Topical: Public and Policy

Students at the La Crosse Museum

Students on a behind-the-scenes tour at a La Crosse County Historical Society museum. 

What is Public and Policy history?

Public and Policy history refers to scholarly work that seeks out audiences beyond the classroom and the academic journal.  While professional historians may study a vast array of time periods, peoples, and topics, Public and Policy History is distinct in that it seeks to spread that research to broader audiences, and also to take as its subject of study those attempts to connect history to the people.   Public History might include museums and memorials, oral history and landmarks, interpretive signage and educational outreach, heritage and cultural institutions.  Policy history could be described as the study of past decision making or government institutions, with an intended audience of present-day representatives from those same groups, and might include topics or audiences in state legislatures or county government, prisons and courts, government social or environmental agencies, or the like.

Why Should You Study Public and Policy History? 

This is an opportunity to find employment that continues a love for history, without teaching in the classroom.  Also, it's an opportunity to gain important perspective that would be useful for a variety of professions, or for the understanding needed for involved citizenship.  

Events and Activities

Call for Stories

1st Annual La Crosse History Hunt

What is different about this emphasis?

Like the other topical emphases -- Social and Cultural History and Religious Studies -- this emphasis focuses on preparing students for careers and lives after graduation. While it requires the coursework that is a part of all other history degrees -- a core experience of two courses on the historical profession and historical research, and a foundation in "survey" courses that cover world regions -- this emphasis includes new courses from the history department that are specifically on the subject of Public and Policy history.  It also encourages and accepts credits on specialized skills and topics from other departments.  Through internship opportunities and portfolio requirements, it also highlights the completion of goals that would prepare the student for further graduate instruction, professional employment, or personal development after graduation. 


See the "Catalog" tab above for specifics -- but along with other requirements, the Public and Policy emphasis allows students to take some interesting, unique and interdisciplinary classes.  At the center of the emphasis, students will choose 18 credits from the following list of classes, with a maximum of 6 from outside the history department.  The catalog lists the specific courses, but to give you an idea of the breadth of offerings, we will note that courses come from the  History, Political Science, Geography, English, and Archaeology departments.

Coordinator and Faculty

The coordinator of the Public and Policy History emphasis is Professor Trost.  Professors Beaujot, Longhurst and Trost form the core of this faculty, but courses taught by other members of the history department and other departments across UWL also may count as electives within this emphasis.

Due date: 

Students must submit writing portfolios by the middle of the semester in which they intend to graduate. The portfolio is submitted directly to the designated coordinator for the topical emphasis.


The portfolio may be submitted in any format which is mutually agreeable to the student and the coordinator. These may include paper, three ring binder, combined pdf, email with attachments, or mutually-agreed upon online format. In any case, the format should be presentable, professional, and offer the ability to best present the student's skills and knowledge to a possible audience.


 The emphasis coordinator may approve the portfolio; they may request changes before approval; or they may judge the portfolio to not be an acceptable representation of student work. Such judgments are to be based on the overall portfolio's ability to present a positive image of student work in their academic career to any potential audience.


This portfolio is a presentation of the student's work from throughout their academic career at UWL, or additional work created solely for this requirement. In either case, the work should be polished for inclusion in portfolio; that is, if a student handed in work for grade in a class and is now submitting that same work for the portfolio, the version that is a part of the portfolio should not have handwritten grading or copyediting, and any egregious errors of form or style should be corrected. 

Required Components

Minimum five items total from the following, with items 1-3 required:

1. A cover letter. In this document -- minimum 1 and maximum 3 pages single spaced in length -- the student will present their work portfolio, summarize their skills and interests developed in the academic study of history, interpret or highlight the noteworthy aspects of the materials constituting the the rest of the portfolio, and describe their post-graduation interests and intentions, whether those lay in post-graduate study, work in the public or private sector, seeking grants, internships or fellowships, civic or community volunteering, or undecided. This letter will be judged on the student's ability to craft professional, error-free writing; and to attractively represent their skills and interests to potential employers, graduate schools, volunteer boards, non-profits, and the like.

