Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

Public History/American History PhD Program

Building on Loyola's already strong Master's in Public History program, this 60-hour in-person degree program provides the opportunity for students to compete for positions calling for a doctorate, such as teaching public history at the university level, curating or administrating at governmental institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution or the National Park Service, or serving as a principal in a consulting firm. In essence, this program is similar to the standard American history PhD program but requires a double major in American History and Public History instead of a major field in American History and two minor fields. Students will leave Loyola with a firm grounding in American history as well as in the skills and theory of public history and its practice. Loyola is one of the few universities to offer a public history degree at the doctoral level and hopes to continue to attract strong non-traditional students already working in the public history profession as well as students interested in history at the doctoral level. 


Students enter the Public History/American History PhD Program in one of two ways:  (1) admission holding a BA degree or (2) admission to the Public History/American History PhD Program after receiving the MA degree.

  • (with BA in hand) Admission to this program is highly selective and limited to a few outstanding undergraduates. Students will be chosen on the basis of the regular criteria (GPA, letters of recommendation, writing sample, and personal statement) by the public history program director and three faculty members who are involved in reviewing application materials. Students on this track have a 60-hour credit requirement.
  • (with MA in hand) Students enter this program holding a Master's degree with a Public History concentration or with a concentration in American History. Students who must complete History 400 will have a 36-hour requirement. If students have already completed History 400 or an equivalent at the Master's level, they must complete 33 hours.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the Public History/American History PhD Program, graduates will be able to:

  • Use the historical method to solve historical and historiographical problems while applying the perspectives of class, race, gender, etc. to historical events and trends;
  • Identify and criticize interpretive paradigms and methodologies relevant to historical scholarship and the historical profession;
  • Perform historical research in archives and libraries and evaluate the provenance, context, validity, and biases of these sources from the past;
  • Apply the necessary research skills to produce original scholarship on a chosen historical topic using primary sources while evaluating the validity, context, and biases of secondary source literature produced by other scholars;
  • Demonstrate the ability to deploy multiple forms of communication (written, oral, and new media) to discuss their own historical scholarship and graduate-level knowledge of their chosen fields;
  • Advance the knowledge of the discipline;
  • Conduct cutting edge research;
  • Engage respectfully in debates about the nature of the past in order to enrich historical understanding and generate new questions and investigatory avenues;
  • Use public history methods and theories to share historical interpretation with a broad range of public audiences;
  • Apply new media digital tools to the preservation and presentation of archival material;
  • Utilize the best professional practices to preserve, catalog, and present historical artifacts and records;
  • Understand and employ local, state, and federal preservation rules to establish the significance of historic properties;
  • Demonstrate the ability to work with public history institutions to make the past relevant to diverse communities.

General Degree Requirements


If a student enters with a MA Degree or some Master’s-level credit, these requirements are adjusted to accommodate MA-level work pursued at another institution.  Up to 30 hours of transfer credit may be considered.  The distribution of hours is as follows:

History 400 (if equivalent not taken for Master's degree)  3 hours
History 403 3 hours
Six US History field courses 18 hours
One 500-level research seminar in US History field 3 hours
Five Public History field courses 15 hours
One additional Public History course (must be 483, 492, or 581) 3 hours
Public History Internship (HIST 582) 3 hours
Directed research/readings and electives 9 hours
Dissertation proposal seminar 3 hours
Total60 hours

Required or Core Courses

Students who have not taken HIST 400 or an equivalent course at the master’s level must do so in the Ph.D. program. Additionally, all doctoral students must take History 403: The Professional Lives of Historians during their first semester in the program. They must also successfully complete at least one 500-level research seminar in their American history field. They must take History 598 in which they develop their dissertation proposal under the supervision of their major field advisor.

Major Field: American History

In consultation with their major adviser, students develop a doctoral field in American history focused on a specialized area of concentration through coursework and research. Such a definition might be, for example, 20th-century American cultural history.

Students are required to complete 21 hours from among the formal offerings in the American History field. This includes five 400-level courses and one 500-level research seminar.

To view a course catalogue, click on one of the following links:

Major Field: Public History

Students build their doctoral field in Public History from the five basic applied courses in public history:

  • HIST 479: Public History Media (Fall)
  • HIST 480: Public History Theory and Method (Fall)
  • HIST 481: Management of Historical Resources (Spring, odd years)
  • HIST 482: Archives and Record Management (Spring, even years)
  • HIST 487: Management of History Museums (Spring, odd years)

Students in the Public History/American History PhD Program must also take one additional Public History course selected from one of the following:

  • HIST 483: Oral History (Fall)
  • HIST 581: Practicum in Public History (every semester)
  • HIST 584: U.S. Local History (rotating basis)
  • Other approved 400 or 500-level elective

Dissertation Research

The remaining hours in the Public History/American History PhD Program are to be devoted to dissertation research. Normally, three hours are fulfilled through HIST 598, the Dissertation Proposal Seminar, and the remaining hours from Directed Study and Dissertation Research.

