Graduate Handbook

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Table of Contents

I. Basic Program Information

The study of history is the best resource we have for understanding social phenomena as it exists today. By developing an awareness of the cultures and institutions that have shaped the world, history provides the opportunity to cultivate a more tolerant and humane spirit that can help us confront current sociological issues with understanding and compassion.

The Master of Arts degree program in History at California State University, Fresno offers graduate students seminars on a wide range of historical periods and approaches. The program also provides the conscientious student with the requisite research skills to ensure success in future academic or related pursuits. The History Department at California State University, Fresno is especially strong in the areas of European History, United States History, Latin American History and Military History. An energetic community of graduate students has developed at California State University, Fresno and graduates of our program have become successful teachers at the high school and community college level and have moved on to pursue their career at the doctoral level.

The diversity of our program is well illustrated by the wide range of thesis topics selected by recent graduate students in the History Department--with subjects as varied as the history of labor disputes in the Central Valley, American film noir in the 1970s, European diplomacy on the eve of World War I, as well as American and Russian responses to the war in Chechnya.

Graduate students in history sharpen their skills in written and oral communication, analysis, research and interpretation. Students prepare well-documented reports, present arguments and debate them logically and succinctly, and research written information thoughtfully and accurately. These particular skills are critical in the areas of business, education and government.

Advanced degree holders in the area of history take many different paths in their career choices upon graduation; many teach History or Social Science. A large proportion have used their history expertise as preparation for a career in law or the clergy; careers as business executives, legislators, or journalists. Other students have used their history preparation for highly specialized positions as curators, archivists, or historical editors and administrators which require a strong commitment to research and, in many instances, a record of publication.

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II. Faculty

What separates CSU Fresno's history program from that of other schools is its faculty. The professors in our program come from prestigious and diverse backgrounds, and are extremely active in ensuring that all of our students reach their full potential. They play a strong role in aiding not only students' research, but they also in advising the different associations. Please feel free to contact any professor in your area of interest for more guidance.

Mark Arvanigian, Ph.D. University of Durham, UK

Medieval to Early Modern Europe.

Daniel Cady, Ph.D. Claremont Graduate University, LA

20th-C. American West, US Internal Migration, Popular Culture.

Jill Fields, Ph.D. University of Southern California

Modern United States, Women's History.

Brad A. Jones, Ph.D. University of Glasgow, Scotland

American Revolution, Atlantic World.

Ethan Kytle, Ph.D. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

19th C. U.S. History, Civil War, Slavery

Maritere Lopez, Ph.D. State University of New York, Buffalo Renaissance,

Reformation, Early Modern Europe.

Blain Roberts, Ph.D. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

20th C. U.S. History, Race, Gender

William Skuban, Ph.D. University of California, Davis

Latin American History, Modern United States History.

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III. Application to the Program

Admission to the Master of Arts degree program in History assumes undergraduate preparation equivalent to a CSU, Fresno major in History. Majors from other disciplines may qualify for admission depending on grade point average and other factors deemed pertinent for success in historical studies. The department determines in each case whether the applicant needs additional preparation before receiving classified standing. A student may be admitted standing if he or she meets these minimum requirements:

1. an acceptable Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution;

2. a 3.0 GPA or above in the last sixty semester (90 quarter) units of study;

The process of admission is a two-part one

Part 1 - Application to the University

Students must first apply directly to the University Graduate Admissions Office. Apply online at

You will be required to:

a. Fill out the online application;

b. Supply transcripts as requested;

c. Pay a processing fee ($55).

Any delay in the receipt of the required documents will result in the holding back of your application.

Part 2 Application to the Department of History

This part of the application is separate from the University general application. The History Department's requirements for admission are higher than basic university ones. Failure to meet the History Department's minimum requirements will result in an admissions denial from the History department.

Concurrently with the above, students should submit the items listed below directly to the Graduate Coordinator:

1. a 2-3 page application essay outlining your preparation for graduate studies in History and your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree in History.

2. three (3) letters of recommendation, preferably from academic references.

Upon receipt of the student's file from the University Graduate Admissions Office and the student's letters and application essay, the History Department's Graduate Committee, following the university guidelines outlined above, will then decide whether the student should be admitted with a classified or conditionally classified standing and what undergraduate courses, if any, the student needs to take to make up any deficiencies he or she may have.

Application Deadlines

Students applying for admission in the fall should submit applications no later than April 1st.

Students applying for spring semester should submit applications no later than October 30th.

These dates are subject to change. Students should verify application deadlines by visiting the Division of Graduate Studies' website at

Classified Standing

Students may be admitted into the program with either classified (fully admitted) or conditionally classified standing. Those conditionally classified are required to fulfill specific prerequisites, which may range from three (3) to twelve (12) units of upper-division undergraduate courses, among others. For further information, please contact the Graduate Coordinator.

