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Graduate Program in Social History and Policy

The Ph.D. Program in Social History and Policy (SHP) provides an opportunity to apply the perspectives and insights of modern history social history to the formation of policy.  The program is particularly directed to such fields as social welfare, nonprofit organizations, environmental reform, public health, aging, law, labor relations, family life, education, and museum and cultural policy.  A Ph.D. degree in Social History and Policy offers the option of combining academic study with policy-making experience: it prepares students for careers in college and university teaching, as well as a variety of other fields, including nonprofit management, health and welfare planning, education administration, and museum work.

Beginning in 1983, with help from a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the program in Social History and Policy has graduated 40 Ph.D.s through May 2007.  Half a dozen graduates of the SHP program have published books; more than twenty others have published scholarly articles.  SHP Ph.D.s have received tenure at the University of Michigan, Kent State University, Oberlin College, the College of Wooster, Cleveland State University, and other college and universities, and are employed at a variety of policy-oriented nonprofit organizations; one graduate is executive director of National History Day.

Students who have already earned an M.A. in history or in a relevant academic or professional field, and who devote full time to the program, can complete the requirements for a Ph.D. in three years.  Students whose employment prevents them from devoting full time to the program may find that it takes four or more years to complete the requirements.  Those who enter the program without an M.A. will usually need to earn an M.A. before moving on to the Ph.D.; those who have not completed sufficient work in history may find it necessary to take additional course work to gain familiarity with the historical literature and with contemporary modes of historical analysis.

The Ph.D. Program in Social History and Policy includes at least 24 credit hours of courses, followed by the qualifying examinations; and 18 credit hours of supervised work on the dissertation in HSTY 701, culminating in an oral defense of the completed work.  Full-time students can complete the 24 hours of course work in three semesters.  Most students find that they need at least one additional semester to prepare for the qualifying examinations; some need an additional year, occasionally more.  A dissertation is a substantial work, and often requires three or more years for completion.

Advising Procedures: Plans for the student’s work during the first year will be made in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.  As early as possible, each student should select a potential research advisor, who must be a regular member of the History Department faculty.  The Director of Graduate Studies will assist in this selection, and both must be informed of each student’s selection.

Master’s Degree:  See the general description in graduate handbook.  Students are urged to consult closely with the Director of Graduate Studies to construct an appropriate sequence of courses.

Ph.D. Course Work: Each Social History and Policy Ph.D. student must complete at least 24 hours of course work.  This is a carefully structured program, and most courses are required.  However, within each course, written assignments will be tailored, where possible, to each student’s specific interests.  The following six courses (18 credit hours) are required:

HSTY 410:  Early American Historiography

HSTY 411:  Modern American Historiography

HSTY 470:  Historiography, Method, and Theory

HSTY 476:  Seminar in Comparative History

HSTY 477:  Modern Policy History in the US

HSTY 479:  Historical Research and Writing

The remaining six credits can be in elective courses in a field relevant to the student’s interest.

Students may wish to take additional course work, either in the Department of History, in another department in the College of Arts and Sciences, or in one of the university’s professional schools.  Additional courses are usually selected to help the student prepare for the Ph.D. qualifying examinations or to explore the specific field of social policy in which the student intends to write.  The Director of Graduate Studies will help arrange for such course work where possible.  Students receiving financial aid should note, however, that the department’s resources are not sufficient to allow it to support extensive work beyond the required courses.

Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations: See General Requirements for the Ph.D. in History

Internships: Many students in the Social History and Policy Program find that they benefit from participation in policy-related internship positions.  The practical experience of policy analysis and implementation can be invaluable not only to those who wish to work as policy analysts or administrators, but also to those who plan to write and teach about the history of social policies.  The Director of Graduate Studies and other members of the department will advise students about the search for an internship, and will work with students who are serving internships to make them as productive as possible.  From time to time the Social History and Policy Program will arrange seminars at which interns (and students who have done other appropriate policy work) can share their experiences with others in the Program.

The Dissertation: Social History and Policy dissertations must bring historical knowledge to bear on a significant problem of contemporary social policy.  In order to complete such a dissertation in the timely fashion required by the Social History and Policy Program, the student must begin work on the dissertation almost as soon as he or she begins Ph.D. course work.  In particular, each student must: (1) define an area for dissertation research as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the first semester of Ph.D. course work; (2) focus sharply on a problem that is significant both for its historical importance and for its relevance to contemporary policy; and (3) select a problem for which the necessary primary sources are available and accessible.

For Social History and Policy dissertations, it is necessary to prepare a dissertation prospectus under the supervision of the research advisor, and to present the prospectus to the dissertation committee, also during the semester immediately following the completion of the qualifying examinations.  The dissertation prospectus is usually a paper of about twenty‑five pages; it specifies the research problem to be addressed by the dissertation, suggests hypotheses to be investigated, identifies the primary sources to be examined, and shows how the proposed dissertation will contribute to the relevant historical and policy literature.  The dissertation committee will make suggestions about the prospectus and may require that the student revise it for approval.  The student must keep the dissertation committee informed of progress as required.

Page last modified: November 9, 2015