualifying exam for the doctoral program. In addition, student in the dual-title Ph.D. in African American and Diaspora Studies will be required to present to their committee a portfolio of work in African American and Diaspora Studies which includes a statement of the student’s interdisciplinary research interests, a program plan, and samples of writing that indicate the student’s interest in questions taken up by scholars of African American and Diaspora Studies.

Ph.D. committee Composition

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a History and African American and Diaspora Studies dual-title Ph.D. student must include at least one member of the African American and Diaspora Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in African American and Diaspora Studies, the member of the committee representing African American and Diaspora Studies must be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Exams

The African American and Diaspora Studies Graduate Faculty member on the student's committee is responsible for developing and administering the African American and Diaspora Studies portion of the student's comprehensive exams. The exam must incorporate written and oral components in African American and Diaspora Studies based on the student’s thematic or regional area of interest and specialization in African American and Diaspora Studies. The African American and Diaspora Studies portion of the exam will include the following components: broad history of the field, contemporary theory and debates, and either sexual and gender politics or a topic related to the student’s specific area of interest.

Dissertation

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in both History and African American and Diaspora Studies. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Dual-Title Ph.D. in History and Asian Studies

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.


Graduate students with research and educational interests in Asian studies may apply to the dual-title Ph.D. in History and Asian Studies. The goal of the dual-title Ph.D. in History and Asian Studies is to enable graduate students from History to acquire the knowledge and skills of their major area of specialization in History while at the same time gaining the perspective of Asian Studies.

In order to prepare graduate students for the competitive job market, this program provides them with a solid disciplinary foundation that will allow them to compete for the best jobs in their field. For such students, the dual-title Ph.D. in History and Asian Studies will add value to their degree and their status as candidates. It will produce excellent historians who are experts in Asian Studies as well. The dual-title degree in History and Asian Studies will build curricular bridges beyond the student’s major field so as to provide a unique training regime for the global scholar.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in History and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to History, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the Asian Studies dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the Asian Studies Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Asian Studies prior to taking the qualifying examination in their home department.

Degree Requirements

The doctoral degree in History and Asian Studies is awarded only to students who are admitted to the History Ph.D. program and subsequently admitted to the dual-title in Asian Studies. To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the Ph.D. in History. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in History and Asian Studies must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. in Asian Studies, listed on the Asian Studies Bulletin page. The minimum course requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. degree in History and Asian Studies are as follows:

Required Courses
HIST 580Early Modern Asia3
HIST 581Modern China3
ASIA 501
ASIA 502
Proseminar in Asian Studies I
and Proseminar in Asian Studies II (the required proseminar sequence in Asian studies)
6
Select an additional 3 credits in an Asia-related course (400-level and above) in Asian Studies or in any department other than History3
Total Credits15
Foreign Language Requirements

All-skills proficiency in one Asian language and two years' college study (or equivalent knowledge) of another Asian language, or alternative proficiency appropriate to the student's field.

Qualifying Examination

There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both History and Asian Studies. The qualifying examination committee must include at least one member of the Asian Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

Students must meet the Ph.D. qualifying examination requirements specified by the History department. In addition, the student will be required to present a portfolio of work in Asian Studies to their committee. Such a portfolio would minimally include a statement of the student's interdisciplinary research interests and a program plan.

Ph.D. committee Composition

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a History and Asian Studies dual-title Ph.D. student must include at least one member of the Asian Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Asian Studies, the member of the committee representing Asian Studies must be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Exams

The Asian Studies-affiliated faculty member on the student's committee is responsible for ensuring that Asian Studies content constitutes a portion of the student's comprehensive exams. The Asian Studies’ content will focus on the following areas: theory, methodology, transnationalism, and interdisciplinary material related to the student's discipline.

Dissertation

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in both History and Asian Studies. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Dual-Title M.A. and Ph.D. in History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.


Dual-title degrees in History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies foster interdisciplinary scholarly work that is grounded in historical study, research, and teaching. A dual-title program will enhance the intellectual rigor and breadth of graduate work through core courses in feminist theory and methodologies; by exposure to a range of interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship that focuses on the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nation, and citizenship; and by offering students a pedagogical framework that encourages an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in History and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to History, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies prior to taking the qualifying examination in their home department.

Degree Requirements for the Dual-Title M.A.

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the M.A. in History. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title M.A. in History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, listed on the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Bulletin page.

For the dual-title M.A., a minimum of one member of the master’s committee will be a member of the Graduate Faculty in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Degree Requirements for the Dual-title Ph.D.

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the Ph.D. in History. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, listed on the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Bulletin page.

Qualifying Examination

There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The qualifying examination committee must include at least one member of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

Students must meet the Ph.D. qualifying examination requirements specified by the History department. In addition, the student will be required to present a portfolio of work in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies to their committee. Such a portfolio would include:

  • a statement of the student's interdisciplinary research interests,
  • a program plan, and
  • samples of writing that indicate the student's work in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Ph.D. committee Composition

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies dual-title Ph.D. student must include at least two members of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee representing History is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, one of the members of the Ph.D. committee representing Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies must be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Exams

The Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies affiliated faculty members on the student's Ph.D. committee are responsible for ensuring that Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies content constitutes a portion of the student's comprehensive exams. The Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies content will focus on the following areas: feminist theory, feminist methodology, global feminism, and feminist studies

Dissertation

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in both History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Integrated Undergrad-Grad Programs  

Integrated B.A. in History and M.A. in History

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-210 Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs.

