ACADEMICS

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

To complete the Master of Arts degree in Oral History at Columbia University, students take a minimum of 30 credits of graduate course credit, which includes an M.A. thesis or capstone. Specific requirements are listed below.

1. Completion of Core Courses
Three courses (14 credits) - in addition to the Master’s Thesis course or capstone equivalency - are required (note that two of these are year-long):

  • Oral History Workshop - OHMA G5010 & G5011 (2 credits - P/F), Yearlong

This course is organized as a year-long series of public seminars on the wide range of issues raised by a consideration of how oral history methodologies impact disciplines in the social sciences as well as the humanities. Scholars who have used oral history and narrative analysis in their research will be drawn from the New York area. Students will participate by responding to speakers, and drawing upon their presentations in their own thesis work.

  • Oral History Method, Theory, and Interpretation - OHMA G5015 (4 credits), Fall

This interdisciplinary course, taken in the fall semester, is an in-depth introduction to the theoretical writings in oral history on historical research, memory, interviewing methodologies, life history and the application of theoretical paradigms to specific fieldwork problems. Students will identify a field research project in the first three weeks of the semester and address the dynamics of the interview and fieldwork situation through theoretical analysis of the historic context in which the interview takes place. Students will also analyze the strengths and weaknesses of interviewing methods as they apply to existing disciplinary paradigms. The broader focus of the course is to introduce students to the wide array of theoretical issues raised by the intersection of history, memory and life story narratives in the effort to understand the recent past in relation to critical issues of interpretation in today's world.

  • Oral History: Fieldwork, Production and Archiving - OHMA G5020 & G5021 (8 credits), Yearlong

This seminar is a year-long practicum in which students will learn and practice the skills required to conceptualize, conduct, analyze and disseminate oral history interviews. In the Fall semester, students learn project design, various genres of interviewing, audio recording, transcribing, indexing, and digital archiving. Students have the option of working on oral history projects conducted in partnership with New York City groups or working on their own projects. We weave together several strands of inquiry through the fall semester, some of which we follow into the spring:

  • nuts and bolts (audio recording, project design, transcribing, indexing)
  • interview strategies (peer interviews, balancing life history and a research focus, using research in an interview, working with embodiment in the interview, doing interviews in public)
  • power (legal and ethical issues, the interview relationship, oral history from an anti-oppression standpoint)
  • archiving (digital archiving, and this strand will carry over into the spring)
  • oral history and anthropology (comparative approaches to fieldwork, anthropological studies of oral history, and this strand will carry over into the spring)

By the Spring semester, students are expected to be primarily working on their own projects. In the Spring we will focus most of our attention on the analysis and dissemination of oral histories, including audio editing, online presentation, museum exhibits, and other public oral history genres. The spring course culminates in a public, multi-media, interactive pop-up exhibit created and curated by students.
 

2. Completion of Elective Courses
In addition to the core courses, OHMA students take at least 16 credits of additional graduate-level courses. Some elective courses are designed specifically for OHMA students.

  • Oral History Video Intensive - OHMA G5065 (1 credit - P/F), Fall short course

This is a short course designed as an introduction to video production for oral history. This month-long course will cover the selection of equipment (camera, light, and sound), basic shooting techniques for seated interviews, basic editing and video file management. Each student will complete the course having completed and created a clip from or lightly edited one video interview.

  • Oral History Internship - OHMA G5075 & 5076 (2-4 credits - P/F), Fall or Spring

This course provides an opportunity for Oral History MA Program students to engage in supervised internships for course credit. Students can plan an internship of approximately 100 hours of work for 2 credits, 150 hours of work for 3 credits, or 200 hours of work for 4 credits. The instructor will arrange some possible internship placements, but students are also free to make their own arrangements. Internships can relate to any element of oral history practice and research, including but not limited to project and program development, interviewing, interview processing, analysis and archiving, and creation of exhibits, documentaries, writing, walking tours, or websites using oral history. Internships must be substantive and have clear learning and professional development goals. More information is in the Internship Guide, here.

  • Social Science and Other Approaches to Studying Life History & Narrative Information - OHMA G8025 (4 credits), Fall

This course considers the ways in which social scientists can utilize narrative and life history data. The focus throughout is on developing tools for the analysis of narrative and life history and using the analysis of life histories to inform basic problems in social science and historical research. The methodologies that social scientists use to work with sequential data in order to review temporal processes will be considered in some detail. The contexts that will be explored in depth are varied and critically important for the modern time; case histories for medical professionals, stories for human rights workers, historical accounts of complex event sequences, and the processes of becoming—an activist, a revolutionary, a drug-addict, and so on.

