In Defense of Liberal Arts: Reflections of a History Major

 freedom conference 2(In October, the Wake Forest History Department, Winston-Salem State University, Old Salem Museum and Gardens, and the N.C. Office of Archives and History co-sponsored a conference:  “Lay My Burden Down”: Freedom and Legacies of the Civil War Conference.  This conference commemorated the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War in North Carolina.  Wake Forest history majors Jessica Lockhart, Hutton Baird and Troi Hicks had the opportunity to present their original research papers at this conference.  History and religion double major student Jessica Lockhart presented a paper entitled “The Imperial Agenda of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: Re-defining African American Religious Identity, 1880-1917,” Here, she reflects on her experiences involved in the 9 months of researching, writing, and presenting her work, and its connections to the liberal arts and how the liberal arts connect to the wider world.  –Jacque)

 As a senior history major, I have become all too familiar with having to explain why the liberal arts is a valuable aim.  Too often, the working world sees liberal arts majors as these fanciful individuals who are choosing to pursue whims instead of learning marketable skills.  These critics could not be more wrong.  Every history major is required to take a History 390 course which is centered on performing original freedom conference 1research and writing a thesis.  The paradox of this class was that it pushed each individual student to do their best work while also pushing students to learn to work with others.  The entire research process, while done mostly alone, was supported by input from the professor and the other students.  Since each student was performing research within a set field, all of the students’ papers added to one another and to the overall study of that field.  In the working world, many jobs are accomplished in a similar collegial fashion.  While each worker has individual jobs, each is a part of a larger group which is working towards solving some bigger problem.  The actual process of writing the thesis helps push the students to their maximum potential.  Throughout the semester, the thesis is revised dozens of times.  Each time, my ability to communicate ideas became more refined and perfected.  The process may be tedious at moments, but it allowed me to refine my ideas and my communication skills. 

freedom conference 3The most important part of the class, to me though, was actually completing and presenting the final research.  Formulating and presenting original ideas is a part of most majors and jobs.  Three students, including myself, presented our research not just to our peers but at the Freedom Conference.  This was an opportunity beyond imagination, especially for me, since my future plans include receiving a graduate degree in history.  We were able to present our research in front of professional historians from other universities and colleges who shared our interests.  Being able to engage in a conversation with both our moderator and the audience pushed us to consider our research in different ways and in a broader context.  This opportunity would be valuable even for those who do not plan to be professional historians.  In most jobs, workers have to be able to present their work and reconsider it after receiving both positive and negative criticisms.  While the value of this class for me was the glimpse into the life of a professional historian, the class was beneficial even for those who will enter different fields.”

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.