The History program at St. Mary’s helps students hone critical thinking, reading, writing and analytical skills that prepare them for success in many fields. Equipped with a broad perspective of the human experience, History majors go on to pursue careers in law, medicine, military, politics, education, journalism, international relations and business.
Students can pursue one of the following program options:
Descriptions of Program Options
Option 1: History Thesis Program
Students selecting this option are required to complete a History thesis for which a tripartite series of courses has been designed to teach and hone the skills necessary for excellence in undergraduate research in history. The History thesis constitutes the heart of this undergraduate program, as it requires students to apply the knowledge and skills acquired at St. Mary’s. The History thesis permits students to demonstrate proficiency in the fundamental skills of the historian: research, writing, interpretation and critical thinking.
Students enroll in the History thesis course in the final semester of their senior year to revise their manuscripts extensively and professionalize their candidacies for employment and graduate programs.
Option 2: History (Public History)
Students selecting this option take an introductory course in Public History and a practicum/internship in a Public History setting. Public history refers to how history is presented and interpreted in non-academic environments. It involves not only the historical content but also the approaches, tools and strategies for presentation that enhance the general public awareness of the past and its connection to the present.
The contributions of public history may be seen at the national, state, county and local level through historical associations, heritage tourism, museums, public access archives, and online digitized historical information, historic preservation, commissioned histories for historic sites, foundations, corporations, and public agencies of many kinds. Public historians develop collaborative relationships among historians, community leaders, activists, and those interested in preservation of heritage for practical or commercial purposes. Through making explicit links between the past and the present, applied history activities enhance tourism, economic development, and a general sense of community, which is inspired by knowledge of a shared past.
Option 3: Teacher Certification Program
Students in this program are not required to take the final courses devoted to the senior thesis. History students should speak with the chair of the Department of History or the chair of the Department of Teacher Education about the general requirements for a major in History with Teacher Certification. Specific questions and concerns about the Teacher Education program should be directed to the Department of Teacher Education.
All history classes have a component of research, composition, synthesis and presentation to develop critical, creative and writing skills. Each year the Department of History sends senior students to present their theses at national scholarly research conferences. Students also have the opportunity to share their research with the St. Mary’s and the San Antonio community at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium and Creative Activities Exhibition, held on the St. Mary’s campus.
Phi Alpha Theta
Phi Alpha Theta is a national history honor society for undergraduate and graduate students and professors of history. The organization promotes the study of history through engagement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. Students and teachers come together for intellectual and social exchanges, promoting and assisting historical research and publication by members in a variety of ways.
Endowed in 1982 by the Thomas O’Connor family of Victory City, Texas, the O’Connor Chair in the History of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest hosts a visiting research professor at St. Mary’s University. During his or her tenure, the O’Connor Professor teaches one course per semester, conducts research, writes and offers periodic lectures to the University and surrounding community.
Besides contributing to scholarly knowledge on the history of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest, O’Connor Chair occupants also provide St. Mary’s students, especially history majors, the opportunity to interact with an active research historian working on a specific ongoing project. This is of particular value for students writing Senior Theses and those interested in pursuing graduate studies in history. Contact Teresa Van Hoy, Ph.D., O’Connor Chair or call 210-436-3704 for more information.
O’Connor Chair Research
Under the auspices of the O’Connor Chair for the History of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest, Teresa Van Hoy has spent the last two years investigating the history of latinos’ contributions to “Cinco de Mayo.” That is, what did latinos contribute to defense of the republican cause in Mexico against foreign expansionists and domestic imperialists? This third and final year of her tenure as O’Connor Chair is devoted to completing the manuscript titled, Cinco de Mayo and Civil War in the Borderlands, and to sharing the findings.
Her project began as an analysis of Mexican-Americans’ role in defending Mexico and the borderlands from the French Intervention in the 1860s. What did those U.S. residents of Mexican origin contribute to thwarting the ambitions of Emperors Napoleon III and Maximilian I in Mexico? The project was timed to coincide with the sesquicentennial of this struggle—from Cinco de Mayo 1862 through the Restoration of the Republic in 1867.
Twin historical realities became clear as Dr. Van Hoy shifted the story of Cinco de Mayo to focus on Mexican-Americans’ experience of it. The first is that the French Intervention was only the latest stage in an older and ongoing latino defense of the borderlands from foreign expansionists. Second, as evident in Pico’s call-to-arms quoted above, the Civil War and French Intervention were inextricably linked, particularly in the borderlands, where Confederates and Imperialists collaborated most heavily. Mexican-Americans not only fought both enemies during the French Intervention and Civil War, but they had been defending Mexico against these protagonists for 15 years, indeed longer. For example, Saligny, Napoleon’s diplomatic representative to Mexico in 1862, had formerly been France’s representative to the Texas Republic, where in 1841 he promoted the Franco-Texienne bill proposing to colonize three million acres of land still claimed by Mexico. Tejanos had not forgotten.
The book treats the French Intervention within this “longue-durée” of Mexican-Americans’ defense against French and U.S. expansionists in the borderlands. Colorful characters emerge as self-proclaimed “defensores de la frontera:” latino Union troops, Vidalistas, Cortinistas, Carvajal’s Fieles de Tamaulipas, Juntas Patrióticas, and the California Native Battalion of Californios for which Pico was raising Union troops at his own expense and well before the U.S. War Department sent approval.
To share her findings and related borderlands history with the public, Dr. Van Hoy has launched a public history initiative called, “Sankofa.” Among the outreach projects under the Sankofa “umbrella” are MobileMurals and a Ruta de Cinco de Mayo historical map application. For the MobileMural projects, student filmmakers at St. Mary’s University have produced short films on borderlands history and screened them outdoors in public venues—an initiative they describe as “moving history to the Streets and Squares.” For sample films, please visit Van Hoy’s supplementary website: sankofahistory.com. The “Ruta de Cinco de Mayo” historical mapping project is currently under development. The finished application will permit anyone interested in Cinco de Mayo and the French Intervention in Mexico to trace the global links of the protagonists of this history. The focus is on Texas and California, Mexico, and France, but the “Ruta de Cinco de Mayo” will eventually expand to include other key players in this history of the 1860s—notably Chile, Cuba, Spain, England, and Egypt. Special thanks to MIT’s MISTI office for early commitment of the technological support required for the software design of the “Ruta de Cinco de Mayo” map.
Dr. Van Hoy issues an open call for family papers or other documents relevant to the history of latinos in the borderlands. As part of an ongoing inquiry, she hopes to collect more sources both to test the conclusions of Cinco de Mayo and Civil War in the Borderlands and to extend its analysis.