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IV. Course Offerings

HIST 200A: Intro to Graduate Writing & Historiography (3)
Introduction to the methods and skills of graduate writing. Introduction to the varieties of history writings from the ancient world to early modern times, focusing especially on major themes, approaches, and categories of history writing and authors. (Formerly HIST 200)

HIST 200B. Intro to Graduate Research and Historiography (3)
Introduction to the methods and skills of graduate research. Introduction to the varieties of modern history writing, focusing especially on major theses, approaches, and categories of history writing, and major figures in modern historical debates. (Formerly HIST 200)

HIST 210T. Topics in United States History (3)
Intensive reading, analysis, and discussion of significant historical problems in United States history.

HIST 220T. Topics in European History (3)
Intensive examination of methodological and theoretical issues pertaining to the advanced study of diverse topics in European history.

HIST 230T. Topics in World History (3)
Intensive reading, analysis, and discussion of selected problems in world history.

HIST 290. Independent Study (1-3; max total 6)
See Academic Placement -- Independent Study

HIST 292. Directed Readings (1-3; max total 3)
Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Readings on selected themes and topics in consultation with a faculty adviser.

HIST 296: Topics in History for Teachers

HIST 297: History Practicum

HIST 298: Project

HIST 299A-B. Thesis (3-3)
Prerequisite: see Criteria for Thesis and Project. Preparation, completion, and submission of an acceptable thesis for the master's degree. (A) Thesis design. (B) Thesis writing. A and B may be taken concurrently. Approved for RP grading.

Prerequisites: Advancement to Candidacy and Prospectus

HIST 300. Topics in History
(2; max total 8 if no topic repeated)
Selected topics in various fields of history, e.g., European, The Americas, United States, non-Western.

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V. Program Requirements

See Master of Arts Degree Requirements

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VI. Crucial Steps to Degree Completion

You should be aware that taking thirty program units is only one of the many steps to attaining your M.A. degree. Other crucial steps, to be taken at specific times during your program, are listed below. FAILURE TO COMPLETE THEM IN A TIMELY MANNER WILL LEAD, AT THE VERY LEAST, TO DELAYS IN YOUR PROGRAM COMPLETION.

1. Attain Classified Graduate Standing

When admitted into the program, you are given either 'conditionally classified' or 'classified' standing. As mentioned above (see the admission section), conditional classification indicates that a student has been provisionally accepted into the program but must fulfill various pre-requisites before being fully admitted. Once pre-requisites have been fulfilled, you must meet with the program's Graduate Coordinator in order to fill out the required standing paperwork. Classification, which designates full admission into the program, must be achieved by the semester in which a maximum of ten (10) units to be used towards the Master's degree are completed. PLEASE NOTE: no more than ten units completed prior to classification may be counted toward candidacy (see below) or program completion.

2. Advance to Candidacy

PRIOR to beginning official work on the culminating experience, each student must advance to candidacy for the M.A. degree. This is an important step, as it represents a commitment on the part of BOTH the student and the program to the completion of the degree within a specified time. Advancement to candidacy essentially gives you permission to proceed toward qualifying for the degree and provides an approved plan of completion. An added bonus of achieving candidacy is that only candidates are allowed immediate re-entry to the Division of Graduate Studies if they require a semester hiatus; students in earlier stages of the program must re-apply for admission.

You should petition for advancement as soon as you are eligible and no later than the semester prior to enrolling in the culminating experience. In fact, campus policy, as detailed in the University Catalog, requires that students apply for candidacy as soon as they become eligible. Normally, this should occur within one semester of attaining classified graduate standing.

In order to be considered for candidacy you must have:

  1. attained classified graduate standing;
  2. completed at least nine (9) units of graduate work within the program with a grade of 'B' or better
  3. achieved a minimum program, overall, and California State University, Fresno GPA of 3.0
  4. fulfilled the Graduate Writing Requirement (also explained below)

It is YOUR responsibility to contact the graduate coordinator if you have any questions or concerns about advancement.

For examination options and dates, contact the graduate assistant.

2. Fulfill the Writing Requirement

The Division of Graduate Studies' policy on the writing requirement states that, 'in accordance with requirements of the State of California, students must demonstrate competence in written English before they apply for advancement to candidacy. For pedagogical reasons, they should demonstrate such competence as early in their programs as possible.

Thus, prior to applying for candidacy, all students in the History M.A. program must submit a well-written paper. Basic requisites for a paper to count toward fulfillment of the writing requirement are that it:

  1. be fifteen to twenty (15-20) pages in length;
  2. be formatted according to standard disciplinary (Chicago/Turabian) style.

