U.S. History No Longer a Requirement for History Majors at George Washington University

Kate Hardiman, The College Fix, December 22, 2016

George Washington University recently changed its requirements for history majors, removing previously key courses for the stated purpose of giving students more flexibility.

The department eliminated requirements in U.S., North American and European history, as well as the foreign language requirement. Thus, it is possible that a student can major in history at GWU without taking a survey course on United States history.

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Earlier this year, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a report revealing that fewer than one-third of the nation’s leading universities require history majors to take a single course in U.S. history. George Washington University now joins those ranks.

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At GWU, history majors must take eight to ten upper level courses: one on a time period before 1750, and three on different regions of the world, including Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Previously, students were required to take two courses focused on Europe and North America and complete a thesis or capstone project. Though the thesis requirement still exists, students can choose to complete “digital capstone projects” instead.

This change was motivated by a need to “recruit students” and “to better reflect a globalizing world,” according to faculty comments to the George Washington University student newspaper, The Hatchet.

Faced with declining enrollment, from 153 majors in 2011 to 72 in 2015 to 83 in 2016, the history department decided changes were necessary, it reported.

Department chair Schultheiss told the Hatchet “the main gain for students is that they have a great deal more flexibility than they had before, and they can adapt it to whatever their plans are for the future. Whatever they want to do, there’s a way to make the history department work for them.”

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