2. Formal and up-to-date resume or CV. The student may choose, based on their needs, to create a curriculum vitae (a record of academic life, used for scholarly professionals) or resume (a record of work experience and skills, used when seeking employment beyond academia). Whichever of the two documents are submitted will be judged on their presentation, lack of egregious errors, and ability to convince decision makers.

3. Evidence of work addressing the public: Any substantial work product created by the student intended to communicate history to a public audience, outside of the academic classroom. This may include work completed for class, or created for this portfolio. Textual examples might include op/ed, letters to the editor, interpretive signage, legislative briefing memos, grant applications, didactic panels, public history proposals, or the like. Non-textual examples might include websites, interviews, blog postings, podcasts, oral history interviews, or similar.

4. At least two items from the the following list:

4A. A sample of research or analytical writing. The student should choose no more than 10 pages -- possibly an excerpt of a larger work -- that they have written in their college career and which showcase their research and analytical writing skills. To be judged as evidence of formal and error-free writing; the presentation of a critical viewpoint, interpretation, analysis, or argument; and convincing use of evidence or data to support that viewpoint.
4B. A completed application for any grant, position of employment, fellowship, internship, or scholarship, related to the student's area of interest, whether or not the application was submitted.
4C. Any internship self-assessment, concerning a completed professional internship in the student's area of interest.
4D. Any letter of support, letter of recommendation, or assessment of the student's work, authored by a career professional in a position to assess the student's skills, knowledge, or experience.
4E. Any other piece of evidence that attests to the student's educational experience or career goals that does not duplicate any other of the required pieces of the portfolio.

Students Behind the Scenes

Professor Beaujot's public history class on a behind-the-scenes museum tour in 2013.

Careers and Options

Employment options in public and policy history after your undergraduate or graduate degree are incredibly diverse.  That's the entire point of these approaches to academic history: to explore the many ways that historians can contribute their skills and experience to meaningful projects outside the classroom and academia.  Our hope is that through this program you will identify an area you would like to work in and seek out volunteer opportunities for yourself. In today’s job market it is not enough to have a degree in medicine, law, education, or public history, students who get paid positions in their chosen fields after graduation have acquired practical experience they can show to employers once they leave university. So choose a place and volunteer, seek out opportunities in La Crosse to broaden your skill set, and propose and become a leader in community-based projects. 

Make Contact

Spend some time reading about, and becoming members of the following institutions. They have listserves, Facebook pages, and twitter feeds. This is where job listings, internships, and grant opportunities will be found.  Finding a job listing or project that you're interested in now might help you decide to explore that area more, so that you can get yourself prepared to apply for similar positions later.

Part of becoming a professional of Public and Policy history is knowing the big players, who shapes the field, what issues people are thinking about, what innovative projects others are working on and, of course, what employment is available. Keeping up to date with these groups will help you professionalize and become a stronger more knowledgeable job candidate:

  • The Association of Midwest Museums strengthens the museum community by providing accessible and affordable professional development programs and networking opportunities that encourage the exchange of information and new ideas:
  • The National Council on Public History is the major professional association for Public History. The web site,, contains a wealth of information concerning job opportunities, professional conferences and workshops, publications and other resources (some of which we will be reviewing in class). Please subscribe to their HPublic listserv (a discussion group): their blog “History at Work:”
  • Preserve Net contains news, job postings, calls for advocacy and internship opportunities for preservationists:
  • The American Association for State and Local History the organization for local historians, historic site managers, and history museum workers. It also publishes some very useful how-to-do-it manuals:
  • The Society of American Archivists the principal North American organization for the archival profession
  • The Oral History Association an organization that looks at relationship between human memory and history. Publishes a journal, Oral History Review, operates the H-Oral listserv, and this website:
  • The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University source of for historians interested in digital projects, subscribe to their twitter feed:
  • The National Coalition for History Washington-based, educational organization that provides leadership in history-related advocacy, and provides news and information concerning history legislation and political developments:
  • History & Policy creates opportunities for historians, policy makers, and journalists to connect. They demonstrate the relevance of history to contemporary policy making and to increase the influence of historical research over current policy. They also advise and assist historians wanting to engage more effectively with policy makers and media.
  • History Associates is an example of a historical consulting firm, doing exhibits and commissioned histories and legal research.

