Suffragettes at marches from various time frames

Graduate Program

Why Choose Our Program?

The Graduate Program in History at SDSU offers numerous opportunities to showcase graduate research. Our students present scholarly papers and carry out archival research at the local, national and international levels, many times winning awards and funding support.  Faculty work closely with students in preparing them for visits to archives and their papers and practice presenting.  Please view recent completed theses in History housed in the library.

Each spring a number of our students present at SDSU's Student Research Symposium (SRS), often winning awards and cash prizes. In addition to the SRS, the department has also begun sponsoring an annual Dwight E. Stanford Graduate Student History Conference. Our students are also often recipients of Master’s Research Scholarships. The award provides $10,000 to support the students’ research, scholarship, and creative activity.  The students were selected based on their promise and commitment to going on to a Ph.D. following their degree. 

Our students also work in archives locally, throughout the country, and internationally.  Recently, students have consulted holdings at SDSU’s Special Collections, the San Diego History Center, San Diego’s Lambda Archive, the Nixon Library, the University of the Pacific, Smith College, Mexico’s National Archive, and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Many have won competitive travel grants for out-of-town research.

Students interested in military history and the relationships between war and society may be interested in applying to our MA program with a concentration in War and Society Studies. The concentration examines the causes, conduct, and costs of war from a historical perspective thus enabling critical public policymaking and informed citizenship. Offered in conjunction with the Center for War and Society (CWS), the concentration brings together scholars, students, and faculty members to support advanced research, teaching, and public engagement in vital historical questions on war as a human phenomenon. For more information, see the center's page for the concentration.

Students with interest in public should also consider enrolling in the Graduate Certificate in Public History.  The certificate is offered through the Center for Public and Oral History.  This is a 12-credit certificate that allows students to engage with critical analysis of public history practices, including oral history, digital history, historic preservation, archival practice, museum studies, public interpretation, and non-profit management.

Degree Learning Objectives

DLO 1 Historical Methodology/Historiography: Students will identify foundational approaches to the study of the past, how and why scholars have developed those interpretations, and how they have changed over time.

  • To be assessed via the final historiographical essays written in History 601.

DLO 2 Primary Source Research: Students will interrogate primary and secondary sources within their historical contexts using appropriate methods and use them to formulate an original historical argument.

  • To be assessed via the final primary-source based essays written for History 665.

DLO 3 Diversity/Breadth: Students will situate their work within a relevant interdisciplinary or transregional perspective on the dynamics of historical change that recognizes diverse cultures, languages, socio-economic layers and groups, including racial and ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups.

  • To be assessed by student paper submission from a graduate class.

DLO 4 Preparation for Career Pathways: History M.A. Students will demonstrate needed skills and knowledge to enter a history Ph.D. program, teach history at the K-12 or community college level, work as a public historian, work in government research and policy making, or pursue other careers in which historical perspectives and interpretations are assets.

  • To be assessed through an exit survey administered when M.A. students advance to candidacy, in which students would provide feedback on how well and in what ways the program has supported them in developing the skills needed to pursue their chosen career.

Alumni Placements

Alumni from our program have been accepted into law school and Ph.D. programs, often with substantial funding packages, at some of the most prestigious universities in and outside of the country.  These include:

  • UC - San Diego
  • UC -Los Angeles
  • UC - Irvine
  • University of Michigan
  • Yale University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Melbourne

Other alumni have gone on to careers in teaching at schools throughout California and around the country at the following institutions, among others:

  • San Diego State University
  • CSU-San Marcos
  • UC-San Diego
  • Grossmont College
  • Southwestern College
  • Cuyamaca College
  • Palomar College
  • Mesa College

They have also found employment throughout the country at such places as:

  • Texas Christian University (TX)
  • University of Miami (FL)
  • Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
  • Georgia Gwinnett College (GA)
  • Asuntuck Community College (CT)
  • Bellevue University (NE) 

Alumni have also pursued careers in public history, finding employment at such institutions as:

  • Children’s Museum of San Diego
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • San Diego History Center
  • San Diego Old Town Historic Park
  • Nebraska State Historical Society
  • William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library

Employment Opportunities

The History Department typically employs 20-25 graduate students per semester to assist professors with grading responsibilities and serve as teaching assistants.  This year we have also employed students as Graduate Assistants to professors working on various research projects.  Learn more about scholarships and financial support for our graduate students.

