July 16, 2012 — Professor Carrie Beneš will represent New College of Florida among 60 colleges and universities selected nationwide to participate in the American Historical Association’s (AHA) three-year initiative to “tune the history major.” Beneš, who traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the project’s first meeting in June, said the goals are to develop national guidelines to ensure college history students are learning critical skills needed for success in graduate school and the workforce.
“Employers say they’re looking for people who can think critically, write, communicate and analyze different kinds of information,” Beneš said. “As a discipline, we haven’t been very good at articulating that the study of history provides these skills. We also need to help our students be able to communicate these skills in a job interview. For example, New College is good at producing students who can think critically and solve problems because they have to complete a senior thesis to graduate.”
According to Beneš, faculty will be able to apply the guidelines to suit the unique characteristics of the college. “As opposed to my colleagues in large university departments, I’ll be able to implement these guidelines quickly and directly with my students in a very personal way without having to gain approvals.”
During the three-year process, Beneš will work directly with local employers to learn more about the skills they are looking for in a future workforce, and she hopes to contribute more generally to New College’s efforts to explain its mission and the value of a liberal arts education.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity for New College as we continue to refine the procedures and goals of our history program,” she said. “Not only does it make sure that New College’s goals and ideas are represented in a national debate about the value of a classic liberal-arts discipline, but also it may help provide a model by which other disciplines can rethink and articulate their goals for their students and New College.”
Carrie Beneš is an associate professor of history at New College, having joined the faculty in 2004. Her main research interests involve intellectual networks and the construction of history as a means to identity. Her first book, Urban Legends: Italian Civic Identity & the Classical Past, 1250–1350 (2011) explores the use of the classical Roman past as political propaganda in the medieval Italian city-states. Beneš was awarded a Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Rome Prize for 2008-09 at the American Academy in Rome, Italy. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from University of California, Los Angeles, and her bachelor’s degree from Harvard.
The AHA’s approximately 14,000 members include historians in colleges, universities, schools, museums, historical organizations, libraries, archives, business and government, along with independent scholars and nonprofessionals with an abiding interest in history. The AHA “Tuning” project is sponsored by the Lumina Foundation.
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