Historiography challenges minds in the history department

By Jillian Milam
November 19, 2004

The word “historiography” is not only an unusual word in the English vocabulary, but it is the name of an unusual course offered here at Cabrini for junior and senior history or political science majors.

The main goal of historiography, also known as HIS 401, is to give history-interested upperclassmen the chance to experience a serious and intense writing course that will prepare them for graduate level studies.

“Before 1983, Cabrini didn’t have a class that stressed writing and researching. We needed to prepare people looking to go to graduate schools,” Dr. Jolyon Girard, history and political science professor, said. Therefore, when Girard took over the history department in 1983, historiography came into existence and has been offered every other year at Cabrini ever since.

Each student who participates in the class must select a major research topic. “It’s Cabrini’s capstone research course,” Girard said. In general, students pick a topic that revolves around the Roosevelt era due to the large selection of books in regards to this theme in the campus’s library.

“They must then pursue a reasonable graduate school writing project. Basically, it is a 15-page formal thesis with a directed conclusion,” Girard said.

The course is divided into two central parts. The first part of the class consists of proper research. The second part marks the beginning of the formal writing.

Furthermore, this demands students to learn appropriate grammar, how to construct sentences, and do outlines. They are introduced to the way lawyers write their briefs, according to Girard.

The intense formal writing is to enlighten students on the correct way of writing, even if they were taught differently in previous years. “It makes you second guess anything you have ever learned with grammar and writing,” Megan Mirzoeff, senior history major, said. “You realize you were never taught things that you need to learn.”

According to Girard, he pretends he is not a caring teacher, which is something that most students find rare here at Cabrini. “I take on the role of a crusty, cynical editor who is only interested in the final product,” Girard said. “I tell the students on the first day of class to imagine they are writing for an editor. All I care about is the quality of their work.”

Jaci Fox, a senior history major, articulates her feelings about the course. “It’s required. If I don’t take it or don’t pass, I don’t graduate. It’s the hardest class the department offers,” Fox said. “However, it is not a traditional class. It is fundamentally different.”

Many students seem to have the same beliefs and opinions. “Kids say it’s the course from hell, but surveys show they think it is one of the most important classes they take here at Cabrini,” Fox said.

However, speaking of these surveys was not enough for the history professor. He, one by one, showed a number of surveys that ranked Historiography most important. In many cases, Historiography was chosen for both hardest and most important class. This shows that although the class is particularly difficult and demanding, most students enjoy the class and find it very useful.

Junior secondary education and history major, Carrie Kauffman, has yet to take this course but plans on enrolling in the near future. Kauffman said, “I am looking forward to taking it just out of sheer curiosity. I have heard that it involves a great deal of reading and writing. I keep hearing that historiography is so challenging, but that it prepares you for classes at the graduate level. That is definitely the kind of class I need to be taking for my future.”

Senior Monica Alivernini, history major, summed it up when she said, “It’s incredibly hard, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.”

Posted to the web by Ryan Norris

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Jillian Milam

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