The Senior Seminar
History majors culminate their studies in Senior Seminar. In this course, each student completes a 25-page research paper that argues an original thesis based on a careful assessment of primary sources. Senior Seminar offers students the exciting and challenging opportunity to marshal and deploy research, analysis, interpretation, and writing skills learned over the course of their work in 100, 200, and 300-level history courses. By researching and writing these papers, students also come face-to-face with some of the most elemental questions that all historians must address. These include: How do I formulate an original argument that faithfully represents the experience of individuals living in a past that is very different from my own present? How do I structure the essay so that it tells the story of these individuals in an effective, accessible, and logical way? How does the original, creative work that I am doing express who I am as a person? What is my “philosophy” of history? Why do I study history?
The History Department offers senior seminars in three areas of concentration: American, European, and Asian. Each professor structures his/her own course uniquely. Some seminars are “open topic” and others are framed according to the professor’s research interests. All require students to be able to independently identify a plausible topic that they can develop using available sources and write up in 25 pages. Often students will have the chance to share their work with fellow classmates through presentations, as well as read and comment on each other’s work in peer critique sessions.
All history majors take senior seminar. Over the course of the semester, students develop a close-knit intellectual community by engaging in compelling and critical discussions about history. Spending time with friends equally dedicated and passionate about the study of the past is a great way to culminate a history major at Wheaton College!
Recent Senior Seminar Papers
Instructor: Dana Polanichka (Fall 2010):
“The Struggle to Find Their Own Place in a Historically Gendered Society: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II” – Nicole DeRosa
“Warning Signs and Doubt: A Study of U.S. Press Reactions to Hitler, 1929 to 1933” – Caleigh Greenwell
“God Gave Hildegard Lemons and She Made Lemonade: Hildegard of Bingen’s Experience of Authority as a Self-Made Prophetess in the Medieval Church” – Harriet F.A. Guadagnuolo
“Origins of Empire: First Voyages of the East India Company” – Kyle Hudgins
“The Lost Architect: Brusilov Tactics, 1914-1917” – Andrew Kirstein
“The American Civil War: Complexities of Desertion, Defiance, and Perseverance” -Hamilton Nelson-Reynolds
“My Deare Brother: The Correspondence of the Winthrop Family and the Foundation of New England in the English Atlantic World” -Jacob Pomerantz
“Rightness of the Left: The Historical Memory of American Communism” – Verandah-Maureen Shepard