Campus: San Francisco State University -- July 14, 2004
History Dept. Feeds Students into Ph.D. Programs
Wonder where the leading historians of tomorrow are? You don't need to look
far -- many are studying here in SFSU's master's program. The University is among
an elite handful of top-producing master's in history programs whose alums go on
to complete doctoral studies, according to the American Historical Association's
news magazine, "Perspectives."
SFSU ranks fourth in the country for awarding master's to eventual doctorates,
trailing only Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the
University of Chicago.
"This is truly a reflection of our students," said Richard Hoffman, chair of
history. "We have some bright and hard-working students who choose to come to
San Francisco State to become historians. And we make sure they leave here with
the tools to become some of the best in the field."
One of the SFSU's graduate students headed to a Ph.D. program is 31-year-old Erika
Perez of Oakland. She was pleased by the doctoral program acceptance letters that
poured in last spring from the University of California campuses at Santa Cruz,
Los Angeles and Davis, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico and
University of Illinois-Chicago. She finally decided on UCLA and will start her
coursework this fall on a five-year fellowship.
Perez, who specializes in U.S. history, said she owes much of her success to the
history faculty here.
"Everyone here is approachable and incredibly generous with
their time. They go above and beyond to help students. They approach teaching with
a great deal of humor while also providing students with a valuable foundation,"
said Perez, who earned her bachelor's degree in history from University of
California, Berkeley. "More importantly, some professors structure their classes
in such a way that it's not a matter of competing against other students for a
grade, rather it is a matter of development and self-improvement over the course
of a semester."
History is one of the most popular undergraduate social science majors at SFSU
with 350 students studying for bachelor's degrees. With about 100 graduate students
in history, the program is one of the largest of its kind in the state. Students
must have an undergraduate in history with a minimum grade point average of 3.5
for entry in the graduate program.
A key reason many history grad students choose SFSU is the department's rigorous
program aimed at producing top-notch historians. From the start students are
taught the critical analytical tools and skills used by historians, beginning
with the "boot camp" course "History as a Field of Knowledge."
Paul Longmore, professor of history and an authority on the history of people with
disabilities, noted that graduate students also get to work alongside some of the
top scholars in the field. For example, Christopher Waldrep, who holds the Pasker
Endowed Chair in History, is a nationally recognized expert on the history of
lynching in America.
"But in addition to their scholarship, my colleagues are committed to the
intellectual and professional development of the graduate students. That makes our
M.A. program in history a magnet for graduate study," Longmore said.
Jules Tygiel, a professor of history who has been on the faculty for more than 25
years, called the national ranking especially meaningful for a discipline that
doesn't often get a chance to toot its own horn.
"We have every right to be very proud of this achievement. We provide an excellent
program and an environment conducive to intellectual growth," Tygiel commented,
"but the real success is in the high quality of students who enter the graduate
program and their extraordinary commitment to the study of history."