Find a Graduate Program

Graduates have chosen many different paths -- we'll add student stories here to give you an idea about careers and options.  Starting with Jeff Kollath, making a career in museums and public history.

Jeff Kollath

UWL B.A. 2000; History, minor in Public History 

Curator, Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 2001-2011

Director of Museum Experience, Milwaukee Historical Society, 2012 

Currently UW-Madison Institute for the Humanities

Jeff Kollath has built a career speaking to the public about history, but he didn't intend on making a career of it when he started as an undergraduate at UWL.  "When I got here I had planned on doing sports management, but also I had some interest in chemistry," he says.  But after he enrolled in an introductory class, his interest was piqued, and after that, he "took a public history class and another on the history of the Vietnam war" from professors Jim Parker, Dick Snyder, and Bill Pemberton.  It was an accident of course registration, but it was "fortuitous in a lot of ways," Kollath says now; the Vietnam class cultivated a long-term interest in the experience of soldiers and veterans, and in the public history class, "Dr. Lee showed me that there were careers in the field of history that didn't require me to teach."Jeff Kollath

The course that Kollath took was an introduction to public history, which is an area and method of history that connects the broader populace beyond the classroom to history and historical research.  Kollath graduated with a minor in public history in 2000, before going on to work in museums across the state.  The long-standing UWL minor in public history was expanded in 2013, into an all-new history major with a topical emphasis in public and policy.

Along with introducing him to the opportunities of public history, courses at UWL introduced Kollath to the complexity and challenge of the history of soldier's experiences, something that would serve as the foundation for years of work at the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum.  "Taking the Vietnam class was an eye-opening experience in open-ended interpretation.  There is no one right way to interpret the Vietnam war, and that's true of almost all of history," Kollath says.  His professor "brought veterans, and anti-war protestors, and veterans who came back to the U.S. to protest the war, and Hmong-American immigrants into the class" to share their stories.  The experience was the first of many similar experiences for Kollath in history projects that worked to engage the public.

"Engaging the public means making them part of the discussion," says Kollath.  "At the veterans museum, we did 40 plus programs a year."  The best of those programs, in his opinion, was "when you're able to allow the public the opportunity to ask questions . . . and engage each other in the audience."  Remembers Kollath, "we used to judge the success by how long it takes to get people out of the room.  Providing the opportunity to question" history was an important part of learning history.  "We also had veterans come, and twenty-year olds -- and when that intergenerational discussion started, we knew we'd succeeded."

This is one of the most attractive things about museum history to Kollath: unlike much of academic history, which prizes individual research, public history is "not an isolating experience: it's the opposite."  For historians who want to work in museums, "the idea of hiding in the basement and cataloging is gone, replaced with a public component, someone that is able to tell the stories to make the artifacts come alive."  For historians today, it's necessary "to go to rotary club to speak or to go to the public library and make a presentation, to do webisodes and YouTube clips . . . being able to communicate to a variety of audiences" is what historians need to do.  In museums in particular, "not everyone has to talk to the public, but everyone should be comfortable with it."

This means that working in museums requires many different skills.  Can you "build an innovative mount for a museum display, think about public programming in a new way, thing about online experience . . . what can you contribute to the field?" When evaluating student applications for internships or jobs, Kollath is expecting a broad skill set.  "I look for the compelling difference, the student that brings something to the table that I or our staff doesn't have."  These skills can be varied: "from a completely different way of thinking about something, to a skill or passion in a topic, anything that sets them apart is important."  For example, he recently collaborated with others on a project "where we pressed a 45[rpm vinyl record]."  It involved working with "musicians, working with civil war letters as inspiration." This project reached an "audience that wouldn't normally engage in that" historical topic, says Kollath..

For Kollath, no matter the type of museum exhibit, event, or project, the goal is "reaching an audience that wouldn't normally engage in history."  That is often the goal of work in public history.