Apply to Our Program

Important Links


“It was at SDSU I learned how to be a good student, balancing class assignments and outside work. The seminar classes were especially important because I learned how to get the most out of monographs and apply historiographical trends. Particularly important were the high standards of all my professors. Their high expectations and encouragement helped me go into a Ph.D. program knowing that if I worked hard enough, I would succeed.”


Dr. Annika Frieberg
Office: AL 576
Email: [email protected]

Alumni Success Stories

I grew up in San Diego, with the exception of some years spent overseas. SDSU was always part of my childhood and I was certain I wanted to go there. I have always been interested in maritime history in general, and in pirates in particular. Even when I earned my B.S. in Criminal Justice I took enough history classes for a minor, which also allowed me to pursue an MA in history at SDSU. After taking a year off to teach English in South Korea, I started my PhD studies and received my doctorate from Texas A&M. Since history is not just dates and events, but ways of life, I have broadened my experience by sailing in replicas of sixteenth-century ships and cooking dishes from different historical eras. I currently reside with an outrageously spoiled cat in Cypress, TX.

Ian Abbey

Meet alumni Jeffrey Brown, who just received his Ph.D. from the University of South Florida (Dissertation: “A Tall Ship: The Rise of the International Mercantile Marine”).

Jeffrey is completing his last semester of teaching at the University of South Florida, where he has been taking graduate classes for the last four years. Previously, he attended San Diego State where he earned his M.A. in History. He moved to California in 2008 from my native Florida to be closer to family. Jeffrey is a native of Polk County, Florida where he was a high school teacher for four years. He is a reenactor of various periods (Spanish Colonial, Second Seminole War and American Civil War - both sides) miniatures wargamer and long-term nautical historian.

His current plans are to find work in public history, preferably at a museum, historic location or government institution. He is especially interested in nautical history, including museum ships. As a backup, he is renewing his teaching certificate to teach high school, which would allow him free time to write books on history for the general public.

This is what Jeffrey had to say about our program:

My experience at San Diego State University was critical to my success at the University of South Florida. It was a SDSU I learned how to be a good student, balancing class assignments and outside work. The seminar classes were especially important because I learned how to get the most out of monographs and apply historiographical trends. Particularly important were the high standards of all my professors. Their high expectations and encouragement helped me go into the USF program knowing that if i worked hard enough, I would succeed.

Jeffrey Brown
Dissertation Defense Committee, from left to right; (1) Christian Wells, Professor Anthropology, Outside Reader and Defense Chair, (2) Julia Irwin, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, History Committee Chair, (3) Jeffrey, (4) K. Stephen Prince, Associate Professor, History, (5) John Belohlavek, Professor History, and (6) Graydon "Jack” Tunstall, Senior Lecturer, History (Ret.) Executive Director Phi Alpha Theta (Ret.). Stephanie Griswold

Congratulations to Taylor Burke, MA 2020 (Ben, Passananti), who has been accepted and will be teaching for Teach For America in San Antonio, Texas for the 2021-2023 school years. Her background in history and passion for diversity education have prepared her well for the role she is going to take on as an educator for Teach For America.

Read more about Taylor.

Taylor Burke


While attending SDSU, Michael conducted research on jazz diplomacy during the Cold War. To complete his thesis (Asselin, Wiese), focusing on Dave Brubeck’s 1958 U.S. State Department tour, Michael drove from San Diego to New York to conduct research in archives along the way. After completing the program, he accepted a position as a Teaching Assistant for UCSD’s Making of the Modern World program.

Hannah Friesen works at SDSU's Student-Athletes Academic Support Services as an academic mentor.  She completed her MA in history.  She studied modern U.S. history, specifically regarding gender and the military during World War II. She is a Southern California native, but she loves to travel. In fact, she has been to thirteen countries so far. She completed her undergraduate degree in history at SDSU as well, but she loved it here so much she decided to return for her Master’s degree. Her undergraduate honors thesis was the first entirely digital undergraduate thesis in the SDSU’s History Department.

