Talking to members of the History faculty and seeking their advice in matters related to your intellectual interests are crucial to a successful career as a concentrator. The Department’s faculty are experts in their fields with an astonishing array of interests both historical and non-historical, and have spent years thinking about the discipline, its possibilities (and pitfalls), and its important intersections with life outside of academia. Faculty are also excellent resources for students refining their interests into a coherent program of study, seeking a potential senior thesis topic, or searching for research positions or internships.
The best way to get to know faculty is, of course, to take their courses. Still, enrolling in a course, participating in class, and completing your work should not exhaust your efforts to cultivate intellectual relationships with faculty. You should feel free to visit your professors’ office hours, not only when you have course-related questions, but simply to introduce yourself, talk about your historical interests, and ask about theirs. Don’t forget that professors need to eat, too, and the House dining halls are very welcoming of faculty. Invite your favorite professor to lunch at your House: Sharing a meal is a great way to discover mutual interests naturally, without feeling like you have to prepare a raft of questions (or answers!) to fill the time. Contact your House (or the Freshman Dean’s Office if you are a first-year student) for information on its version of the “Take a Faculty Member to Lunch” program, and set yourself the goal of doing this at least once a term.
Recognizing the unique benefits of small-group and one-on-one interactions between students and faculty, the Undergraduate Office, working in conjunction with House Advisors, will also organize faculty lunches in the Houses throughout the year, as a way to initiate student-faculty relationships. Don’t feel you have to wait on these lunches before you extend your own invitations—ask away!—but please do make an effort to attend these and any other events your House Advisor plans. Your presence will be an encouragement to your fellow concentrators. Moreover, History is full of sharp students, and joining some of them in a casual small-group discussion with faculty will likely yield new insights into the discipline, the world at large, and your interests in both.
While we hope you are active in reaching out to History Department faculty, we remind you to be respectful of their time, as with any other person’s: In any given semester (or week), some faculty will be less available than others, and in any given instance you should accept that fact graciously without taking it personally. We remind you, too, that faculty members in the History Department should be mentors who inspire your intellectual, academic, and professional growth. Questions regarding program requirements or administrative measures, such as petitions, should be directed not to them but to the Undergraduate Office and/or your House Advisor.