Monday, January 26, 2015

The 2015 State of the Union Address

President Obama delivers the 2015 State of the Union Address to Congress
 Photo from Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images 
A Look at Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address
 - by Dr. Jay Wendland 

On Tuesday, January 20, Barack Obama delivered his 6th State of the Union [SOTU] Address in front of both houses of Congress. The SOTU is constitutionally mandated, so every year we are given the President’s take on where he hopes Congress will focus its efforts over the following year. Usually we hear a laundry list of policies and programs the President would like to see implemented; however, this year was a bit different. While we did hear a number of policies Obama would like passed, we mostly heard a positive speech on how the United States can work together and make the country better. He went back to the speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic presidential nominating convention (Obama’s first time in the national spotlight) in which he stated that there is not a red America and a blue America, but rather the United States of America.

Obama laid out plans for what he believes will make America prosper over time. He called on Congress to focus on “middle class economics,” with the goal being to help working class families get through the economic pains many are feeling. Part of his plan is making community college free for all students who wish to attend. The goal here is to get Americans the education they need to succeed in the workplace. By ensuring everyone has access to this level of education, Obama believes this will better prepare U.S. citizens for the ever-changing workforce. Obama also called for increasing the minimum wage nationwide. Some states have already increased their minimum wage (New York increased its minimum wage from $8/hour to $8.75/hour as of Jan. 1) and Obama has issued an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal employees to $10.10/hour. However, Obama must rely on Congress to increase national minimum wage which is currently set at $7.25/hour. In his call to Congress, Obama stated that if any Congress member believes he or she could survive on $15,000 per year (the annual salary for someone making $7.25/hour), then he or she ought to “Try it!” A final part of Obama’s call to focus on the middle class was paid maternity leave and earned sick leave. He called on Congress to pass a bill allowing for 6 weeks of paid maternity leave and the ability of any worker to earn paid sick days. We are the only democratic country in the world that does not allow for paid maternity leave, something Obama has now called on Congress to change. Further, because not all workers are able to earn paid sick leave, many are forced to choose between staying home with a sick child or going to work and forcing a sick child to go to school or daycare. 

Obviously we will see debate and argument about most of these policies and ideas throughout the upcoming year. In fact, because Obama is a Democrat and both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans we will probably see a lot more fighting than normal. In her Republican response to the SOTU, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) reiterated that the Republicans won in the midterm elections last November (Ernst being one of these recent victors) and their ideas ought to be given attention rather than Obama’s ideas. The American public spoke in November and they voiced strong support for Republican reform, Ernst argued. Taking into account both the SOTU and the Republican response, we can see quite clearly that we are in for a lot of partisan fighting over the next two years. 

Those wanting a look at Obama’s SOTU Address can view the full transcript here.

Dr. Jay Wendland received his doctorate from the University of Arizona, School of Government and Public Policy and specializes in campaigning, elections and voter behavior. In his courses, Dr. Wendland emphasize the importance of an active, involved electorate. His blog post reminds us that elections matter, and that it is our responsibility and duty as citizens to be informed. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

So what can you do with that history degree? The future of History, the Global Tuning Project, and careers for students

The Thinker, by Rodin
by Penny Messinger

Are you thinking about what you can do with a history major?

You're not alone. Many students love history but are concerned with whether a degree in history can translate into a successful career.

If you're in that group, you will want to learn more about the ways that the study of history has created value and career opportunities.

I was able to attend the American Historical Association's 2015 meeting and learn more about an exciting new initiative, the Global Tuning Project in History. It is helping historians throughout the world clarify and articulate the common skills, habits of mind, and content knowledge created through historical study. It is also helping us all to see how history majors are applying their training in a wide range of career fields.

The American Historical Association (AHA) is the major professional organization of historians in the United States. The AHA recently created a statement about the History Discipline Core to "articulate the ways history supports an educated workforce and citizenry and demonstrate that its value goes far beyond narrow professional training."
 
You can read the whole statement at the AHA's web page about the Tuning Project, which includes both Core Competencies (abilities) gained through studying history, as well as specific Learning Outcomes (results). These Core Competencies, as stated by the AHA, are listed below. History majors learn to:

  1. Engage in historical inquiry, research, and analysis.
  1. Practice historical empathy.
  1. Understand the complex nature of the historical record.
  1. Generate significant, open-ended questions about the past and devise research strategies to answer them.
  1. Craft historical narrative and argument.
  1. Practice historical thinking as central to engaged citizenship.
Each of these "competencies" includes sub-points that help to explain the specific skill-set of the historian. For example, as a history student, you will learn to research open-ended questions by identifying and synthesizing relevant information; you learn to be empathetic through studying the human past; you develop a sophisticated understanding and skeptical stance about evidence through learning to evaluate the perspectives reflected in the creation of knowledge; you come to understand that all knowledge is provisional; you learn to write effective narratives based on research and evidence; and you learn to be a creative thinker who understands change and is prepared to apply your skill-sets in a wide variety of careers.

