Big things are happening in our department: from dynamic new courses, research projects, and alumni achievements to the arrival new faculty and the launching of what is arguably our most important initiative in many years—what we are calling U-M History in the Public Service.
Our department has long ranked among the top half dozen in the United States. Encompassing more than seventy world-class faculty, it is one of only a few today that offers cutting-edge historical scholarship across all periods and regions of the globe. In recent years, our work has been recognized with MacArthur “genius” grants, Guggenheim fellowships, a Pulitzer Prize, and many top teaching awards. Still, as the world has changed around us, we have come to believe that the considerable challenges of the present moment demand a broader range of skills from a top department—skills more fully focused on real-world impacts, innovative platforms, and broader publics beyond academia.
Our expanded modes of public engagement cut across many topics, eras, and contexts, but they are guided by a number of collective goals. We want to develop learning experiences for our talented students beyond single-authored research papers (although we will certainly continue to train them how to do that sort of work at the highest possible levels). We want to arm them with impressive dossiers. We want to position them effectively for multiple career paths beyond their degrees at U-M. We want to make our scholarship more resonant and widely accessible through digital platforms like podcasts and electronic exhibitions; op-ed pieces and social media; radio, film, and television. We want to foster new forms of team-based collaborative research on some of the major social and political questions of our time. Above all, we want to push back against the devaluation of the humanities and mobilize the power of historical thinking—its potential to change lives and contribute to the common good.
If you are excited about these possibilities, please join us! Over the next few years, we will be adding new internships at every level, launching new HistoryLab courses, and forging new relationships with an exciting range of institutional partners: museums and media companies, think tanks and policy centers, nonprofits and corporations. Our alumni and friends, who already have a strong relationship with U-M History, constitute one of our most important and valued networks. So please send me a note to share your news and good ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always very eager to hear from the many friends of this remarkable department!
Jay Cook is chair of the History Department and professor of history and American studies