History department strives to increase popularity

Featured photo courtesy Flickr user inspector_81.

In fall 2014, 72 students were declared history majors, according to the University of Miami’s latest Fact Book. The number has been decreasing since 2010, when it was at 118.

The history department has enacted a campaign promoting the benefits of studying history.

Promotional posters featuring famous figures who majored in history can be seen along the walkway between the University Center and the Ashe Building. These were displayed in the months leading up to course registration for fall 2015, which begins Monday.

Dominique Reill, director of undergraduate studies and associate history professor, is one of the professors charged with executing the campaign. She says the option to study history is often discarded for being too time-consuming and not having a clear path post-graduation.

“The majority of our campaign is to show that this is the most useful thing you can do – educate yourself to be a more effective, thinker, speaker and writer,” Reill said.

There are three kinds of posters. The first directly promotes the history courses the university offers, displaying an image and a big question that professors came up with to describe their classes.

The second has images of famous leaders – politicians, economists and social activists, among others – who majored in history but did not go on to become historians. These posters feature people, such as President Donna E. Shalala, as well as members of the Supreme Court and other notable figures.

The third kind of poster describes the variety of jobs a history major can go on to have, such as a consultant, lawyer, educator, or business executive, among others.

Austin Skiera, a sophomore and double major in history and political science on the pre-law track, says the history department has done a good job with its outreach and promotes a different side to the often misunderstood major.

“History kind of takes a second seat for students, and there are many other humanities departments who are facing the same issue,” Skiera said. “History is a thing where you do not have to work to enjoy it, and the faculty I have dealt with here have always been of first class and superior quality.”

In the past, the classics department has also promoted their courses through posters placed throughout the Learning Center building. In fall 2014, there were 13 declared classics majors. The amount of classics majors has remained consistent since 2010.

Some students, like senior Kenneth Stransky, are passionate about the benefits of a classics major. Stransky started UM as a neuroscience major and added classics after his first year.

“I guess my parents were surprised because they didn’t really understand the concept, but you really get a lot of etymology, history, philosophy, religion and more out of it,” Stransky said. “[By majoring in classics] you are able to relate to more people as a whole, because you put yourself in other people’s shoes.”

Sophomore Daniel Householder, a double major in finance and history, agrees with Stransky. Householder believes that the best way to understand the world is to study its past, equating this to trying to learn calculus without first understanding algebra.

“A lot of times people think with a history major you don’t get a job, but let me tell you, history is much more time intensive than finance in terms of the reading and writing,” he said. “It makes you a more well-rounded candidate for any position you go into.”

He hopes he can get students excited about history by starting a club next semester geared toward all students, not just history majors.

“The club would be for anybody who likes history; it would be a social club for people to talk about history,” he said. “I know people who like history, but it does not fit in their schedules, and if you are not in the major, it is hard to find places to talk about history.”

Featured photo courtesy Flickr user inspector_81.