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

In addition to the admission requirements noted on the Degree Requirements tab, admission to the History IUG will be based upon students’ having:

  1. completed at least one 400-level history course in a primary area of interest (with a B grade or higher) and attained a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all courses.
  2. completed at least 60 credits (but no more than 100 credits).
  3. submitted a proposed program plan directly to the Department of History’s Director of Graduate Studies prior to the fall application deadline. The plan should cover the entire time period of the integrated program, and it should be reviewed periodically with an adviser as the student advances through the program.

Students must apply to the program via the Graduate School application for admission, and must meet all the admission requirements of the Graduate School and the History graduate program for the Master of Arts degree. Before applying to the Graduate School, students must have completed entrance to their undergraduate major and have completed no less than 60 credits. Students must be admitted no later than the end of the second week of the semester preceding the semester of expected conferral of the undergraduate degree. Transfer students must have completed at least 15 credits at Penn State to enroll in an IUG.

Degree Requirements

Students must fulfill all requirements for each degree in order to be awarded that degree, subject to the double-counting of credits as outlined below. Degree requirements for the B.A. in History are listed in the Undergraduate Bulletin. Degree requirements for the M.A. degree are listed on the Degree Requirements tab. Up to 12 credits may be double-counted towards the degree requirements for both the graduate and undergraduate degrees; a minimum of 50% of the double-counted courses must be at the 500 or 800 level. Independent study courses and credits associated with the culminating experience for the graduate degree cannot be double-counted.

Courses Eligible to Double Count for Both Degrees
HIST 453American Environmental History3
HIST 454American Military History3
HIST 514Global History 1300-1800: Empires, Economy, and Civilizations3
HIST 515Early Modern Europe3-6
HIST 516US Women's and Gender History3
HIST 544Topics in the Civil War and Reconstruction3
HIST 545United States History, 1877 to Present3
HIST 546The Rise and Fall of Modern America, 1919 to the present3
HIST 580Early Modern Asia3

History IUG students should compose their master’s committee and convene a committee meeting with all members present in the semester immediately following admission to the IUG (typically the sixth semester). At this first meeting there should be a discussion and approval of the general program plan (seminars, courses, and other requirements).

Students must sequence their courses so all undergraduate degree requirements are fulfilled before taking courses to count solely towards the graduate degree. Students must complete the undergraduate degree requirements within the typical time to degree for the undergraduate major. In the semester in which the undergraduate degree requirements will be completed, IUG students must apply to graduate, and the undergraduate degree should be conferred at the next appropriate Commencement. If students accepted into the IUG program are unable to complete the M.A. degree, they are still eligible to receive their undergraduate degree if all the undergraduate degree requirements have been satisfied.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

In addition, the following awards typically have been available to graduate students in this program:

James Hamilton Hartzell and Lucretia Irvine Boyd Hartzell History Award

A $200 to $300 award made annually to a graduate student in the Department of History whose field of interest is Pennsylvania history.

James Landing Fellowship and the Warren Hassler Fellowship for Study in the Civil War

Each fellowship is available each year to doctoral candidates who are working on their dissertations. The award consists of a stipend that earns the successful candidate one semester of release time for research and writing. No tuition waiver is offered.

Hill Fellowships for Study in History

Awarded annually by the Department of History to doctoral candidates who are working on their dissertations. The amount of the award varies, but it generally supports one semester free of duties.

Edwin Erle Sparks Fellowship in the Humanities

One fellowship is available each year to doctoral candidates in the Department of History who are working on their dissertations.

Mark and Lucy Macmillan Stitzer Award 

Awarded by the Department of History each year to support graduate student travel for the purpose of research. The number and value of these awards depends on the quality of proposals received, the level of funding required by each meritorious project, and the funds available in the endowment. Preference is given to request for doctoral dissertation research.

The E-Tu Zen Sun Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Assistant

One or two awards are made each year to recognize excellence in teaching by a History graduate assistant in the conduct of discussion sections, review sessions, or lecture presentations. The value of the award varies depending on funds available, but it is normally about $200.

Courses

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

History (HIST) Course List

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate command of current and past historiographical theory and methods.
  2. Evaluate and master primary and secondary source material relevant to a particular historical period and theoretical topic consistent with highest ethical standards and practices of the discipline.
  3. Formulate and execute independent research around historical argument on the basis of evidence that further knowledge and theory in the field of historical studies.
  4. Articulate arguments and ideas with clarity in oral presentations and written formats in accordance with the conventions of the discipline.
  5. Create historical arguments that demonstrate knowledge of professional standards of scholarly and professional work through their written and oral works and interaction with colleagues.

Contact

Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Michael Edward Kulikowski
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) KATHRYN ALEXIA MERKEL-HESS MCDONALD
Program Contact

Olivia Raub
108 Weaver Building
University Park PA 16802
oor5019@psu.edu

Program Website View