The paper to be submitted may be produced in any course, graduate or undergraduate, provided it meets the requirements above.

A sub-committee of three faculty members from the Graduate Committee will judge the submissions based on the following criteria, as laid out by the Academic Senate:

  1. Comprehensibility;

  2. Clear organization and presentation of ideas;

  3. An ability to arrange ideas logically so as to establish a sound scholarly argument;

  4. Thoroughness and competence in documentation;

  5. An ability to express in writing an analysis of existing scholarly/professional literature in the student's area of interest; and

  6. An ability to model the discipline's overall style as reflected in representative journals.

Papers must be acceptable in EACH of the areas above. If a paper fails to meet the above requisites, that student will be advised to seek editorial help and/or take further writing preparation, and submit a revised version of the paper at a later date. PAPERS MAY BE RE-SUBMITTED ONLY ONCE, unless unusual and compelling medical or legal circumstances arise. Should a student fail to meet the writing requirement, he or she will not advance to candidacy and will be dropped from the program.

PLEASE NOTE: you must fulfill the Graduate Writing Requirement before you will be allowed to apply for candidacy. The Graduate Writing Committee will meet twice a year, once in November and once in March, to assess student writing samples.

3. Choose a Committee

Whether you choose to pursue the thesis option or the examination option as your culminating experience, you will need a committee of three faculty members to assist you. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO LOCATE THREE WILLING FACULTY MEMBERS TO COMPOSE THE THESIS COMMITTEE. Usually, a committee chair is chosen first, according to the student's area of proposed research/study. With the chair's assistance, two additional committee members are chosen. As per Division of Graduate Studies regulations, AT LEAST TWO COMMITTEE MEMBERS MUST BE PART OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY'S GRADUATE FACULTY.

Committees for thesis and examination differ a bit from one another. For one, the thesis committee will have a chair, or main professor, with whom you will do most of the work. The two additional committee members are 'readers,' whose degree of interaction will vary according to topic and/or student. Examination committees, on the other hand, are composed of three mostly-independent professors, each of whom will guide you as you prepare to take the tri-partite graduate examination.

This basic difference per force influences the approach to 'putting together' a committee. For theses, perhaps the most sensible first step in choosing a committee is to approach a professor in your area of interest and discuss possible research topics with him or her. The next step is to do preliminary research, usually but not necessarily as part of an Independent Study course, and write a prospectus (see below) to serve both as a project description and a plan for completion. The prospectus will also help you recruit the remaining committee members, as professors are more likely to agree to participate in well thought-out and planned projects. For examinations, you must approach professors in three different areas of interest and discuss possible areas of study with them.


  1. as our program is composed of a relatively small faculty, many of whom may already be working with several students, PROFESSORS MIGHT BE UNABLE TO ACCOMMODATE ADDITIONAL THESIS ASSIGNMENTS;
  2. as our faculty cannot be experts on all fields, the student should be prepared to be somewhat flexible about their thesis topic. NEITHER ACCEPTANCE INTO THE PROGRAM NOR ADVANCEMENT TO CANDIDACY GUARANTEES THAT THE STUDENT'S PROPOSED TOPIC WILL BE APPROVED. Each student must compose a prospectus (see below) to be evaluated and approved by the committee members based on the topic's viability and scholarly value.

Once you have 'put together' your committee you are required to obtain BOTH the signatures of all members of the committee AND that of the Graduate Coordinator. There is a specific form to fill which is available in the Graduate Advisor's office. This form MUST be filled and signed before you begin official work on the culminating project. THAT IS, YOU SHOULD NOT START WORK ON YOUR THESIS OR EXAM PREPARATION WITHOUT HAVING THE SUBJECTS APPROVED AND ALL SIGNATURES COLLECTED.

For further clarification, here are some selected excerpts from the Division of Graduate Studies' Thesis Committee Policy and Guidelines:

Student Responsibility

Students should remain in close contact with the graduate coordinator and his or her thesis/examination committee chair during the process of choosing a committee and working on the culminating project.

Students are responsible for checking in with the graduate coordinator and the Division of Graduate Studies when they have questions or concerns about their culminating project.

The full text of the University's policy on the creation, body, and change procedures for Thesis Committees is available through the Division of Graduate Studies and in your General Catalog.

4. Writing Your Prospectus

Students who choose the thesis option as a culminating experience must compose a thesis prospectus and have it approved by their Thesis Committee chair prior to commencing official work on their thesis (that is, prior to registering for thesis units).

Basically, a prospectus is a proposed research plan. As a general rule, the prospectus define a topic for investigation, briefly discuss the historical importance and research viability of the topic, situate the topic in historiographical context, and demonstrate the availability of relevant primary source material to be used. You should prepare the prospectus in close cooperation with your committee chair, writing and revising multiple drafts if needed.

