FAQs for Undergraduate Students

For all students taking History courses this Fall 2020:

What can I expect from my History courses this Fall?

You can expect the same robust education that our Department is already known for across campus. Rest assured that we’ve already started planning for a remote semester and we’re looking forward to your return this Fall. Our faculty is undergoing training in online pedagogy, we’re brushing up on our technical skills, and we’re devoting countless hours to adapting our courses for a variety of online formats. We’re also promoting several teaching innovations which range from experiential learning in our classes, to three-hour seminars divided into different formats or shorter sessions. In addition, several courses will adopt a tutorial model this Fall. Those courses will feature smaller precepts, close work with primary sources, and more opportunities to work with instructors on your writing.

The tutorial model sounds really interesting. Tell me more?

Several of our classes this Fall will include tutorials, inspired by the famous Oxford-Cambridge system. Expect to have a much smaller precept size, a strong emphasis on improving your analytical and writing skills, and a closer than usual interaction with our world-class faculty. Three classes that will be run this way are Prof. Grafton’s HIS 211, Prof. Mintzker’s HIS 282, and Prof. Bell’s HIS 449. For a complete list of courses that are being run tutorial-style, please contact Judie Miller at jlmiller@princeton.edu. Feel free to contact any of these professors for more details.

How do I contact the Department if I have questions?

Judie Miller, our Undergraduate Program Administrator, is always glad to answer your questions. You can contact her by email at jlmiller@princeton.edu or by phone at 609-258-6725. She’s also glad to set up a Zoom meeting with you. 

Prof. Janet Chen, Director of Undergraduate Studies, will have virtual office hours this summer. In the Fall, she will hold in-person office hours (subject to University guidelines), as well as via Zoom. Her WASE calendar will be available for appointments.

What if a course I am interested in taking is full and closed to enrollment?

Course enrollments fluctuate throughout the registration and add/drop periods, so there may be opportunities to get into a course that appears to be over-subscribed. It is easy to add your name to the waitlist (click on “Waitlist Request Form,” at the bottom of the Course Details page). For classes that do not have this feature, contact the instructor directly.

How do I attend office hours for faculty?

We are all setting aside blocks of time to meet with students, just like we always do. You can schedule a meeting on our WASE calendars and we’ll send you a Zoom invite.

How do I access books and other materials?

Most course materials will be available electronically—either as e-books from Firestone or book chapters and articles that have been digitized and uploaded to Blackboard. Some materials may also be purchased from Labyrinth and mailed to you.

The library can digitize materials and email them to you.

For additional assistance, please contact our History librarians:

For international students:

The Department of Homeland Security as of July 14 has rescinded their recent order to deny F1 visas to students enrolled in online-only degree courses. We are grateful for everyone’s work in preparation for the tremendous disruption this injustice would have caused to our educational mission, and are relieved that it is no longer in consideration.

"We welcome the federal government’s agreement to rescind its announcement of July 6 regarding international students enrolled at universities across the country, including Princeton. We recognize the anxiety and pain this has caused across our community, and we will remain vigilant for any further policy developments that might impact our international students, faculty, or staff. Princeton will continue to stand with and advocate for our international community, whose members are crucial to the mission and quality of this University and, indeed, to the vitality and creativity of our country." Read full statement by President Eisgruber on the rescinded ICE announcement.

For our junior & senior concentrators:

What is the History Department’s Grading Policy?

For the 2020-21 academic year, the History Department has reverted to its normal grading policy. In order to receive credit as a History departmental, a course must be taken for a letter grade. PDF grades for HIS courses will not be counted toward your required departmentals or distribution requirements.  If individual circumstances warrant an exception, we will consider those requests on a case-by-case basis. (Please contact Professor Chen with any questions.)

Courses taken PDF during the Spring of 2020 may count toward departmental requirements.

How will I do archival research if archives are closed?

Great question. Fortunately, many amazing archival collections around the world have been digitized, and your advisors and librarians can help guide you to those. As it happens, Firestone has one of the most robust collections of online databases in the world. We are confident that you and your thesis adviser will be able to locate sources for your project that you can access from wherever you are. If you are interested in sources that have not been digitized but a library or archives will digitize them for a fee, we’ll also try to support that. Details about funding opportunities and instructions on how to apply will be forthcoming.

How will I get the secondary sources I need for my independent work?

The University may be able to purchase electronic books if the library doesn’t already own an electronic version. (Please have your advisor contact the History librarians on your behalf.) If an electronic format is not available, you can have part of the book digitized and emailed to you.

Book Digitization:

Your JP or thesis adviser can also help you strategize for difficult-to-find sources.

Won’t there be delays in my research process due to having to do all this electronically?

Quite possibly. The most strategic response to this concern is to start early. With that in mind, we’ll be pairing seniors with advisors much earlier than we normally do. We would encourage all of you who want to seek out an advisor ahead of our assigning one to do that now.  For students who do not already have an advisor, we’ll make assignments in early August. We encourage you to have an initial conversation with your advisor then, and spend some time this summer beginning to narrow your topic and identifying sources. We also love these History JP/senior thesis “survival research guides” –you can think of them as “self-help” manuals for independent work. Take a look:

Finally, we’re holding a townhall for concentrators in late July specifically to talk about independent work. So stay tuned.

Will librarians be available to help me?

Absolutely. Our wonderful librarians are available anytime to help you strategize about your research. Steve Knowlton does US History, and Alain St. Pierre does World History and History of Science. Here are links to their webpages with WASE calendars so you can make an appointment:

Will the History Department have a writing tutor available to help us as in past years?

Yes. Our writing tutor can talk to you about your writing, strategize about outlines, and even go over JP and thesis chapters with you. Abigail Sargent (ams5@princeton.edu) will be available for individual Zoom meetings. (For students in residence, in-person consultations may be possible, subject to University guidelines). She will also coordinate a series of virtual workshops and the History Writing Group. We may not be able to hold writing “boot camps” (with coffee and donuts) as in the past. But we will foster a supportive environment for your independent research and writing through remote channels and tools.

How can I get to know other History concentrators during the pandemic?

Once the semester is underway, we’ll be opening a Zoom Room for concentrators to meet up informally to discuss classes, research, and just to get to know each other. We’re planning to send out a link every week (time to be determined). Don’t worry! We won’t be there — it’s your space.

We also welcome your ideas about other ways to connect with each other—contact Director of Undergraduate Studies Prof. Janet Chen (jychen@princeton.edu) to discuss.