Students in the Department of History aren’t leaving their learning to chance. Through a course called Exploring History Beyond the Classroom, undergraduates like Carly Anderson are signing up to immerse themselves more fully in the rich intellectual life at Notre Dame.
“It’s a meeting of the minds that, for history students, offers a unique campus experience,” says Anderson. A junior majoring in history, Anderson enrolled in the one-credit class that uses events across campus to engage students in larger conversations with faculty about historical scholarship. Students and faculty both are surveyed to compile the event listing for each semester’s class.
“The goal is to encourage students to enrich their undergraduate experience by contributing to the stimulating discussions that occur amongst scholars across campus,” says Dan Graff, director of undergraduate studies for the department.
Students select and attend at least five approved events on campus, such as lectures, films, and seminars. They then gather after the event, usually over a meal, to talk with faculty about the experience, each bringing to the table a critical question for discussion and reflection. Students also complete a reading assignment and write a short summary and analysis of the event for the follow-up session.
“I find by engaging with more advanced historians, I discover more about how to be a student of history and the field of history in general,” Anderson says. “I’ve been challenged to expand my conception of what constitutes history and think in new ways about how interdisciplinary subjects can be approached from a historical perspective.”
One recent event, Anderson recalls, was a lecture by a visiting scholar on a compilation of oral histories from survivors of Soviet Gulags. “I was fortunate enough to share a breakfast with her after her lecture,” she says. “As I myself am interested in the power of oral tradition, her lecture was fascinating—but even more rewarding was the opportunity afterwards to ask questions and engage in casual conversation about her experience in historical research.”
Because events change every semester, students in each class delve into new ideas and issues, says Graff, who encourages students take the course more than once.
Anderson was one of 23 students last year in the class and is taking the course again this fall. “As a history major, I love exploring new ways to think about history,” she says. “The opportunity to meet and debrief lectures, films, and other campus events from a historical perspective with both professors and other history students offers a very appealing experience.”
Her passion for history has also inspired her to apply to the honors program and undertake a senior thesis on colonial America and to continue her education post graduation. After dedicating some time in the Peace Corps, Anderson says, she plans to get a Ph.D. in history.