“The course offerings in the department were AMAZING! The social studies faculty helping me with my secondary education major as well were brilliant historians and esteemed educators. The communication from the department with students was top notch.”

Social Studies grad, '17

The craft of history interprets the past. History examines the lives of people, the consequences of ideas, and the products of human ingenuity. Historians engage in deep inquiry and persuasive debate. They craft narratives about the past based in evidence. The skills students gain through the study of history allow them to analyze and interpret evidence and evaluate how human societies change over time.

Choose from a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in history, or a minor in history or history of science, or select history as a teachable minor. Careful training in research, writing, critical reading, and interpretation makes history graduates attractive to a wide number of employers who value those abilities, especially in fields of law, library and museum work, finance, journalism, and public administration. Students also study history to advance their own liberal education and to train their minds.

Or, choose the major in Group Social Studies that is designed for students seeking teacher certification to teach in high schools or middle schools. Students study a variety of academic fields including History, Geography, Political Science, and Economics. Students acquire a strong background to engage their classrooms with vibrant content. Students have historically had great success in landing jobs in classrooms in Michigan, but also across the United States, particularly in Texas and Utah. A significant number of alumni have gone into educational administration, graduate school, and a wide variety of other professions. Social studies students can choose from a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S). We also support the Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Elementary Teaching major designed for students seeking teacher certification in elementary education.

The Department of History is a unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

List and descriptions of four history department scholarships

Click to learn more about the History Department scholarships.

The Public History badge allows students to enhance their degree program through place-based and community engaged projects drawing on current practices and methodologies.

The Certificate in Medical and Health Humanities allows students to broaden their understanding of medicine and health by incorporating the diverse perspectives of a variety of disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences. 

The Civic Change Agent Badge aims to inspire students to align democratic ideals and civic commitment with deep knowledge of context, history, and policy. It teaches students the values and practices required to sustain democracy through formal curricula, project learning, and co-curricular activities.

Click to learn about the programs happening every year in the History Department!

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

poster ad for zeeland historical society seeking two archival interns


GR Stories - Public Health History in Grand Rapids

March 29, 2023 6:00 PM

Hosted by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Free to attend at the Meijer Theater! Wednesday, March 29 at 6 PM (doors at 5:30)

View More Events

Outstanding Alumni and Students

Ricky Benavidez '14 & '19

Ricky Benavidez graduated from Grand Valley in 2014 and 2019 with bachelor's degrees in history and public and nonprofit administration as well as a Master of Public Administration. After graduating, he held several positions at GVSU and served on the GVSU Young Alumni Council for 6 years. Ricky is a Senior Associate at Ktisis Capital, Adjunct Professor at GVSU, Strategist and Communications Director at West Michigan Progress, and DEI learning coordinator for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. He sits on multiple community boards and committees, including the City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission, is the Board President of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, and is Co-Chair of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s LGBT Fund Advisory Board.

Joseph Westover teacher of the year

Joseph Westover, a previous Social Studies Education major here in the History Department at GVSU, is awarded Grand Rapids Public Schools' Teacher of the Year Award!!! Congrats Joseph, you inspire us!

Alum gloria masterton

Gloria Masterton is a Social Studies teacher at Legion Collegiate Academy in Rock Hill, SC. Gloria is a proud graduate of Grand Valley State University where she received her BA in Social Studies and Secondary Education. In addition, she also earned her Masters of Education specializing in Multicultural Contexts in Education from the University of South Carolina. Gloria has taught Government, Economics, United States History, and Sociology during her career. She is passionate about making Social Studies relevant to all her students’ prior knowledge and life experiences, and truly helping build the leaders of tomorrow. Currently, Gloria leads as the Social Studies Department Chair, advisor for Student Council and Yearbook, and faculty mentor and evaluator for her colleagues. Gloria was also named LCA 2022 Teacher of the Year for her continued dedication to her students and accomplishments in education. 

94% of GVSU alumni respondents rated their academic experience in the History and Social Studies majors as excellent or good.

Robert Hansen, Social Studies '12 Spotlight

Robert Hansen, Social Studies '12

Middle school teacher, Minneapolis, MN

Andrew Saathoff, History '09 Spotlight

Andrew Saathoff, History '09

Athletic Director, high school in Arizona

Alice Kalinowski, History '15 Spotlight

Alice Kalinowski, History '15

Public Services Manager & Research Support, Stanford Graduate School of Business Library

View More Outstanding Alumni

Where Are Our Social Studies and History Graduates?

infographic about alumni career stats
a donut chart showing alumni career stats

Department News

Recent Faculty Doings and Achievements

Professor Buckridge was invited to give a paper at the annual conference on Embodied Dependencies

His presentation was titled “Looking Good and Feeling Good: Fashioning Enslaved Bodies and the Materiality of Jamaican Lace-bark, 1700 to 1900” at The Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, The University of Bonn, Germany, September 22, 2021.

Professor Grace Coolidge Publishes New Book

Dr. Grace Coolidge publishes new book titled Sex, Gender, and Illegitimacy in the Castilian Noble Family, 1400-1600.

Professor James Smither Publishes New Book

Professor James Smither is the editor of Death and Life in the Big Red One.

Professor Louis Moore is featured in TIME, MSNBC

Professor Louis Moore is featured in a TIME article "The Historic Significance of a Super Bowl With Two Black Starting Quarterbacks" and MSNBC Article "Why we shouldn't let the NFL take credit for Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes"

Professor Matthew Daley is Interviewed by WOODTV

Professor Matthew Daley is interviewed with WOODTV about the effects of redlining in Grand Rapids, read the two stories here and here.

Professor Peter Dobek Publishes New Article

“The Public House and Conflict: Violence in the Inns, Taverns and Alehouses of Kraków in the Jagiellonian Era,” appeared in Slavonic & East European Review 100, Number 2, (April 2022): 295–322. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/see.2022.0016. Read here.

GVNext: History Department News

student with glasses looks through a case at a piece of artwork, an Iranian sugar bowl

International student, retired professor and artwork share common history

How does a decades-old Iranian work of art connect a renowned Middle East studies professor and an international student?

Feb 16, 2023

View More GVNext: History Department News

History Scholarships

Give Today

Benefits students regularly enrolled in any history course.

This fund is for History or Social Studies students studying abroad.

Benefits deserving junior or senior history majors.

Supports students majoring in history and group social studies.

Check out the newest issue of History Highlights!

Page last modified December 1, 2022