Department ofHistory

Why Study History?

The discipline of history focuses on critical analysis of text-based evidence from the past and seeks a detailed, complex understanding of individual and collective human behaviors as they have emerged, intersected, and altered over time. Historical study examines and attempts to explain processes of change over time as they pertain to cultures, nations, institutions, value systems, and other major social phenomena. Historians also consider and outline patterns of causation that affect individual lives over time and how individuals, in turn, influence the world in which they live.  

Students of history develop lifelong habits of critical thinking, inquiry-based reading of texts, effective research skills, and appreciation of complexity and diversity in human behavior. History majors also develop the skills needed to work collaboratively, organize and deliver oral presentations on historical subjects, and produce substantial research papers that demonstrate the student’s competency in historical research and written expression.

Why Study History at PLU?

History students at PLU can choose from a rich selection of courses on the history of the United States, Europe, China, East Asia and Latin America.  Endowed programs in the department also support strong classes in Holocaust studies and U.S. business and economic history. History faculty work closely with individual students to help them choose the path best suited to each student’s interests in history and career plans.  The department has a highly successful alumni community with noteworthy achievements in a wide range of careers and areas of public service.

Careers for History Majors

History graduates will be prepared for active citizenship and a variety of career opportunities including:

  • Law
  • Education
  • Foreign service and NGO work
  • Journalism
  • Business
  • Public administration
  • Government
  • Publishing
  • Librarianship & archival studies
  • Museum studies
  • Heritage and cultural agencies

Additional Opportunities for History Majors

The Schnackenberg Memorial Lecture Series

Established in 1974 in honor of Dr. Walter C. Schnackenberg (1917–1973), professor of history and chair of the department from 1963–1973, this lectureship brings a distinguished member of the world academic community to PLU’s campus every year. The lecturer visits classes, meets informally with history majors and delivers at least one major public address during the spring term.

The Peter and Lydia Beckman Scholarship

Established in 1996 to reward outstanding scholarship and encourage graduate study in history, this $2,000 award is presented annually to one or two senior history majors at PLU.

The Benson Family Chair in Business and Economic History

The Benson Family Chair is held by E.Wayne Carp, Professor of History.   Dale Benson, a PLU alumnus and History Major (’63), founded the chair with his family, noting that “We envision the Benson Family Chair as providing the opportunities for students in history, economics and business to understand the political, social and philosophical contexts of current economic history.”  Two classes in the history of business and economics are offered annually through the program, which also brings a renowned expert in economic and business history to PLU every fall to deliver the Benson Family Lecture.

The Kurt Mayer Chair of Holocaust Studies & Lemkin Lecture and Essay Contest

This program supports a History Department Endowed Chair, held by Robert Ericksen, Professor of History, focused on research and travel related to scholarship in Holocaust Studies.  Professor Ericksen teaches courses on the Holocaust and the Church in Nazi Germany. The program provides enhanced library resources for study of the Holocaust, student-faculty research fellowship opportunities, coordination of the annual Lemkin Student Essay Contest and the Lemkin Lecture (named for Raphael Lemkin, who developed the term “genocide”), and an annual Holocaust conference in connection with the Lemkin Lecture. The first Powell and Heller Family Conference in Support of Holocaust Education was held in 2007.

Internships and International Study Opportunities

History internships are available and are often geared toward students’ professional goals. Faculty members work with students to create internships that offer opportunities to practice historical research methods. Students complete internships in a wide variety of settings—local, national and international—in both public and private organizations. The history department also works closely with and supports PLU’s many opportunities for study and work abroad.



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