Understanding that the world does change and being able to adapt to change is essential for everyone--one of the most important lessons of the past decade is figuring out how to adapt to change, including the collapse or restructuring of many traditional professions as well as the challenges to other fields of knowledge (just for example, consider recent changes in such areas as journalism, economics, finance, law, and education). The future belongs to those of us who can adapt our skills and abilities in occupations that we haven't yet imagined, and who have habits of mind that allow us to understand and adapt to that changing world.

One fascinating example of the ways that the history major (and a humanities education in general) is being appreciated lies in the area of medicine. Another historian clued me in to a recent surge in the number of students who study history (both as majors and minors) to prepare for a career in medicine. He emphasized the many common skill-sets between the two fields: learning to approach patients with empathy and understanding, to compile evidence and evaluate its relevance and importance, to synthesize information, and to master complex ideas and bodies of knowledge, among other issues. There is even a connection from the first interaction that a doctor has with her patient: taking that patient's history.

Interestingly enough, a quick search on the topic of history majors and medical schools revealed a number of stories linking the two areas. One story from Wake Forest University ("So Your Doctor Majored in History") describes its new "Interdisciplinary Pathway to Medicine Program" that guarantees admission to the school's Medical School for "undergraduates majoring in humanities or fine arts." As the story explains,
“Consider the value of having a physician who has learned through undergraduate studies the habit of questioning, of using the imagination to walk in someone else’s shoes, of finding patterns, of balancing moral and philosophical concerns,” says Dean of the College Jacque Fetrow. “When you think about it, the practice of medicine is fundamentally about working with people."
The story continues on to quote the program's director: 
Tom Phillips, director of the interdisciplinary humanities minor at Wake Forest oversees the Pathway program. “We need medical practitioners who know the value of listening,” he says. “So Wake Forest is intentionally looking for undergraduate students who see medicine as a healing art that combines an intimate understanding of human nature in a social context with exceptional science skills.”
A similar story from Butler University emphasizes that
Even as breakthroughs in science and advances in technology make the practice of medicine increasingly complex, medical educators are looking beyond biology and chemistry majors in the search for more well-rounded students who can be molded into caring and analytic doctors. "More humanities students have been applying in recent years, and medical schools like them," says Gwen Garrison, assistant vice president for medical-school services and studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges. "The schools are looking for a kind of compassion and potential doctoring ability. This makes many social-science and humanities students particularly well qualified."
....Michael Sciola, who's been advising premed students at Wesleyan University for the past 13 years, has seen liberal-arts majors become more attractive to medical schools. And he's not surprised that those who stray from science are finding success.

"Medical schools have really been looking for that scholar-physician in the past few years," he says. "We're living in an increasingly complex world, and the liberal arts give you the skills to understand that better."...
History majors can be found in almost every career field, so the overlap between history and medical school is just one example. Stay tuned for more posts about the future of history and the ways that our graduates are putting their educations to work.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Salaries in History, salaries in Political Science

Have you wondered about typical salary ranges for people with bachelor's degrees in history or political science? Graduates in these fields typically earn salaries ranging from $50,000 to $59,000, according to recent statistics.

As a recent story from the American Historical Association's blog indicates, college graduates with degrees in U.S. History earn the highest salaries among Humanities graduates, and also have higher earnings than graduates in many other fields. As the story notes,
Students who majored in U.S. history earned $57,000, as compared to $50,000 for other majors in history. The average salary for U.S. history majors was 18.7 percent higher than the average for all the humanities....U.S. history is also quite high relative to most of the other fields in the survey (especially in fields outside of the scientific, engineering, and business fields). [emphasis added]
The story in the AHA blog is based on data from a 2011 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, entitled "What's It Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors." According to the report's analysis, the median salary associated with degrees in political science & government was $59,000/year; the median salary for those who hold degrees in international relations was $50,000/year. (This report includes a wealth of information about many degrees, not just history and political science.)

The salary information above reflects full-time, full-year salaries for people who hold terminal Bachelor's degrees (that is, no education beyond a B.A.). Graduates in these disciplinary fields end up working in a wide variety of occupations. For example, the top areas of employment for those earning degrees in history include management positions in business, sales positions, and education (see the chart, below).

