Jul 22, 2024  
2020-2021 Catalog 
2020-2021 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

History, M.A.

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Graduate Program Coordinator:
Jill Watts, Ph.D.

Program of Study

The mission of the Master of Arts in History is to build students’ expertise in the field of history with an additional focus on the critical study of the history of media and/or the applied use of media/technology (known as Digital History) in presenting history to the public. Historians have always used various forms of media to communicate information about the past and they have always taken advantage of advances in media and technology to teach the public about its history. Currently, new media technology is revolutionizing how history is taught and how the stories of the past are conveyed to the public. The Master of Arts in History Program will offer students opportunities to explore media as they have changed over time, beginning with the earliest oral and visual forms of historical communication through the rise of modern electronic media and computer technology. Students pursuing the Master of Arts in History will be required to take courses that develop their skills in critically analyzing media as they relate to history and acquire skills in Digital History to convey historical information to the public.

This program is designed to provide students with a practical degree that prepares them for a variety of post-graduate careers including: community college and post-credential teaching (enhanced by training in history and the new media classroom); public history (including museumship, historical societies, and electronic archives); media and journalism; doctoral education; urban planning; local, state, and city governmental jobs; public service; and a number of other possibilities both in the public and private sectors. The degree is designed to offer students the opportunity to practice their skills in the workplace. Some students may elect to pursue the option of an internship in a public or private agency where their training in historical content and media/technology can be practically applied. Additionally, the program, in an effort to serve students who are interested in educational careers in history at the college level, offers a curriculum that will allow them to explore pedagogical issues associated with history teaching and to gain actual experience teaching history in college classrooms.

During their course of study, students will be required to master historiography, the philosophy of history, and specific historical topics, and acquire technical skills. All Master of Arts degree candidates will take one course in the critical study of the history of media and one course in applied media and history in which they will produce a Digital History project.

The Department of History at California State University San Marcos is ideally situated to offer an advanced degree in History. Located in Southern California with access to the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, the Department of History can draw on the region’s resources in the film and television industries as well as the well-established computer and software industries connected with multimedia production. The faculty of the Department of History offer a wide coverage of world areas and periods including Africa, the Ancient World, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, the United States, and Comparative/World History. Additionally, the department houses faculty who have expertise in critical historical media studies and in applying new media technology to preserving history and delivering historical content. Building on these strengths, the Department of History is able to offer this unique degree that blends the benefits of the traditional history Master’s program with an applied dimension in new technologies that are revolutionizing the communication of information and the public’s understanding of the past.

Program Student Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate with a Master of Arts in History will:

  1. Produce historical analyses that reflect a sophisticated understanding of major schools of historical theory and methodology.
  2. Produce scholarship that shows an in-depth knowledge of at least one portion of the human historical experience.
  3. Perform critical analyses of the history of media/mass culture/new media technology.
  4. Acquire knowledge of some form of digital media technology, and apply that knowledge to the study of history.
  5. Develop advanced research skills and historical writing skills.
  6. Produce research that makes an original and significant contribution to historical scholarship, in conversation with existing historiography.

Admission Requirements and Application

All applicants meeting the admission requirements for the Department of History must also meet the university requirements for graduate study. Applicants to the Master’s Program in History must have completed a Bachelor’s degree in history or allied field from an accredited university with at least four upper-division courses in history. Furthermore, applicants must have completed HIST 301 - Historical Methods and Writing  or the equivalent before beginning graduate work. Additional requirements for admission to the program are as follows:

  • Admission to the University for Graduate Studies
  • Overall minimum grade point average of 3.0 with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in the undergraduate major
  • The General Test for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). While the minimum acceptable score may vary year by year, it is unlikely that an applicant will be admitted with a score of less than 151 on the verbal section of the exam. The score must be from a test taken no earlier than five years preceding the date of application.
  • TOEFL, if appropriate with a minimum score of 550
  • Two sets of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended with official verification of graduation
  • At minimum, three letters of recommendation that assess academic accomplishments and potential for graduate study
  • A 750-word statement of research intent describing historical fields of study including mention of interest and/or experience in media and technology, relevant educational background, and post-graduate career/educational objectives
  • One formal academic writing sample, as recent as possible. Preferably, this should be a sample from previous college or university coursework and should not be written simply for the purpose of admission.

