History Department Makes Changes for Increased Flexibility

The Pomona College History Department has changed its requirements and senior exercises to increase flexibility for students. Instead of requiring history majors to concentrate in one specific region or time period, like Ancient and Medieval Mediterranean; Europe Since the Renaissance; United States; Africa, African Diaspora, and Middle East; Asia; and Latin America and Caribbean, students are now able to choose the more flexible Comparative/Transregional/Thematic (CTT) focus.

“We made it easier for students to specialize in different areas of history if they are interested in contemporary or medieval or history of a region of the world,” said Victor Silverman, history department chair and professor at Pomona. “Before, students needed to chose a field based on the world region but now can create their own field within history.”

Previously, students were required to complete either a senior thesis or senior essay, which culminates the two-semester senior exercise. But the department has now added a third option.

“The history curriculum went through a series of changes over the past few years. We changed the senior exercise and now have a third option, the senior tutorial exam. Students can take an exam or write an essay after a tutorial semester with a professor,” Silverman said.

The history major requires a minimum of 11 history courses, including five courses in a field and two core courses. Three classes must be taken outside the chosen field and two seminar classes must be included within the 11 classes. The required number of classes will remain the same.

Associate Dean of Pomona College Jill Grigsby said that the curriculum committee must approve any proposed requirement changes. Grigsby added that review of a major’s requirements is part of a regular process for the departments.

“Departments have a self-study every 10 years or so, which presents the opportunity to make a major change in requirements. Sometimes a department will also propose a change when they see fit,” Grigsby said.

According to Grigsby, 30 years ago, most majors typically required between eight and 12 classes; now the minimum falls between 12 to 14 or more.

“The majors overall have gotten deeper, but our general education has been pulled back,” Grisby said. “We used to require 10 additional classes instead of the five area requirements, including an additional writing seminar.”

Every year, about 10 to 20 Pomona students graduate with a degree in history.

“We’ve had alumni come back after becoming history majors—they simply do an amazing range of things. The most common areas are law and teaching, but people do become movie producers, bankers, speechwriters for politicians, researchers in very different areas, or even private detectives.” Silverman said. “It’s one of the most fundamental majors in a liberal art that can help you go basically anywhere. In addition, the history department is very diverse, and our course offerings are incredibly varied. We touch on every aspect of human history.”

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