How I helped design a new history course

Not merely content with attending history courses as a student, history major Jason Smith helped design a brand-new history course. As a member of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, Jason played a crucial role in developing HIST 199: Directed Undergraduate Research, a course which provides the student with hands-on experience in a collaborative historical research project alongside a faculty member or advanced graduate student.

Jason poses with three other students from the Department of History
Jason Smith (back right) poses with other students from the Department of History, including Yasmeen Ragab, Johnna Jones, and Carmen Gutierrez.

In my sophomore year, I decided that I wanted to get more involved on campus and with the organizations that directly impact me.

When I saw that the Department of History allows undergraduates to serve on their various committees, I figured it was a perfect way to get involved with the department. I applied for and began serving on the Undergraduate Studies Committee; this committee plans and modifies matters related to the undergraduate experience in history, including learning objectives, courses, and recruitment.

One matter that we addressed as a committee was the implementation of a guided research course. History did not have one, but other similar disciplines across campus did; in addition, undergraduate students kept inquiring about conducting faculty-led research. With this in mind, we wanted to address these two points.

Members of the committee at-large split off into a sub-committee to address the course design, and I was the only undergraduate on this sub-committee. We worked to develop a course that satisfied the desires of the students by structuring it around strong student-faculty relations. Our goal was that for each faculty member that requested assistance, one student would be selected to help them after an application process. Then, they would have meetings to help facilitate the research process and grow a stronger student-researcher relationship. This way, the student also obtains a mentor and potential reference for their future.

Although I did not have a direct hand in drafting the syllabus or course description, I was responsible for bringing up any thing that I thought should be changed or clarified; the comments I made were integrated into the final version of the syllabus and into the version of the course that launched this semester: HIST 199.

My experience in designing this course was very informative in both a personal and a broader way. For me personally, I strive to enter education when I graduate. Designing a course has helped me gain insight into the process of planning and implementing a curriculum for students that I can use when I must design my own courses. On a broader scale, it allowed me to see how the administrative process functions; this level of transparency and dedication to crafting an experience that satisfies student needs conveys how much the faculty in the History Department and College of LAS care about the students that are enrolled in their programs.

Overall, I am grateful I had the opportunity to help design a course. It was a unique experience that shows that there are ways for students to get involved in and influence the future of their course of study while in the College of LAS!

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Jason Smith