Honors Program


History Honors Thesis

Students who would like to experience the rigors of doing historical research using primary source materials on a topic of their own choosing can pursue  a year-long independent project under the guidance of a department faculty member. This page should provide all the information you need, but for further information please contact Melissa Feinberg, History Department Undergraduate Vice Chair.

Application: In order to take part in this program, students must submit an application by the first Friday of December to Anuja Rivera in the History Department office. Acceptance is subject to the approval of the chair.  pdf Download application (142 KB) (DUE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2017)

Coursework: Once admitted Honors students must enroll in the two-semester Honors Program in History course 506: 495, 496. Students who aspire to write a major research paper of approximately 100 pages may register for up to 6 credits for the Honors Program course each semester, 3 of which can be counted towards the major requirements. Students who aspire to write a more modest thesis of around 50 pages may register for 3 credits each semester for the Honors Program course, which can be counted towards the major requirements.

Students accepted into the program each December will take 506:495 the following Spring. This course will guide them through the stages of finding a thesis topic, seeking out secondary and primary sources, and developing a research strategy. In consultation with their thesis supervisors students will apply these lessons to their own research topics. During the summer of the same year they will conduct the bulk of their primary source research in archives suited to the topics they have chosen. In the following Fall semester they will take 506:496. Here they will produce the first drafts of their manuscripts, obtain feedback on the draft from their supervisors, and find a second reader to serve as thesis examiner. Students in the course will also provide feedback to one another. The most important work of the semester will be the revision in light of that feedback.

The grade for these courses will be determined in light of the student's paper and his or her participation in the honors seminar.

Research: Much of the actual research will be conducted during the Summer. Students will identify appropriate archives and frame research questions in the Spring Semester. They will complete the drafting and revision of their theses in the Fall semester.

Oral Examination: Each thesis will be read and evaluated by the supervising professor and by the second reader. Each student will be examined orally by the two professors on the argument of the thesis, the kinds of sources used, and the implications of the research.

Honors Conference: Each student will make a public presentation of his or her thesis at the annual Honors Conference, to be held in the Spring semester after the thesis has been submitted and the oral examination has been completed. Winners of Honors awards will be presented with their prizes at the same event; the top prizes include the Harold Poor Memorial Prize, the Ceil Parker Lawson Memorial Prize, the Margaret Atwood Judson Prize, and the James Reed Award (see below)

Honors Recommendations: An Honors Committee, chaired by the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education, will make the final determination of the level of honors (honors, high honors, highest honors) to be awarded based upon the recommendations of the examining professors and upon the thesis itself. Only history majors will receive the designation of honors in history on their transcripts.

 

Sample Honors Program Syllabus

For a glimpse of a finished thesis, please read: "Raiders of the Lost Past: Nineteenth-Century Archaeology and French Imperialism in the Near East 1798-1914," by Andrew H. Bellisari, RC 2010.

At the end of the Spring semester we host an Honors Conference where our students present their papers in a formal, professional setting. To see an example of a conference program, click here.

Click here to see photos from the 2011 Honors Conference.

Click here to see photos from the 2009 Honors Conference.

Click on the following links to see photos from the 2008 Honors Conference: HC1 , HC2 , HC3 , HC4 , HC5 , HC6.

Honors Prizes

The department offers prizes to its best honors students, which are awarded at the History Honors Conference. The top prizes include the Harold Poor Memorial Prize, the Ceil Parker Lawson Memorial Prize, the Maragret Atwood Judson Prize, and the James Reed Award.

Harold L. Poor Memorial Fund Undergraduate History Prize

The Harold Poor Prize is given annually to the best, second best, and third best honors theses overall in the History Department. The department, with the support of Professor Philip Greven, established the Prize in the early 1990s, and it has been given every year since.

Harold Poor was born in 1935 in Missouri, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957. As an undergraduate, Harold majored in German history and decided to follow an academic career by pursuing an M.A.(1958) and a Ph.D. (1965) in German and European history at Columbia University. While still a graduate student, Harold taught as an Instructor in History at both City College (1960) and Temple University (1961-1963). He then taught at Smith College from 1963 to 1966, where he became an Assistant Professor of German history. In 1966, he came to the Rutgers College History Department where he continued to teach and administer until his premature retirement in 1991 on disability because of AIDS. He died on January 24, 1992.