Public History Internship

Because practical experience in an area of public history activity is an important component of public history training, all students in the Public History/American History PhD Program must also complete an internship (HIST 582). Internships are tailored to fit the needs of individual students as well as those of the host agency or organization. During the internship, students will keep regular logs of their activities and check in regularly with the Public History Program Director. Upon completion of the internship, students will write an reflection paper that will go in their final portfolios.

Portfolio Requirement

The portfolio, which represents the capstone of the Public History major field, documents the achievements of master’s students and thereby identifies their strengths, weaknesses and abilities as professional historians. Students begin compiling their portfolio during the first semester in the program. The portfolio may include, but are not limited to, the following items:

  1. One broadly-defined historiographical essay written in HIST 400 in the first year of the MA program
  2. One research essay based on primary sources and 25-35 pages in length, written with the goal of publication, completed in a 500-level research seminar
  3. One oral history interview transcript (if Oral History is taken)
  4. One National Register for Historic Places nomination, completed in HIST 481 (authored or co-authored)
  5. One public history internship report
  6. One project related to museums and/or community history prepared in conjunction with course work (HIST 480 and/or HIST 487)
  7. One short book review (500-700 words, similar to book reviews in the American Historical Review)
  8. One long book review (1,500-3,000 words, similar to book reviews in Reviews in American History)
  9. Three historiographical essays written as part of the US History field comprehensive examination
  10. A current resume or curriculum vita (CV)

The portfolio will be evaluated by the student’s faculty advisor annually, and the final version will be submitted to the faculty committee on the date of the oral exam. Successful completion of the portfolio is required for admission to PhD candidacy.

Research Tool Requirements

Students in the Public History/American History PhD Program must complete two research tool requirements:

  • One tool must be within public history and may include History 483: Oral History or History 479: Public History Media. When taken for the research tool requirement, History 483 and History 479 cannot be counted toward the minor field in Public History. In special circumstances, students may petition the Graduate Program Director to substitute another research tool in place of the public history research tool requirement.
  • The second research tool requirement may be fulfilled in two ways: a) reading knowledge of a foreign language appropriate to the student’s major field or b) mastery of a special skill required by the student’s doctoral research. With the approval of the Graduate Program Director, students may demonstrate mastery in one of the following areas: statistics, computer science, GIS, and paleography. Courses taken in these subject areas at Loyola or another academic institution may be used to show mastery of a special skill. However, these courses require prior approval by the Graduate Program Director. Paleography may be taken at the Chicago Inter-University Consortium for Advanced Studies in Renaissance and Early Modern History at the Newberry Library.

Comprehensive Exams

Students in the Public History/American History PhD Program must take two series of comprehensive exams, one for each major field:

Public History Oral Examination: For PhD students with a public history minor field and for students in the Public History/American History PhD Program the Public History major field examination is a two-hour oral examination before a two-person faculty committee, one of whom must be either the Public History Program Director or the Graduate Program Director. Students much schedule an exam date during the semester they are finishing their Public History field courses. The portfolio (see above for details) is submitted to the faculty committee on the date of the oral exam. Usually, Public History/American History PhD Program students take their Public History oral exam before moving on to take their exams for American History.

For the American History major field, taken near the end of their graduate program, students must pass a take-home written examination and a two-hour oral examination. For the written examination, the student will produce three 10–15 page historiographical essays based on a reading list developed in conjunction with a three-member committee of history faculty of their choosing. The committee should be established no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student intends to take the examination. Students will have two weeks to complete the exam, which will be evaluated by the committee. The two-hour oral exam will occur within two weeks of completing the written exam. The designated chronological areas are nineteenth-century U.S. history and twentieth-century U.S. history.

They should also choose two thematic areas for the examination. Thematic areas include:

  • Urban
  • Women and Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Indigenous America
  • Cultural
  • African American and Race
  • American West and Borderlands
  • Immigration and Ethnicity
  • Labor
  • Environmental
  • Legal

Other thematic fields are possible with the approval of all committee members. Because Public History/American History PhD Program students have two major fields, they do not have any minor fields (unlike the regular PhD degree track).

Dissertation Proposal Review and Dissertation

Students will develop a "dissertation field" within their American history field. They will present a dissertation topic and proposal to their major advisor (History 598 Dissertation Proposal Seminar) for review and approval. Students formalize their proposed committee with the submission of the Dissertation Committee Recommendation form to the Graduate School.

Following the successful completion of doctoral examinations and the portfolio requirement, students will make a public presentation of their dissertation proposal to a dissertation committee, which will include the dissertation director and at least two other faculty members acquainted with the research areas of the dissertation. In discussing the proposal, students and members of the committee should work out problems and address questions the committee members may have. Upon successfully completing the dissertation proposal review, students submit a formal dissertation outline to the graduate school. Following its approval by the Graduate School and the successful completion of all other degree requirements, students are admitted to PhD candidacy.

Oral Defense

The PhD dissertation must be completed, approved by the designated committee members, and successfully defended orally at a public defense.