Walter Greason
Dr. Walter D. Greason, Chair of the Macalester History Department and Professor

Congratulations, everyone!
You have made it to the end of the Spring 2022 semester.

Although it takes tremendous effort, especially through the Minnesota winter that never ends, you have finished one of the most difficult academic years in recent memory. Remember that two years ago, there were no vaccines, no treatments, and few strategies to manage a global pandemic. In the midst of that crisis, the global economy crashed, and nearly everyone around the world stayed home, adapting to dozens of unexpected changes in adapting to virtual and digital communications. Then, with numerous false starts and new surges, a war broke out in eastern Europe transforming world affairs in ways unseen in two decades.

Through it all, you persevered and fought for new levels of excellence and achievement. In my first year as the department chair, I have been continually inspired and energized by your efforts.

With the successful tenure applications by Dr. Jessica Pearson and Dr. Katherine Phillips, the Department of History has never been stronger. As we move forward together, the twin principles of decolonization and indigenous history have formed the basis of new professional and academic paths for faculty and students. Dr. Amy Sullivan’s Opioid Reckoning was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards, and it continues to inspire new approaches to understanding medical history nationwide. The National Endowment for the Humanities also saw fit to invite me to a workshop on Indigenous Landscapes and Urban Design in June.

Katie Chin won a prestigious Fulbright Award to continue her studies in the Caribbean this coming year. Our seniors completed extraordinary capstone projects with several earning major departmental prizes for their research. The graduating Class of 2022 has blazed a trail that has raised standards for academic excellence across the campus and into future classrooms, especially in the Department of History.

Thank you for your warm welcome to this  powerful learning community. Have a wonderful  summer, and I look forward to seeing everyone  again in the next academic year.

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The discipline of history seeks to investigate events and cultures of the past by focusing on specific historical eras, particular geographic areas, and compelling thematic issues. It uses a wide range of written visual, oral, and material evidence as the basis for constructing contemporary accounts about the past. Historical accounts suggest not only how the past has shaped the present but how any contemporary arrangement represents only one possible result of previous struggles and contingencies. In this sense, history highlights discontinuity as well as pattern, difference as well as similarity, conflict as well as consensus, trauma as well as triumph.

Macalester’s History Department does not cover every time period or geographic area, nor does it try to construct a rigid hierarchical set of required classes. Rather, the Department seeks to examine the interpretive problems that historians encounter while practicing their own discipline and when interacting with other fields of academic study.

The History Department seeks to serve an array of educational goals for both majors and non-majors. Members of the Department strive to encourage a broad interdisciplinary approach and to develop students’ analysis, writing, and speaking. As a result, students with any academic major who wish to explore discrete eras in time, the history of different parts of the world, or specific historical issues should find departmental offerings appropriate for their undergraduate education.

History Majors

  • Become acquainted with the many, often competing, ways in which historians construct accounts of the past;
  • Become conversant with different approaches to textual analysis, with diverse forms of historical representation, with a wide range of conceptual frameworks, and with competing ways of assessing and interpreting evidence from the past;
  • Become more proficient in a) using a variety of research and informational tools, b) analyzing and evaluating historical arguments, and c) writing and speaking clearly and concisely;
  • Come to appreciate the diversity in human experience through comparisons across time (different historical eras) and space (different geographic regions).

Although an undergraduate major at Macalester can lead to specialized graduate-level study in history, most graduates will likely pursue non-academic careers. Skills and perspectives developed through a history major, augmented by internship opportunities, prepare students for positions in professions such as teaching, law, business, international relations, and library and archival work; they may also contribute broadly to building successful careers in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. Work in history also prepares Macalester students to be better informed, active citizens in their community, nation, and world.