Harold Poor was one of the most gifted and charismatic teachers in the History Department. His courses ranged widely over German and European history, focusing upon cultural, political and intellectual aspects of 19th and 20th century history. He pioneered in the teaching of gay history with his course on "History and the Homosexual" in the fall of 1984. In addition to his teaching, Harold published in 1968 his dissertation on Kurt Tucholsky and the Ordeal of Germany, 1914-1935. He also was the co-author of a music drama Tickles by Tucholsky, which was first produced at Brandeis University and then off Broadway at Theater Four in 1976. As an ardent bicyclist, he also published Bicycling in New Jersey: Thirty Tours in 1978. From 1981 through 1983, he served as the national Chairperson for the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History, an affiliate of the American Historical Association. For the History Department, Harold served as Undergraduate Chairperson from 1989 to 1991 and was the Director of the Rutgers Junior Year Abroad Program in Germany from 1985 to 1987.

Prize Winners:
2014
  • First Place: Olivia Rubino-Finn: "A Few Pages of History: Les Miserables in the Nineteenth-Century French Imagination"
  • Second Place: Michal Skalski: "Implications of Nazi Past on West German Politics and the Cold War: A Case Around State Secretary Hans Globke"
  • Thid Place: Brian White: "Preserving History? A Textual Analysis of the Norman Invasion of England"
2013
  • First Place: John Karayannopoulos: “In magnae rationis palatio: Reason and Philosophy in Jewish-Christian Polemical Dialogues of the Twelfth Century”
  • Second Place: Kassandra Jordan: “The Battered Defense: An Exploration of the People, Laws, and Trials Behind Battered Women's Syndrome”
  • Third Place: Stephen Budinsky: “Protection of the President: Changing Views of the Secret Service and the American Executive, 1901-1951”
2012
  • First Place: Ryan Wernlund: "Aggressive Negotiations: Diplomacy and Mercenary Warfare in Renaissance Bologna"
  • Second Place: Christopher Andrews: "Kings, Bastards, and Enthusiasts: Touching for the Evil in Restoration England"
  • Third Place: Dyaln Beatty: "The Devil in our Pews: Locating Latter-day Saints in Colonial Samoa"
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The Ceil Parker Lawson Memorial Prize

In 2003, Professors Steven Lawson and Nancy Hewitt provided the funds for an endowed prize in memory of Lawson's mother, Ceil Parker Lawson. At the time, professor Lawson was Vice-Chair for Undergraduate Education in the History Department and director of its honors program. As a scholar of twentieth-century U.S. history, Lawson created the prize to recognize outstanding honors theses in any field of U.S. history in the twentieth century.

Ceil Parker Lawson was a housewife who lived in a Bronx apartment with her husband, Murray, her two children, Lona and Steven, and her parents, Abraham and Sara. She only had a high school education, graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, but she inspired her son to pursue his education to the highest level he could achieve. She created a household environment that supported learning. Even more, she was a warm and wise human being who had a lot of friends among her neighbors on Morris and Townsend Avenues, and many of them came to her often for counsel and laughter. She had a terrific sense of humor, which she needed to get through the various illnesses she had during her short life. Ceil Parker Lawson died in 1962 at the age of fifty from cancer. The words on her tombstone sum up the quality of her life and legacy: "Her memory is a heritage of love."

Endowed by Steven Lawson and Nancy Hewitt in memory of Professor Lawson's mother. The award goes to two students who have written outstanding honors theses in the field of twentieth century U.S. history.

Each year (after 2003), the Department has or will award the Ceil Parker Lawson Award to a first and a second place winner.

Prize Winners:

2014
  • First Place: James Malchow: "By Hook or By Crook: A History of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater: 1965-1980"
  • Second Place: Lindsay Sweeney: "Ask and Tell: How the Gay Rights Movement Invoked the Civil Rights Movement in the Fight for Equality in the Military"
2013
  • First Place: Matthew Kuchtyak: “Inequality and the Economics Profession: Politics, Economics, and Academic Agendas in the Reagan Era”
  • Second Place: Thomas Reilly: “Fine Print: Advertising and the 1950s - Ethics, Culture and Criticism”
2012
  • First Place: Jordan Hua: "'They Looked Askance': American Indians and Chinese in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. West"
  • Second Place: Rebecca Schwarz: "Giving up the Canal: An Examination of Carter’s Support of the 1977 Panama Canal Treaties"
2011 
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2003

DR. MARTIN SIEGEL HISTORY PRIZE

This prize was established in the honor of Dr. Martin Siegel who was a history major at Rutgers. Throughout his life he spoke of how much his education at Rutgers was a transforming experience, allowing a boy from a constricted background on a poultry farm in South Jersey to become a sophisticated thinker and man of the world. Although he entered Rutgers in 1945 as an engineering student, his heart was elsewhere -- in foreign films, theatre, music, and the great game of being a university student, actively participating in a new universe of ideas and cultural interests.

