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Spotlight - Department of History, Illinois State University Spotlight

Attention new grads!


You Majored in What

In You Majored in What, a must-read book for any job-hunting liberal arts major, Katherine Brooks addresses the question all history majors receive:  “What are you going to do with that degree?”  Check out this interesting article from the American Historical Association on:  “Entering the Job Market with a BA in History”.

New Books



broderick 2

History department faculty members Katrin Paehler and Andrew Hartman, and recent retiree, Suzanne Broderick have all had new books recently released.

For more information, click on the headline above.

Katrin Paehler and David A Messenger’s, eds., A Nazi Past: Recasting German Identity in Postwar Europe, published by the University Press of Kentucky.  “These superb essays” (Steven Remy) – based on impressive archival research and recently declassified documents – form a “rich and original book” (Jonathan Wiesen) by examining how former Nazis, fascists, and collaborators refashioned themselves and reestablished their post-WWII careers not simply by hiding their pasts but often by actively recasting them.  for example, in the case of Walter Schellenberg studies by Kat, Messnger and Paehler write: “Rather than downplaying his role in Nazi Germany or disavowing his relationship with many members of Nazi Germany’s state and party hierarchy, Schellenberg attempted to use them to his advantage, as he cast himself as the ultimate insider, Western-learning diplomat, and humanitarian thwarted in his effort to bring peace.”

Andrew Hartman’s A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, was recently published by the University of Chicago Press.  Andrew’s book “gives the culture wars a history – because they are history” by treating the contentious debates of the 80s and 90s as manifestations of a larger struggle emanating from transformations to American life rooted in the sixties.  Back cover blurbs from Gary Nash, Jonathan Zimmerman, Elaine Tyler May, David Sehat, and Claire bond Potter, as well as pre-publication reviews (e.g. Marginalia/LA Review of Books) and interviews (e.g. Full Stop), suggest that Andrew has produced a well-researched, nicely-written, timely and important book sure to garner attention within and outside of the academy.

Suzanne Broderick’s book, Reel War vs. Real War: Veterans, Hollywood, and WWII, was published in Rowman and Littlefield’s Film and History Series.  It stemmed from Suzanne’s longtime participation in the Film and History conferences.  Combining commentary on World War II movies with oral histories of combatants as well as women on the home front, Reel War vs. Real War “makes a unique contribution to the conversation about Hollywood’s role in shaping history.”

30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student

Reprinted from

When my co-op advisor asked how my current job relates to my History degree, I didn’t know what to tell her.  Not because the job doesn’t relate to my studies – it does.  Almost everything does, if you ask me.  On the transferable skill side, there is just so, so much.

As I sit at the tail end of my History and communications double major, resume full of business-friendly internships and experiences, I can’t help but notice how underrated the History half of my education seems to be.  It has helped my thrive in so many work worlds-from the public service, to high tech marketing, to education and tourism.  It’s time we stopped overlooking the History degree.

Here are 30 reasons why…..

1.  History students are experts at tracking trends. They know how people, strategies, and time-stamped statistics work ( or don’t work).

2.  …and, yes, they know how to communicate that information back.

3.    See More………

3.  When presented with a whole bunch of information, History students are trained to be able to quickly judge what is relevant, and why it is relevant.

4.  History students need to pick up on the jargon, locations, and terms associated with different historical periods and disciplines.  If there’s unique lingo, acronyms, or language that your team/organization uses, they will be quick to understand and adopt it.

5.  These kids know how to write.

6.  Oh, and they know how to summarize.  Throw them a hodgepodge of random information, and they’ll turn it into a concise, focused, and coherent package (hey, maybe they’ll even make you a list! Eh? Eh?)

7.  They can recognize long term effects.

8.  …which means they can help develop long term solutions.

9.  And they’re aware that the world changes constantly, so those solutions (and their attitudes) will likely stay flexible.

10.  They recognize the need for a plan B (and C…and D…)

11.  History scholars tend to be naturally interested people.  Interested people are the best employees.

12.  They know how to back up their points, and are champions of logical argumentation.

13.  They understand how individuals affect situations and organizations.

14.  They understand how the environment affects situations and organizations.

15.  They understand how internal culture affects situations and organizations.

16.  …basically, History students understand stuff.  Or they can figure it out pretty quickly, after years of studying how things play out and why.

17.  Chances are they have an awareness of international relations and the history/culture of different countries.  With our increasingly global economy, this shouldn’t be underestimated.

18.  They do their research.

19.  And they do that research well.  They know how to confirm data, to critically evaluate sources, and to filter out irrelevant information.

20.  History majors know how to make connections  They can learn how a system works (or how it doesn’t work) incredibly quickly.

21.  They are open to abstract thinking and ideas.

22.  These are critically thinking storytellers.  They can make almost anything look and feel interesting.

23.  History degrees involve seminars and discussions, so a History student will have refined oral communication skills.

24.  History scholars genuinely enjoy learning, and they’re quick to do it.  Throw them information, and they’ll catch it.

25.  They know how to use media and technology as a research and a communication tool.

26.  They work freakin’ hard.  (I know multiple very smart people who tried taking a first year history class as a “bird course” and either dropped it or called me crying “Why is this so hard?!”

27.  They know what kind of innovative, thoughtful ideas have influenced the world in the past.  This means that their ideas are usually pretty innovative and thoughtful.

28.  Most History students understand economics — they get how money works, moves and influences thing.

29.  They are trained on how to observe human behavior.  Like, say a client or customer’s behavior.

30.  They can organize ideas into tables and timelines like you would not believe.

Basically, studying History helps you develop key skills like critical thinking, communication, research, and writing.  History students can pick up on patterns and systems quickly, think in big picture/abstract ways…and still rock that always important attention to detail.

I’m biased, I’m biased, I’m biased (so biased, I said it three times). but hey, at least I recognize that bias , and mention it when presenting a listed-out argument, right?

(History degree, yo.)

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Email History

Department of History
Normal, Il 61790-4420
Phone: (309) 438-5641
Fax: (309) 438-5607