--Interview with Prof. James Longhurst, December 2013

History Major with Topical Emphasis - Bachelor of Arts (BA)

(All colleges, excluding teacher certification programs)

40 credits

Core requirements
HIS 200Historiography and Historical Methods3
HIS 490History Research Seminar4
Select nine credits of the following:9
Survey of the United States
Survey of Ancient and Medieval Worlds
Survey of Modern Europe
Survey of Asia
Survey of the Middle East
Survey of Modern Africa
Regional/world cultural zones
Select six credits from the following:6
Vietnam War
Themes in Chinese History
History of China
Sugar, Coffee, Rubber, Bananas: Commodities in World History
Modern South Asia
Imperialism in Asia and the Pacific
Modern Japan
Postwar Japan
Religion and Conflict in Modern South Asia
Latin America
Sugar, Coffee, Rubber, Bananas: Commodities in World History
Nineteenth Century Latin America
Twentieth Century Latin America
Latin America: 1450-1830
History of Mexico
Peace and War
Peoples and Cultures of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union
The Holocaust
Sugar, Coffee, Rubber, Bananas: Commodities in World History
Russia and the Soviet Union
The Middle Ages
Renaissance and Reformation
Twentieth Century Europe
Great Events in France: 1750-present
History of France: 1750-Present
Germany: 1848-1989
Spain to 1700
England to 1603
French Revolution
World War I
Sugar, Coffee, Rubber, Bananas: Commodities in World History
Popular Culture in Modern Africa
African Novels and History
African Nationalism
Colonial Africa
Topical emphasis
Select one of the three following emphases, with no more than six credits of that 18 coming from disciplines outside the department of history (see below)18
Total Credits40

Topical emphasis

Cultural and social history

Code Title Credits
HIS 311Peace and War3
HIS 338Sugar, Coffee, Rubber, Bananas: Commodities in World History3
HIS 364Gandhi's India3
HIS 383Women in South Asia3
HIS 387African Novels and History3
HIS 392History Through Film3
HIS 397African Nationalism3
HIS 398Colonial Africa3
HIS 399Migration and Empire: 1200-19003
HIS 405The Migration Experience: 1600-present3
HIS 406Topics in Social History3
HIS 407Government and Society3
HIS 413Topics in Cultural History3
HIS 450History Internship/Field Experience3-12
ENG 301Foundations for Literary Studies3
ENG 348Studies in Film Literature3
WGS 373Gender and Human Rights3
WGS/SOC 375Lesbian Studies3
ART 251Art History I: History of Art and Visual Culture3
ART 252Art History II: Global, Local, and Contemporary Art3
ART 301World Art3

Public and policy history

Code Title Credits
HIS 317American Environmental History3
HIS 318Exhibition Development and Design I3
HIS 320Introduction to Public and Policy History3
HIS 322Public Education in Wisconsin and America3
HIS 357Crime and Punishment in America3
HIS 390Public and Policy History Research3
HIS 391History of U.S. Environmental Policy3
HIS 393Material Culture3
HIS 407Government and Society3
HIS 418Exhibition Development and Design II3
HIS 450History Internship/Field Experience3-12
PUB 210Introduction to Public Administration3
PUB 330Public Policy3
PUB 334Health Policy3
PUB 338Environmental Policy3
GEO 250Maps and GIS3
GEO 385Introduction to Geographic Information System and Science 13
ENG 307Writing for Management, Public Relations and the Professions3
ENG 310Digital Content Writing, Management, and Experience Design3
ENG 314Grant Writing 13
ENG 327Publishing in a Digital Age 13
ENG 335Introduction to Professional and Technical Writing 13
ARC 300Cultural Resources Management 13

Religious studies

Code Title Credits
HIS 205Ethics and Religion3
HIS 326Modern Christianity3
HIS 327History of Buddhism3
HIS 328History of Hinduism3
HIS 329History of Islam3
HIS 330History of Religions3
HIS 333Christianity to 15173
HIS 401Japanese Religions3
HIS 415Religion and Conflict in Modern South Asia3
HIS 450History Internship/Field Experience3-12
SOC 315Religion and Society3
ANT 320Rites, Rituals and Ceremonies3
WGS 330Topics: Women, Gender, and Society 11-3
or SOC 399 Special Topics in Sociology
PHL 310Metaphysics3
PHL 331Philosophy of Religion3
PHL 336International Multicultural Philosophy3
PHL 349Asian Philosophy3
PHL 360Zen Buddhism3