Application Materials
A complete application consists of:

Application materials sent directly to the Admissions Office of California State University San Marcos:

  • Completed university application form
  • Application fee
  • One set of official transcripts that include all work done at all colleges and universities

Application materials to be sent directly to the Department of History (see address below):

  • Completed departmental application form
  • One set of official transcripts that includes work done at all colleges and universities
  • Statement of interest
  • GRE test scores (and TOEFL where appropriate)
  • Writing sample
  • Three letters of recommendation

Address for Departmental Materials:
Administrative Coordinator, Department of History, 333 South Twin Oaks Valley Road, California State University San Marcos, San Marcos, California, 92096.

Application Deadlines:
Deadline for submission: Applications for Fall admission are due no later than March 15. Applications for Spring admission are due no later than November 15. However, applications may be accepted for review for as long as space is available in the program. It is possible that class scheduling and available spaces will significantly limit Spring admissions.


For a student to continue in the program, they must meet the following requirements:

  • Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA (A=4.0). If a student’s GPA falls below 3.0, s/he will be placed on academic probation the following semester. If the GPA remains below 3.0 for two semesters in a row, the student will be dropped from the program.
  • Students must be continuously enrolled unless they apply for a leave of absence. Students who are not continuously enrolled or who have a leave of absence longer than two semesters will be dropped from the program and must reapply.
  • All the requirements for the degree are to be finished within five years after matriculation into the graduate program. Authorized leaves of absence do not extend the time limit for completion of the degree.

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL)

Students need to fulfill the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) before advancing to candidacy. As part of the requirement, students must complete HIST 601 with a grade of B or higher. Please refer to Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL)  for more information regarding this requirement.

Advancement to Candidacy

All students must select a main thesis advisor from the tenure-track history faculty based on areas of interest and planned thesis or media project. Students should consult regularly with their advisor regarding course selection and research proposal. Students will choose two additional faculty members (at least one must be another member of the history faculty) for their committee. A student must request to be advanced to candidacy after completing 18 units. To be advanced to candidacy, the student must do the following:

  • Form a thesis or media presentation committee and submit to the committee the approval form with copies to committee members and the history graduate coordinator.
  • Submit a thesis or media presentation proposal to committee members that states the topic, a working thesis, and the nature of the project, and establishes that the project can be successfully completed.
  • Receive approval on the proposal from all committee members.

Thesis or Media Project Requirement

Students may opt to complete the degree with either a thesis or a media/technology project. A thesis is composed of a primary source-based research paper that makes an original and substantial contribution to historical scholarship. The thesis will also demonstrate an appropriate grasp of the secondary materials related to the topic under investigation. Alternatively, students may submit a media/technology project that applies new media and/or technology techniques to the delivery of a primary source-based research project. In this instance, students will prepare a new media/technology presentation (i.e., a substantial web site project, a video or film project, a digitized database, or an archival project) that will be accompanied by a written analysis that discusses the media project and demonstrates how the project both exhibits the appropriate grasp of related secondary materials and makes an original, primary source-based contribution.

Degree Requirements

Students must complete 30 units of graduate study, 24 of which must be at the graduate level. Generally, none of the 30 units of coursework applied to the Master of Arts degree in History may have been applied toward a previous academic degree, however, in some cases, up to 6 graduate history units not earned at CSUSM may be applied by petition (only coursework done as a post-baccalaureate student will be considered for application toward the graduate degree). All students are required to complete the core sequence of graduate courses (HIST 501 *, HIST 502 *, and HIST 601  must be completed with a grade of B or higher). Additionally, all students are required to complete two semesters of thesis research and presentation (HIST 620 ). Students who do not complete their thesis project in two semesters of HIST 620  must continue to enroll in this course each semester while they are working on their thesis project. However, the additional units from HIST 620  do not count toward conferral of the degree. The remainder of the units will consist of 500- or 600-level courses in history, but the department will allow up to two 400-level courses (6 units) to count toward the degree; 400-level courses must be approved by either the graduate coordinator or thesis advisor. Additionally, students may apply no more than a total of 6 units of HIST 510 , HIST 699A , HIST 699B , and HIST 699C  toward the degree, although students may register for additional semesters of these courses. Students may include up to three units of 400-, 500-, and 600-level courses taken from another department if approved by petition. It is possible, in some specific cases, students may be allowed to petition to take limited additional graduate credits outside of the Department of History.

* In some rare circumstances, the department may allow substitutions for HIST 501  and/or HIST 502  by petition.

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