  • From Oral History to Literary Narrative - OHMA G8040 (4 credits), Spring

An oral history is both a personal record of a life and potential source material for works by a broad range of scholars, policymakers and artists. This seminar provides an introduction to the art and craft of fashioning a work of literary nonfiction from oral histories. Although the emphasis will be on oral history, basic complementary first-person sources such as letters, diaries, interviews, and eyewitness accounts will also figure in the discussion.

Applications are open through January 15, 2017 for a new two-week long intensive seminar exploring oral history, memory, visuality, and the body. The course is co-sponsored by the European Research Council Project Bodies Across Borders: Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond (BABE) and the Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA), and hosted by the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute, Florence. The course will draw on case studies and materials from the ongoing Bodies Across Borders research project and new approaches to teaching oral history, visuality, and embodiment developed at OHMA. For more information, read our blog post about the course or contact ohma@columbia.edu. 

Students may also choose to take electives within a discipline related to the student’s research interest that is not a part of the OHMA program. It must be approved by the program. While we encourage students to take some electives designed for OHMA students, they may also take electives in related disciplines at Columbia.

We also have a consortium agreement with New York University's Archives and Public History MA Program (APH) that allows OHMA students to take courses at APH for credit towards their degree at no extra charge. 

In some circumstances, an OHMA student may petition to be exempted from a required course in order to enroll in an elective that meets their scholarly goals. Students can contact program staff to inquire about this possibility.

OHMA-required courses must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of Workshop. The Video Intensive and Internship course are always offered pass/fail. Other electives may occasionally be taken for R credit with the permission of both the instructor and the OHMA program.

Columbia University students interested in cross-registering for OHMA coursework are welcome to reach out to the individual faculty members listed below to receive permission. Our courses are listed under "O" for "Oral History" in the Columbia University Directory of Classes
 

 

3. Completion of Capstone Project or Master’s Thesis Course (4 credits) - OHMA G5012, Spring

OHMA offers two options for culminating M.A. projects. To complete the M.A. degree, each student must produce either a thesis or a capstone project. Thesis students enroll in a spring seminar (G4012) to workshop their projects, while capstone students create a public exhibition of their work in the spring Fieldwork course (G4021). Students writing theses have the option to option to submit their work for either May or October graduation. Capstone students conclude their degree at the end of the spring semester.

As a program, OHMA seeks to develop effective and innovative ways of communicating academic work to the public and encourage interdisciplinary scholarly work that is both creative and intellectually rigorous. In their culminating projects, students have the opportunity to produce a substantial piece of work that synthesizes their learning at OHMA and paves the way towards the next steps in their career. We support projects that use newly created and/or archived oral histories. Culminating projects may use oral histories as a raw material and/or take the oral history process itself as an object of study.

Most students complete a thesis, but some students may elect to complete a capstone project instead.

The thesis may incorporate a blend of publicly engaged and academic work, and may range from traditional scholarly writing to experimental creative production, but it must make a substantial and original contribution to the field and discipline of oral history. 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 thesis projects are also publicly engaged, capstone projects are characterized by their use of oral histories primarily to contribute to public life. Students producing capstone projects write a short reflective essay explaining their goals and process.

All students will identify and work closely with a member of the OHMA faculty to guide their thesis or capstone work. Students may also include invite another scholar and/or artist working in a relevant field to serve on a thesis or capstone committee with their OHMA advisor.

OHMA Thesis and Capstone Options

Thesis Timelines and Requirements

Thesis Title Page Template

Instructions for Formatting and Submitting the Thesis

Thesis Library Release Form

Thesis Library Metadata Form


2016-2017 COURSE OFFERINGS by Semester

FALL 2016

  • OHMA G5010: Oral History Workshop (1 credit), Amy Starecheski
  • OHMA G5015: Oral History Method and Theory (4 credits), Mary Marshall Clark
  • OHMA G5020: Oral History Fieldwork (4 credits), Amy Starecheski
  • OHMA G5065: Oral History Video Intensive (1 credit), Vin Aliberto 
  • OHMA G5075: Oral History Internship (2-4 credits), Amy Starecheski
  • OHMA G8025: Social Science and Other Approaches to Studying Life History & Narrative Information (4 credits), William McAllister

SPRING 2017

SUMMER 2017

COST

In order to complete the degree, each student must complete two Residence Units. Information about RUs can be found here, and information about tuition and fees can be found here. If enrolled in one RU (full-time status), students may take up to 18 credits per semester.

OTHER

See here for information on maintaining good academic standing.