Writing portfolio requirement

To be certified for graduation in the history major with topical emphasis, students must submit and have approved a portfolio of professional writing especially geared towards their intended career path. Students must submit writing portfolios by the middle of the semester in which they intend to graduate. Specific deadlines, item requirements, and submission directions are posted on the department website. The list of required material will be different for each of the emphases. The submitted portfolio may include items of coursework completed during the student's undergraduate career, but might also require the production of additional materials. The materials might include a curriculum vitae or résumé, grant applications, a document written for a public audience, a sample of academic writing, or cover letters for job applications.

All students must complete the general education, college core, major/minor, and university degree requirements in order to qualify for a degree. The easiest way to track all of these requirements is to refer to the Advisement Report (AR) found in the Student Information System (WINGS) Student Center. All enrolled students have access to the AR. 

College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CASSH/VPA) Bachelor of Arts core requirements

The following conditions apply to one or both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees:

  1. Students majoring in English (writing and rhetoric or literature emphases) or in the department of global cultures and languages must earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Education majors earn a Bachelor of Science degree; English major: medical professions emphasis majors may earn a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
  2. Students majoring in other CASSH programs may choose either a B.A. or a B.S. degree.
  3. Language courses (ARA, CHI, FRE, GCL, GER, HMG, JPN, RUS, SPA) used to fulfill general education requirement: "Mathematical/logical systems and modern languages" (GE 02, category 2) may also be used to meet the B.A. and B.S. language requirements.
  4. All other courses used to meet the requirements below must be in addition to the minimum 39 credits required in the General Education Program.
  5. At least one course in the B.A. or B.S. college degree program (core requirements) must be a CASSH designated diversity course.
  6. Applicable courses may be found on the CASSH B.A./B.S. Degree Option Course List or in the Advisement Report (AR) when the degree has been declared.

Courses used to fulfill general education requirements will not apply to core requirements except for language courses (ARA, CHI, FRE, GCL, GER, HMG, JPN, RUS, SPA) that count in the general education requirement: "Mathematical/logical systems and modern languages" (GE 02, category 2).

Declare ONE of the following tracks in the CASSH Academic Services Office in 235 Morris Hall:

A. Language track

  1. Native speakers of English complete:
    Code Title Credits
    Select one of the following:
    Intermediate Arabic II
    Intermediate Chinese II
    Intermediate French II
    Intermediate Languages II
    Intermediate German II
    Hmong Heritage Language: Intermediate
    Hmong Heritage Language: Advanced
    Intermediate Japanese II
    Intermediate Russian II
    Spanish Language and Cultures in Action II
    Non-native speakers of English: score at least 80 on the La Crosse Battery of exams for non-native speakers of English; or submit a TOEFL or IELTS score that meets the university's English language proficiency requirement for admission; or complete ESL 252 or ESL 253, and one additional course from ESL 250, ESL 251, ESL 252, ESL 253. (Contact the English as a Second Language Institute for eligibility and regulations); and
  2. Two additional courses outside of the student's major in two of the following: humanities, social sciences or fine arts.

B. Humanities track

  1. One global language course 102 or higher; and
  2. Two additional courses outside the department of the student's major from two different departments chosen from: communication studies, English, history, philosophy and women's, gender and sexuality studies (see the Advisement Report (AR) for a listing of the approved courses); and
  3. One additional course in social sciences or fine arts.

C. Fine arts track

  1. One global language course 102 or higher; and
  2. Two additional courses outside the department of the student's major from two different departments chosen from: art, music, theatre; and
  3. One additional course in social sciences or humanities.
In addition to all other College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities core requirements, all students in CASSH must complete a second major, minor, or program option by satisfying one of the following:
  1. Complete a minor (or second major) outside of the student's major program, consisting of at least 18 credits; or
  2. Complete an emphasis, program or concentration of at least 18 credits outside the student's major program. General education courses may apply provided they are not being used to fulfill minimum general education requirements; or
  3. Complete 18 credits in two or more departments or programs (at least 12 credits earned at the 300/400 level). These courses must be outside the student's major department and can be from any college. General education courses may apply provided they are not being used to fulfill minimum general education requirements.

