Conference Panel: Transformations in Oral History: Scholarship, Professionalism, and Transdisciplinarity

Join OHMA panelists at the Crossroads: The Future of Graduate History Education conference at Drew University in Madison, NJ on Friday, March 11 - Saturday, March 12. 

The event is an exciting opportunity for OHMA to be in conversation with other graduate programs in history and related fields, and discuss how to prepare students for effective practice, careers, and transformations in the discipline. Check out the full schedule. Here are some of the questions the conference intends to address:

The historical profession, like many academic disciplines, finds itself at a crossroads in training its future practitioners. The intellectual revolutions of the 21st century and transformations in higher education have changed how historians practice their craft as well as career opportunities available to them. How should graduate history education adapt to these developments? Some argue the answer is training for non-academic as well as academic careers. But is job-market adaptation by itself sufficient? What about the intellectual and technological dimensions to history’s transformation in the 21st century? How do these influence career preparation for historians?

Transformations in Oral History: Scholarship, Professionalism, and Transdisciplinarity
10:30-12 p.m. on Saturday, March 12
moderated by Cassie Brand, Drew University

Panel Participants:

Mary Marshall, Co-Founder & Co-Director
Amy Starecheski, Associate Director
Erica Fugger, Alumna & Administrative Coordinator

Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA) is the first program of its kind in the United States: a one-year interdisciplinary M.A. degree training students in oral history method and theory. Through the creation, archiving, and analysis of individual, community, and institutional histories, OHMA seeks to amplify the critical first-person narratives that constitute memory for generations to come.

Since our program’s founding in 2008, OHMA has grown through innovation by the faculty and students, and transformations in the field at large. With diverse backgrounds and interests in applying oral history to contemporary questions, our students undertake training in a variety of approaches, among them history, anthropology, literature, the social sciences, memory studies, and archiving. Their work reflects the core tenets of these fields, while also seeking to carve out new approaches to historical study.

This academic year, we implemented a capstone option to complement our previous thesis requirement. A thesis, which can be academic or creative in genre, is characterized by a sustained critical engagement with a body of scholarly literature in order to answer a defined research question. While many of our students’ theses are public-facing in format, capstone projects are characterized by their use of oral histories primarily to contribute to public life.

With these recent changes in mind, the questions we would like to address are: How do graduate programs remain academically rigorous while offering transdisciplinary engagement? How do students obtain the necessary training to pursue academic careers, while also learning the practical skills to apply these lessons in professional settings?