For these fields (history and political science), as for other disciplines in humanities and social sciences, it is essential for students to recognize the valuable skills and knowledge they have acquired through education (like reading, textual analysis, critical thinking, synthesis of information, and writing) and to be able to see how those skills and knowledge can be applied in a variety of careers. Students in the liberal arts and sciences learn how to learn, and can be well-situated for an employment market for which change is a constant factor.

Completing additional graduate and professional training may generate a boost in income; consult the full report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University for more information. 

history majors occupations
Source: http://blog.historians.org/2011/05/new-report-finds-us-history-majors-highest-earners-in-humanities/

Friday, November 14, 2014

History & Politics Speaker Series: Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska

On November 8, approximately 80 people attended a lecture by Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska on The Other Side of the Coin: The Righteous Among the Nations of the World. The event was co-sponsored by the History & Political Science Department and the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo.


Alfred Karney (President of the Polish Arts Club) welcomes the audience


Dr. Andrew Wise (Associate Prof. of History) introduces Dr. Orla-Bukowska


Members of the Buffalo community joined students, faculty, and staff for Dr. Orla-Bukowska's presentation on the heroic stories of non-Jews in Poland and elsewhere who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. These people have been named as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority).


Dr. Orla-Bukowska answers a question from the audience


Dr. Orla-Bukowska in discussion with guests after the lecture

Dr. Orla-Bukowska is a social anthropologist in the Institute of Sociology at the Jagiellonian  University in Krakow. Her specialization is Polish Christian-Polish Jewish relations in the 20th and 21st centuries. She was a 1999 Koerner Holocaust Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies, a 2004 Yad Vashem Fellow in Jerusalem, and a 2009 Skalny Center Fellow at the University of Rochester.

Click here for a full report of the event (including an interview with History & Political Science major Jordan Sieracki), which was published in the Am-Pol Eagle: http://ampoleagle.com/olabukowski-says-its-time-to-examine-the-flip-side-of-history-p8363-1.htm
Photos courtesy of Roger Puchalski and Dr. Lisa Parshall

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Emily Kraft's Smithsonian internship

Emily Kraft is a junior History major and Public History minor who is interning at the Smithsonian Institution this semester through the Washington Internship Institute (WII). Emily was mentioned in a front-page story in The Washington Post on November 3, 2014. "A is for abacus, O is for outhouse seat," described the collection of educational artifacts that educator Richard Lodish is donating to the Smithsonian Institution. (Also see this NPR story.) Emily is assisting Smithsonian staff in sorting and cataloging these materials. 

 

In this guest blog post, Emily writes about what she has learned from the internship. She also explains how help from the Buffalo Chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Daemen History & Political Science Department made her internship possible.


Emily Kraft at the Smithsonian Institution


By Emily Kraft

My interest in history and public history has led me into the field of museum studies. Last fall, in my sophomore year, I was introduced to the Washington Internship Institute (WII) by a friend and by my advisor, Dr. Penny Messinger. This program pushes students out of their comfort zones by helping them find internships in their desired field as they live in Washington, D.C. for three and a half months. I commute to Daemen and I had never been away from home for more than a week, so coming to D.C. was a giant step for me. With the help of the History and Political Science Department I was determined to get out of my personal comfort zone and become an independent and professional young woman. I could not believe I was about to do this, but I was ready to embark on this journey in my life.


Richard Lodish shows educational artifcacts, photo from The Washington Post

Help from the AAUW made my internship possible 

I applied to the WII and got accepted in early November 2013. When I got my acceptance email I knew everything was real and that August could not come fast enough. As the rest of the semester went on, I started to think about how I would be able to fund this. I asked Dr. Messinger for suggestions for scholarships or grants and she recommended the Buffalo Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Chamberlain Loan and Grant award. I was not personally familiar with this award but she told me more about it and also introduced me to Judy Weidemann, an alumna of Daemen, who is an active member of the AAUW who was familiar with the Chamberlain Loan committee. 

I met Ms. Weidemann when I attended the Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner last fall. She was the most kind, compassionate and friendly lady when I talked to her about my future plans in Washington. She told me more about the Chamberlain Loan program and offered to help guide me through the process. I applied, and in late January, I learned that the committee was interested in my application and wanted to do a short interview. I went to a local library and sat around a table with about eight other women who each asked me questions about the program, my need for the money and my future plans/goals. A few months later I received an email of notification that I had received a thousand dollar loan and a grant from AAUW. I was grateful that they picked me from among many other applicants.


The AAUW has not only given me a sizeable award, but the award gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams in Washington, D.C. I have them to thank for being so generous and giving me confidence to take this leap of faith.


