“What are you going to do with that?!”
It’s the question I was asked most often while attending graduate school. Fortunately, the Master in Applied Historical Research (MAHR) Program at Boise State University allowed me to answer that skeptical question.
The Boise State University History Department has innovatively developed a two-prong approach to the study of history. As a result, they offer two types of master’s degrees to students: a Master of Arts (MA) in History and a Master of Arts in Applied Historical Research. The MA degree in history is geared toward students seeking academic careers in college or university settings. In contrast, the MAHR program is a professional degree that is intended to prepare students for careers outside an academic setting, commonly referred to as public history. The degree is multi-faceted by design and allows students to explore the various options in the field of public history.
The MAHR is a 33-credit program that concludes with a comprehensive thesis project (6 credits), instead of a traditional thesis. Both the MA and MAHR programs share foundation courses (HIST 500: The Nature of History and HIST 501: The Study of History) which instructs future historians on the nature of historiography, how to interrogate sources, and the need to properly navigate the landscape of history. The MAHR program has an additional foundational course (for a total of 9 credits) specifically on the field of public history. This class emphasizes technology as well as the different methods and representations public history can take on. The rest of the required 18 credits can be a blend of internships and classes that support a desired thesis topic.
Internships offer the ability to gain hands-on experience and to network with private and public agencies around the capital city of Boise. My internship was involved a collaboration between the Boise City Department of Arts and History and Boise City Department of Parks and Recreation. Not only was I able to gain invaluable historical experience learning the processes of archiving and creating a historical collection, I was also able to incorporate my internship into my thesis project, and both departments were able to showcase their diverse capabilities as municipal agencies.
In the past students’ thesis projects have been diverse. They have written and edited books and created museum exhibits, walking tours, and educational websites. These varied project mediums allow for creativity and can range from the traditional to the technologically advanced. For my project I wrote a proposal to the Boise City Department of Parks and Recreation which detailed the history of a future park site. The proposal also argued for the preservation of historic structures. My project has allowed me to present to and work in concert with City of Boise Department Commissions. Regardless of the project medium, the BSU History Department places emphasis on the subsequent written paper that accompanies every project. This paper allows students to craft historically sound analysis, display superior research skills, and demonstrate mastery in their field of study.
The MAHR has provided two important lessons for this burgeoning public historian. First, it prepared me for a job in the field of public history. It fostered my ability to conceptualize historical information, research and analyze primary and secondary sources, and cogently document historical findings. Second, it has validated my choice to pursue a career in the subject I have loved since childhood.
– Stephanie Milne graduated with her Master of Arts in Applied Historical Research from Boise State University in May of 2012. She currently is on contract as a Project Coordinator and Research Historian with SHRA. She has also been hired as a history consultant with the Boise City Department of Arts and History and the Ada County Historic Preservation Council.