Like many liberal arts majors at Bryant, when I say that my major is History, I am often met with confusion and surprise. People ask: “You can major in history?” and “Why did you go to Bryant?” To that I answer “Yes” and “Lots of reasons.”
Unlike many students, when I came to Bryant as a freshman I had already picked out my major. I already knew I wanted to major in history as I liked learning about cultures, places, and events in different times. But instead of choosing a college famous for its liberal arts, I decided I wanted a business education as well. My reasoning was that many liberal arts students get stuck in the theoretical realm without seeing how to apply it practically. Since Bryant University emphasizes both a business and liberal arts education, it made sense to choose this university for my higher education. Still, without knowing much about the history program at Bryant I felt understandably nervous. In the end, it worked out much better than I could have ever expected.
For a school that still has a strong business culture and relatively young liberal arts programs, Bryant does a great job of covering a wide variety of topics. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how in-depth many of my courses turned out to be. Even though I took three different courses covering U.S. history, I ended up learning very different details and focusing on different problems facing the United States. For example: In Professor Joseph’s course, I learned that the U.S. has sometimes conducted foreign policy based on faulty assumptions and strong lobbying interests. Whereas Professor Litoff’s class explained that the international community views the U.S.’s place in the world both positively and negatively, often at the same time.
Above and beyond U.S. History, I discovered different worlds in the History to 1500 course and in Japanese and Russian History. In these classes, I did not just learn information; I learned how to explain what I learned. Unlike what many people think, history is far from static. New information is discovered all the time and historians have to constantly revise their historical narratives to fit the evidence. Often, historians come up with very different points of view on history and you have to decide which arguments you believe. Unlike high school history, Bryant University ultimately teaches you to think for yourself. Add to this historical knowledge a range of business courses focused on the practical and I found out I learned far more than I expected about the world and how it operates.
I will not lie, History is not an easy major at Bryant and, as with any major you will sometimes question exactly why you need to take such a course when it does not seem to line up with your interests. However, what I got out of the Bryant experience was a base of knowledge and set of skills that I find useful in any profession I want to go into. It is for this reason that I find it unfortunate how many people look at history classes as a chore. If someone sits down, reads the material, and takes the time to think about it, they would learn just how many assumptions that we hold onto that do not match up with the evidence. This kind of analytical thinking should apply to any class. Nevertheless, the historical approach to thinking is not something I would ever consider disposable, and so I do not question why I go to Bryant University for History.