AHA: “Yale History’s Major Comeback” by Elizabeth Elliott

May 11, 2017

Over the past year, the nationwide decline of history majors and enrollments has become one of the AHA’s foremost concerns. Now, surprising news has arrived from Yale University: after a two-decade slip in popularity, history is the top declared major among its Class of 2019.

The major’s comeback has been long awaited by the department. History regularly attracted the most number of students as majors at Yale until the early 2000s, when it began to lose ground to other subjects like economics and political science. According to Alan Mikhail, the department’s director of undergraduate studies, the slump correlated with global trends that the AHA has already investigated, such as changing perceptions of career relevance and popular emphasis on STEM fields. Several institution-specific forces also came into play. “In the 2000s,” explains Mikhail, “we lost several very large lecture courses that served to bring students to the major. At the same time, Yale sought to move aggressively towards bolstering the sciences.”

Mikhail cites four major strategies that the department employed to attract potential majors: retooling course offerings, hiring new faculty in growth areas, organizing campus recruitment events, and restructuring the major itself. Students are not required to take particular courses. Instead they choose flexible thematic tracks—called “regions” or “pathways”—that map the bulk of their coursework. This restructuring was partly a result of student feedback.

Read the full article at Historians.org.