Javier Gonzalez-Meeks (MA, 2015) just earned tenure at San Diego Miramar College where he teaches Early World History, Modern World History, and History of the Americas. He also serves as a SDICCA mentor for those aspiring SDSU graduate students seeking mentorship in teaching in the Community College System. Gonzalez-Meeks started at SDSU through Open University and completed his masters thesis, entitled Negotiating Bodies in Late Antiquity: Empress Theodora and al-Khayzuran, under the supervision of Beth Pollard and Matt Kuefler. While at SDSU he was a Teacher Assistant for Beth Pollard’s Early World History survey course and Steven Colston’s (Emeritus) Modern World History survey course. 

Javier Gonzalez-Meeks


John Gove is currently a Ph.D. candidate in history at UCSD.  He completed his MA at San Diego State University. His research focused on LGBTQ+ activism in the United States during the mid-to late 20th century, with emphasis on campus and student groups. Other interests include theoretical and practical conceptions of the archive, as well as the construction of and tensions between history and memory. He has contributed to the digital history project Apartheid Heritages: A Spatial History of South Africa's Townships, and to the exhibit Memory/Identity/Encounter, an exploration of Ukrainian identity currently in development at the Royal Ontario Museum. His MA thesis explored the history of gay rights movements in the San Diego region during the 1960s and 1970s. In 2019, he was awarded the Jackie Donath Prize by the California American Studies Association.

Stephanie Griswold is attending Claremont Graduate University to earn a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. She is pursuing coursework in history, religious studies, and museum and archival studies and serves as a Research Assistant for a course on the 19th-century paranormality in which she leads student groups in completing a professional project digitizing a collection at a library in San Bernardino. She is also president of the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association, helping members develop their CVs and network in the field and putting together professional development and “Meet the Author" web chats for the students.

S.L. Kay completed yjeir M.A. in history at SDSU.  Their thesis was entitled, "Arabia Infelix: Britain, Sharif Hussein and the Lost Opportunities of Anglo-Arab Relations, 1916-1924."  While at SDSU, they won one of the first Dwight Stanford Graduate Student Conference prizes for their paper and presentation of "The Politicization of the Caliphate in World War I."  They also edited Professor Bonnie Harris' book Philipppinne Sanctuary: A Holocaust Odyssey.

Gene Philips recently submitted his M.A. thesis at  SDSU.  He is a teaching associate at UCSD's Making of the Modern World Program. While at SDSU, he was interested in the fields of American foreign relations and post-World War II Germany under allied occupation. He completed a research project about how, in the summer of 1950, the Korean War caused a war scare in West Germany over national reunification by force from a Soviet-back East German invasion.

I graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history from SDSU in 2005. As an undergraduate, I was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Alpha Theta, and Golden Key Honor Societies and won the Richard T. Ruetten Memorial Scholarship. As a graduate student, I studied race in American history during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. I also served as a Teaching Assistant for two semesters. In 2008, I completed my thesis, Racial Fantasies of the Gilded Age: Making Race in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from the Reconstruction South to the Multiethnic West, which is available in the SDSU library.

In 2008 I was hired by Nan McKay & Associates, a local, woman-owned business that is a leader in providing innovative housing solutions and compliance services to the affordable housing industry. NMA helps house low-income families all over the country and helps ensure that finite housing resources get to the people that need them most. As the Manager of Curriculum Development and a Senior Trainer, I work both internally within my organization to edit our wide array of seminars and products and externally with affordable housing providers and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I have become a leading expert in low-income housing program regulations and compliance, and I travel nationwide training and consulting on these topics. I am also in charge of writing and editing NMA’s training materials and products for over 50 different seminars as well as consulting with HUD to create program regulations and guidance that are used by all affordable housing providers nationwide. Without everything I learned in the History Department, I would not be where I am today. My job requires me to be a diligent reader, prolific writer, patient editor, and clear teacher – all of which I learned through my time in the History Department. Writing my thesis taught me how to interpret complex topics and be a thorough and competent writer. Being a TA helped me learn how to present to large groups and break down complex ideas in a way that’s meaningful and understandable. Graduate seminars taught me to read abundantly, dissect information, think critically, and edit other people’s work. I know a lot of people think that a degree in History means that your options are limited to a small number of careers, but it truly teaches you skills that are invaluable for so many professions. Before I started my work in the affordable housing industry, I had no idea that this world existed, but the skills I learned at SDSU opened this world up for me. 

Samantha (Pratter) Sowards


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