Emily Kraft

The WII 

When spring semester started, I began the process of continuing with my application for WII. I met often with Lamark Shaw in the Career Services Office, as well as other staff members. Jason Patrie was my WII advisor and helped me to decide where I wanted to intern. In early summer I sent out applications to the National Museum of American History, the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, Crime and Punishment, and several other museums in Old Town Alexandria. At the end of July, I started to get nervous because I hadn’t heard back from most places. One day I got a message on my phone from Ms. Debbie Schaefer-Jacobs, curator of the Division of Home and Community Life at the Smithsonian. She was interested in the skills I described on my application and said she would like to have me as an intern. This was my number one dream internship because I have always loved the Smithsonian. It was perfect for a person who loves museums. I was so proud of myself that I achieved something so prestigious.

Emily at work, sorting artifacts from the Lodish collection (photo courtesy Emily Kraft)


My work at the Smithsonian

Today, I am about halfway through my internship and working on accessioning a large school collection of about 900 items. The donor, Dr. Richard Lodish, was the headmaster for thirty years at Sidwell Friends School in Bethesda, MD. His collection includes hornbooks, primers, school desks, patriotic school bells and pencil boxes, alphabet boards, quilts, samplers, photographs and many more items. All the items are being stored in his home in Bethesda. It is my job to prepare the packing list for each visit along with the boxes, envelopes and bubble wrap needed to properly pack the items. My supervisor and I take weekly trips to his house for a few hours and use our packing list to find the items we need to take for that time. Dr. Lodish has been collecting these items for about forty years and he is very enthusiastic about the donation. He helps us look for the items on our list and take the packed boxes to our car.



Once back at the museum, we must unload everything onto carts at the loading dock. Other staff members help bring the artifacts up to our special storage space that I usually work in. After getting the objects safely upstairs, it is my job to take them off the cart and unpack them for temporary storage. I package each item with its own label so they can be easily identified for keeping track of them. Smaller items get put into special, acid-free boxes; prints or small samplers get put into acid free-folders; and other items either get put in boxes or put on bubble wrap. All items are covered in acid-free tissue and then a large piece of thick plastic.

What the internship has meant to me


Coming to Washington D.C. has been the most beneficial experience for me because it has allowed me to meet so many new people, to network, and to think about my future. At home I feel very disconnected from the outside world and D.C. seems far away. Surrounding myself in the culture of the city has allowed me to explore my interests and options. I have thought a lot about graduate school and more internships or studying abroad because I am much more motivated to take advantage of everything going on. I now have a few ideas for possible career options and I understand more about museums and living on my own in general. The Smithsonian is such an intricate institution with many offices and staff to talk to and learn from.



Moving forward, I am looking at graduate programs that have a concentration in museum studies. I am interested in archaeology, museum education, curation and archaeological survey.   



**You can learn more about Daemen's public history minor by contacting Dr. Penny Messinger; read about Daemen's affiliation with the Washington Internship Institute here or contact Lamark Shaw at Daemen's Career Services office.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

H&G Club & PLSA take to the road

The History & Government Club and Pre-Law Student Association are clubs on the move!



Members of the H&G Club and the Pre-Law Student Association check out the "Mummies" exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science in October 2014

This fall, the clubs have undertaken several field trips into the Western New York community. Below are some photographs from three of this fall's voyages into the local community: the "Trial of the Century" event in September (a film reenactment of Leon Czolgosz's trial for assassinating President William McKinley); a visit to the "Mummies of the World" exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science (early October), and a trip to Letchworth State Park on October 24.

Club members are planning more activities for the fall--contact H&G Club officers (President Carla Hernandez, Vice President Zahra Nayyeri, Secretary-Treasurer Jessica Mark, and PR Coordinator Nigel Haynes) or PLSA officers (President Jordan Sieracki, Vice President Tyler Vanice, Secretary-Treasurer Taqiyah Gibbons, or PR Coordinator Nigel Haynes) if you would to join the fun. 

H&G Club members Jessica Mark, Zahra Nayyeri, Carla Hernandez, and Anthony Olan attend the "Trial of the Century"


Buffalo Museum of Science

Buffalo Museum of Science
Current (and alumni) members of the H&G Club pose near one of the beautiful waterfalls at Letchworth State Park
 
Fall colors at Letchworth State Park

Fall wildflowers at Letchworth
 
Letchworth State Park

Mastodon skull at Lethworth

Log cabin at Letchworth State Park

Mary Jemison state, Letchworth State Park
(Photos courtesy of Zahra Nayyeri)