Martin Siegel was a great disputer, consciously provoking discussions. The exposure to the luminaries of his generation in the History Department like Mason Gross and Sidney Ratner opened his mind to the delights of studying the past, especially since it provided such a stimulating arena for the clash of different points of view.

After his graduation in 1949 he went on to earn a M.A. and Ph.D. in European intellectual history at Columbia University. What interested him there were the disputes among leaders of French academic life as they struggled to create a new type of history based upon the scientific spirit of the late 19th century. His dissertation, "Science and the Historical Imagination, 1866-1914" had the added bonus of necessitating research into original sources. So for three years he went to live in Paris where he learned to speak French, think French, and become a citizen of the world. His love of doing original historical scholarship never left him. He went on to publish many scholarly articles with a particular penchant for the seminal work of the historian Henri Berr as well as for the way history was shaped in France's most elite educational institution -- the Ecole Normale Superieure.

As much as he found joy in digging up the past in archives and specialized libraries, his real passion was engaging with people. To foster a global exchange of ideas he served as the US correspondent for the International Commission fo rthe History and Theory of Historiography. He never stopped publishing or delivering papers in such far flung locations as Belin, Oslo, Budapest, Montreal and Gorky University in Siberia.

Back on the home front as a professor at Kean Univesrsity for 40 years, he led classes in the history of both France and Russia; but the course he loved to teach above all others was the senior research seminar. Therefore, this prize is to be awarded to that undergraduate Junior or Senior majoring in History who is judged to have prepared the best research project in the History Seminar (506:401, 402). The student will receive a cash award and a plaque recognizing them as the winner of that year's Dr. Martin Siegel History Prize.

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RUTH PEASE SANSALONE PRIZE
for Academic Improvement and Commitment to the State and University Communities

The Ruth Pease Sansalone Prize is awarded annually to a history student whose grade point average has shown substantial improvement over their academic career at Rutgers, and who has contributed to the larger community through work in a program such as a public history internship or some service-oriented extra-curricular activity. William R. Sansalone (Rutgers, 1953) established the prize in 1958, and it became a history department award in 2008.

Ruth Pease Sansalone (1913-1955), to whom the prize is dedicated, was born in Bath, Maine, in 1913. Her mother brought her and her three siblings to southern Now Jersey when she was a chili. The four children received their early education in various public schools in Salem County. Ruth's first job was with the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company as a switchboard operator in Elmer, a rural community in eastern Salem County.

            During the 1930s and 1940s, New Jersey Bell provided service via party lines. These lines were staffed by operators who responded with a cheery "number please" whenever a costumer picked up their receiver. (Rotary and, subsequently, touch telephones were introduced much later.) One summer afternoon, Ruth became suspicious when some one picked up a receiver but did not respond to her standard request for a number. Listening carefully, she detected children's excited voices in the background and immediately made calls to homeowners nearby and urged them to investigate. Indeed, the children had been left alone, had played with matches, and had started a fire. Property damage was extensive, but the children's lives were saved. New Jersey Bell gave Ruth an Outstanding Service Award in recognition of her adeptness under pressing circumstances and for her everyday exemplary service to the Elmer community. During the 1940s, Ruth Pease and Joseph Sansalone (1914‑1997) married. She helped her husband start and manage a successful business in nearby Vineland (Cumberland County). Although she had never gone to college (an option accorded to a few during the Great Depression), Ruth was an insatiable reader of American literature and cared about good writing. She had a special fondness for books and articles about the history of southern New Jersey. She passed away in 1955 and is buried in Vineland.

Prize Winners:

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JAMES REED PRIZE

The James Reed prize is awarded annually for the best student presentation given at the annual history honors conference. It is given in honor of Professor James Reed, one of our most outstanding teachers at Rutgers since he joined the faculty at Rutgers College in 1975.

James Reed has professed history at Rutgers since 1975. He got his B.A. at Louisiana State University and his A.M. and Ph.D. at Harvard. Among historians he is best known for a book titled

From Private Vice to Public Virtue (1978), which is a history of birth control in the U.S. He served as Dean of Rutgers College from 1985 to 1994. His current writing project is a history of biomedical sex research, working title—“Sex Research in America: From Social Hygiene to Liberation Science.”

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