The thesis prospectus should be approximately seven to ten (7-10) pages in length. Outside of that, no specific layout is required. However, it is recommended that you follow the following format:

  1. Topic for thesis investigation. The prospectus should clearly delineate the topic and scope of the work to be undertaken. It should outline the particular problem to be addressed, and indicate what questions the thesis is designed to examine. In making a tentative prediction of the investigation, the prospectus should demonstrate that the scope of inquiry is feasible.

  2. Historical and/or historiographical discussion. The prospectus for investigation should place the topic in historical perspective for readers unfamiliar with the field. It should address the relevant historiographical literature on the topic in order to clarify the particular significance of the field of study. The prospectus should indicate how the student positions the research to be undertaken in relation to that of previous scholarship on the subject, and indicate the originality of the research.

  3. Sources. The prospectus should identify the central primary sources to be used in the conduct of original research. It should also address the availability of sources, specifying, where relevant, how the student will gain access to primary materials if they are not available locally.

  4. Bibliography. The prospectus should include a bibliography. The bibliography should differentiate between primary and secondary sources. Secondary source listings should be limited to the most central and relevant materials.

  5. Proposed timeline for completion of the thesis. The prospectus should clearly delineate the time each step of the research is projected to take. You should keep in mind that there is a five (5) year cap on degree completion from the time of admittance to the conferral of the degree. Plan accordingly.

The student's thesis committee may or may not require you to meet formally at a proposal meeting. Whether or not the thesis committee requires that you formally defend the proposal, the proposal will still be required by the department before allowing the student to move forward with thesis work (that is, registering for thesis units).

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VII. Advising & Mentoring

The graduate coordinator, Dr. Brad Jones, will formally advise all history graduate students in matters of policy. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with him upon applying as well as once a year to ensure that they are on the right track. Failure to meet with Dr. Jones might lead to enrolling in unnecessary courses, resulting in a possible extension of the time that it takes to graduate. Students can make appointment by calling (559) 278-2351 or by emailing him at

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VIII. Financial Aid / Scholarships

Many financial opportunities are available for our history graduate students. Although the History Department itself has very little funding for graduate students, California State University, Fresno, as well as other sponsors, offer a wide variety of financial aid.

Financial Opportunities through CSUF :

Merit Awards

President's Graduate Scholars Fellowships for Entering Students
Two $3,500 merit-based awards are available each year with the possibility of recipients qualifying for a second year of the award, assuming conformance with developed standards and the need for a second year to complete the master's course of study. Nominees must be incoming first-semester master's degree or Ed.D. students.

Need-based Awards

Graduate Equity Fellowship Program (Deadline: summer)
These fellowships enable students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to pursue their master's degrees with financial assistance in amounts up to $4,500 per academic year for four semesters. Applicants must have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Research Awards

Graduate Student Research Merit Awards (Fall/Spring)
The merit and scholarship of a student's proposed thesis or project research is the major consideration for this $750 grant.

Robert & Norma Craig Graduate Fellowships (Deadline: Fall)
This program, with a $1,000 grant, seeks to increase research abilities by engaging graduate students in mentored activities and faculty assistance.

California Pre-Doctoral Program (Deadline: Spring)
This program is designed to increase the pool of potential faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of California State University students who have experienced economic and educational disadvantages. Scholars and their faculty mentors are awarded $3,000 to travel to doctoral institutions and national conferences to enhance their entrance into doctoral study. Summer internships are also available for selected scholars.

Presentation Funding

Travel Grants (ongoing)
These grants are available throughout the year to students who have been invited to present a paper or poster at a major professional association conference or society meeting.

Financial Opportunities Outside of CSUF:

Please see the Division of Research and Graduate Studies website for more information.

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IX. Graduate Student Organizations

Graduate students are active in many organizations across campus and in the community. However, the two organization which are most active for history students are Phi Alpha Theta and the History Graduate Student Association.

Phi Alpha Theta National History Honors Society was established at California State University, Fresno in the spring of 2002. Phi Alpha Theta is the highest rated departmental honor society, second only to Phi Beta Kappa on a national level. Phi Alpha Theta has over thirty scholarships and prizes awarded annually. For more information on Phi Alpha Theta, consult their web site or contact Dr. Frederik Vermote (Phi Alpha Theta advisor at Fresno State).

The History Graduate Student Association at Fresno State contributes to the scholarly discussion of history in the department and at the university. HGSA sponsors monthly talks by faculty members and other historians and sponsors an annual Graduate Student Symposium in the spring. For more information on HGSA, contact Dr. Brad Jones, who is also the faculty advisor for HGSA.

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