Baccalaureate degree requirements

Candidates for the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degrees must accomplish the following:

  1. Fulfill the general education requirements.
  2. Complete at least one ethnic studies (diversity) course.
  3. Complete the courses prescribed by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for the degree desired in the respective school or college. (No substitutions for graduation may be made in course requirements for a major or minor after the fourth week of the last semester of the senior year.)
  4. Earn a minimum of 120 semester credits with at least a 2.00 cumulative GPA.1
  5. At least 40 credits must be earned in 300/400 level courses. Transfer courses earned at the 300/400 level apply to this requirement. Courses earned at the 100/200 level that transferred to UWL as 300/400 level courses do not apply to this requirement.
  6. Complete major and minor requirements with at least a 2.00 GPA1 in each major and minor (and concentration or emphasis, if selected).
  7. A minimum of 30 semester credits in residence at UWL is required for graduation. (See undergraduate resident requirement.)
  8. Submit an application for graduation via the "Apply for Graduation" link in the WINGS Student Center as soon as the student has registered for his or her final semester or summer term in residence. December and winter intersession graduates should apply by May 1. May and summer graduates should apply by December 1.

No degree will be awarded unless all requirements are fulfilled and recorded within 30 days after the official ending date of each term.

Below is a sample degree plan that can be used as a guide to identify courses required to fulfill the major and other requirements needed for degree completion. A student's actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Also, this sample plan assumes readiness for each course and/or major plan, and some courses may not be offered every term. Review the course descriptions or the class timetable for course offering information.

The sample degree plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UWL in the fall term. Students should use the Advisement Report (AR) in WINGS and work closely with their faculty advisor(s) and college dean’s office to ensure declaration and completion of all requirements in a timely manner.

General Education Program
The general education curriculum (Gen Ed) is the common educational experience for all undergraduates at UWL. Sample degree plans include Gen Ed placeholders to ensure completion of the general education requirements. Courses may be rearranged to fit the needs or recommendations of the student’s program of study. Gen Ed courses may be taken during winter term (January between the semesters) and summer to reduce the course load during regular terms (fall and spring). Students should consult with their advisor and/or the college academic services director in their college/school for assistance with course and schedule planning. Refer to the general education requirements for more specific details.

Note: at least 40 credits of the 120 credits required must be earned at the 300/400 level.

This sample degree plan does not establish a contractual agreement. It identifies the minimum requirements a student must successfully complete, to qualify for a degree, in a format intended to assist the student plan their academic career. Actual degree plans may differ.

Year 1
HIS 110 (Gen Ed World History)3ENG 110 or 112 (Gen Ed Literacy - Written)3
Gen Ed Self & Society3Gen Ed Natural Lab Science4
UWL 100 (Gen Ed Elective)1Gen Ed Arts2-3
CST 110 (Gen Ed Literacy - Oral)3HIS Core Course (HIS 210, 230, 240, 250, 260, or 285)3
Gen Ed Math4Gen Ed Minority Cultures3
 14 15
Year 2
HIS 2003HIS Core Course (HIS 210, 230,240,250,260, or 285)3
102+ Level Gen Ed/CASSH Core Language34Gen Ed Arts2-3
CASSH Core Elective3History Topical Emphasis Course23
HIS Core Course (HIS 210, 230,240,250,260, or 285)3Gen Ed Health & Well Being3
Gen Ed Global Studies3Minor Course3
 16 14
Year 3
Minor Course3University Elective3
Gen Ed Hum-Lit3Minor Course3
History Topical Emphasis Course23Regional History Course13
Gen Ed Elective3CASSH Core Elective3
Regional History Course13History Topical Emphasis Course23
 15 15
Year 4
History Topical Emphasis Course23Minor Course3
HIS 4904History Topical Emphasis Course23
Minor Course3History Topical Emphasis Course23
Minor Course3CASSH Core Diversity Elective3
Gen Ed Elective3Gen Ed Elective3
 16 15
Total Credits: 120

A writing portfolio is required.

At least two courses must be designed as writing emphasis.

View in catalog