History department combats decline in enrollment

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By David Stage

As registration for the fall semester approaches, John Randolph, director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of History, is working to combat a decline in the enrollment of history courses. Randolph said there is a decline in the number of people enrolling in history classes, particularly the 100 and 400 level classes.

The main reason for the decline in 100 level classes is many students are starting freshman year with advanced placement credit; enrollment in 400 level classes is down because fewer students are choosing to major in history, Randolph said.

According to the Division of Management Information, the department has experienced a steady decline in enrollment since 2005. In the spring of 2015, 167 students were enrolled in the history department whereas in 2014, 207 students were enrolled. Ten years earlier, in 2005, 521 students were enrolled as history majors.

In an attempt to increase enrollment, the history department recently surveyed approximately 1,000 students who are enrolled in history classes. The survey showed most students discovered history classes through the course catalogue. Randolph said members of the department think they may reach more students with more effective advertising. However, he said many students are taking history classes because of general education requirements.

Jacob Frerichs, sophomore in AHS, is currently enrolled in HIST 247, Medieval Europe, because of a general education requirement.

“I think what would make me want to take more history classes would be more advertisement of them, I don’t really hear anything about them,” Frerichs said.

Randolph said the department is also interested in creating classes that will appeal to more students.

Kathryn Oberdeck, associate professor of history, is interested in creating a class about culture wars to renew students’ interest in history. Oberdeck said the class would explore American culture and who defines it, as well as “hot button questions” about culture.

Students who major in history will not be confined to a career in history, Randolph said. He gave the example of University alumna Christina Brodbeck, who was part of the founding team of YouTube.

“We have a lot of alumni who are in law, we have some alumni in public policy, alumni who are in education, teaching, a lot of different fields,” Randolph said.

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