UWL History students visiting a local museum

Introduction to the Cultural and Social History Emphasis

Students in UW-La Crosse's History Department's emphasis in Cultural and Social History will study the history of cultural and social forces embodied in movements and organizations; art, literature, and film; areas of human experience including apparel, architecture, and culinary practices; and the various commercial media inundating our daily lives. Our students will learn how social and cultural phenomena have historically affected and structured our material and intellectual environment in connection with ethical concerns involving political and economic questions. 

In general, the History Department's Cultural and Social History emphasis will help students develop and make tangible the kinds of relatively intangible skills prospective employers and professional and graduate school admissions committees will value: problem solving, analytical and creative thinking, research skills, the ability to express oneself and one's thoughts clearly and persuasively both verbally and in writing, intercultural communication skills, and the capacity to address immediate concerns with the kind of "big picture" perspective that a historically grounded education provides.

The History Department will particularly encourage students in topical emphases to apply for and undertake internships with organizations and businesses related to individual students' interests, concerns, and plans. Our faculty will work with students, helping to place them in intern positions that will be of genuine value with respect to their intellectual and professional development. Internships along these lines will help students get their "foot in the door" in areas of prospective post-graduation employment and professional development.

What really sets apart the three new topical emphases including Cultural and Social History is that faculty will work with students to produce portfolios packaging and showcasing the aptitudes and skills they develop over the courses of their undergraduate education. To some, abilities obtained and developed through a traditional liberal education, such as analytical and creative thinking, may seem abstract and without specific content, being notoriously difficult to measure and assess through means such as standardized testing. However, Cultural and Social History students' portfolios are where their skills, aptitudes, and abilities will become manifestly palpable and concrete. 

Portfolios will contain the following: a cover letter introducing the portfolio, a resume or CV, examples of scholarly research and writing, and letters of support from teachers and professors, employers, and others who have supervised and are willing to assess students. Our faculty will encourage Cultural and Social History students to personalize their portfolios, including various forms of evidence and artifacts that demonstrate valuable abilities and connect with particular students' interests, concerns, and plans.  Students must submit writing portfolios by the middle of the semester in which they intend to graduate; the portfolios should be submitted to the coordinator for the Social and Cultural History Emphasis, Prof. Iguchi.

Cultural and Social History students will be encouraged to keep and maintain their portfolios on a publicly or selectively accessible website, which will in turn interact with social media such as linkedin.com. One's portfolio can thus remain a resource and tool for students after graduation. In this role, one's portfolio will ease processes of obtaining and updating letters of recommendation, as well as networking with peers at UWL and beyond.

Professor Trimmer in class

Careers, Option, and Internships

One of the most common questions students and their parents have with regard to obtaining degrees in Humanities and Liberal Arts disciplines is, "what can I [or she or he] do with that?" History's Cultural and Social emphasis, along with emphases in Religious Studies and Public and Policy History are particularly geared towards answering that question, which also entails facilitating graduates' ability to find meaningful and productive professional and gainful employment in a variety of fields. Students majoring in History with a Cultural and Social emphasis will also be primed for further study in professional or graduate school.

A graduate in Cultural and Social History will certainly be well prepared for graduate work and a career in academia, in addition to immediate entry into the job market or professional school involving all of the professions traditionally valuing a liberal arts education. Areas of prospective employment include, for example, business and marketing; journalism, technical writing, publishing, and mass media; law and legal services; non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profit groups, and lobbying; and work in public history, archives,and museums (see this page).

However, we have designed the social and cultural emphasis to specifically open possibilities for employment involving, for example, management of culturally significant sites for public or private agencies; community activism and advocacy of human rights at local, national, and international levels, in particular involving populations such as migrants, women, children, veterans, members of LGBT communities, and ethnic-racial and religious minorities; the food industry and culinary arts; the entertainment and leisure industries; and the travel and tourism industry, especially insofar as it involves burgeoning opportunities in conducting and managing heritage and ecology tourism.

Student Stories
Jon N. Hale, Ph.D., was a student at UWL from 1999-2004:

My education at UW-La Crosse introduced me to social history and the importance of viewing history from the perspective of those who are marginalized. This insight inspired a critical worldview that ultimately shaped my career. As a double major in education, the insights garnered in History shaped how I viewed the field of education. Through my work with Multicultural Student Services on campus, I knew that the school system could be reformed to make our society live up to its democratic ideals and History was crucial to actualizing such reform.

photo of Jon HaleMy history professors trained me in the skill and importance of closely (and critically) examining primary sources, which laid an invaluable foundation for my work in graduate school. As a doctoral student, I explored my research on the history of grassroots educational reform by seeking out the vantage point of people of color and those disenfranchised by American democracy. I conducted extensive analysis in archives maintained privately by civil rights activists and those institutions, like the Wisconsin Historical Society, that provided a safe haven for materials donated by activists. Since much of the Civil Rights Movement was not documented (or was destroyed), I have conducted and transcribed over 100 interviews with activists who committed their lives to the long freedom struggle.

Jon N. Hale, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Educational History, Department of Teacher Education
Author, The Freedom Schools (Columbia University Press, 2016)
Co-editor, To Write in the Light of Freedom (University Press of Mississippi, 2015)
Research Fellow, National Academy of Education (2008-2009, 2015-2016)