The advantages of a history degree at Newman University

Nov 19, 2020

Myth: A history degree is impractical.

Fact: Students who major in history make a higher median income than almost any other major at Newman University and find jobs in a variety of fields from education to law to entrepreneurship.

The history curriculum takes students deeper than just understanding the past. It’s a degree that teaches them to communicate effectively, analyze complex arguments and information, apply those skills to real-world problems and work in teams.

With a combined 37 years of experience at Newman University alone, Professors of History Cheryl Golden, Ph.D., and Kelly McFall, Ph.D., are a treat for students who enter the university’s history program.

Cheryl Golden, professor of history and director of international studies.

Both have published multiple works and are passionate about the subjects they teach.

Golden is an ancient historian specializing in the Hellenistic era, from Alexander the Great to Cleopatra. Her main interests lie in social history, military and political history, legal and medical histories.

McFall’s main interests include the history of mass violence such as the Holocaust and genocide. “My interest in mass violence and its causes is sparked by and aimed at helping us understand how to decrease this violence,” he said.

He also enjoys the history of women’s sports.

Golden and McFall both take great pride in teaching well, as is apparent by both of their Teacher of the Year and Advisor of the Year awards.

Kelly McFall
Professor of History and Chair of the Division of Humanities Kelly McFall.

Due to the experience and interests of the professors, students who enter the program are offered unique opportunities to network with fellow history professionals and gain valuable experience in the field prior to graduation.

Helping students gain real-world experience in history-related professions is a high priority for both Golden and McFall. In the past, they have helped students get internships at law firms, museums, nonprofits, newspapers and more.

“We want every single history major to be successful in their chosen career and internships are a great way to start,” said McFall.

Both professors are advocates for international travel as well. McFall leads a Europe by Rail trip during which students spend a semester planning a three-week train trip across Europe before embarking on the journey themselves. The trip occurs every other year and staple cities include Vienna and London. Each year, the traveling group picks a unique route.

Golden has led trips to Greece, Italy and other countries.

Both Golden and McFall emphasize that the study of the past helps shape a better future.

“By teaching you to understand change over time, it helps you understand changes going on right now,” said McFall. “By teaching you to imagine yourself in the past, it teaches you to empathize with people in the present. These are exactly the skills employers are looking for and which will continue to be valuable even as jobs and careers change over time.

“Moreover, history teaches you about the world around you — helping you understand why things are the way they are, how they got that way, and how they might change. And, at its heart, it’s fun. History is, in the end, about people. And people are fascinating and unpredictable and puzzling and weird. As historians, we spend our lives being fascinated. It’s a great way to go through life.”

The list of jobs for history majors is long and so is the list of successful graduates from Newman’s history program. McFall’s list started with a graduate who currently works for the Air Force buying missiles and includes lawyers, teachers, a graduate who works at the British Embassy in Budapest, and more.

Golden said, “Newman graduates have a confidence that comes from knowing how the various disciplines they study here — writing, science, economics, criminal justice and history — work together to create an understanding of the world in which we live.

“Students do not have tunnel vision. They do not work in a vacuum. They come away truly knowing how the world works, with a grounding in the liberal arts that emphasizes connections between people and countries, and expects an appreciation for the values that a Catholic education stresses.”

A degree in history is one of the most popular degrees in the country for students looking to become well-rounded professionals with strong research, analytical and communication skills.

McFall concluded, “History has a bad reputation as a major that has no practical value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our majors get jobs. They make a difference in the world around them. And they have fun doing it. What more could you want from a major?”