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.  Last May, eleven graduate students presented across three panels:  “Competition and Comparison in Cold War Contexts,” “Imperialism, Neo-Imperialism, and De-Colonization in the 20th Century,” and “Cultural Diplomacy, Civil Rights, and Women’s Activism in the Cold War.”  Koba Kay, John Gove and Michael Campbell won cash prizes for outstanding presentations.

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.

We are also proud to announce that Janie Collins (mentor Professor Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley) received a president's award at the 14th annual Student Research Symposium and also the first-place award for the best graduate student paper in the Humanities & Letters category at the CSU systemwide competition.   Additionally, three of our students: Daniel Cook, Catherine Dzewiecki, and Ryan Garcia, were awarded Master’s Research Scholarships. The award provides $10,000 to support the students’ engagement in research, scholarship, and created activity.  The students were selected based upon their promise and commitment to going on to a Ph.D. following the completion of their degree.

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. Paula DeVos
Phone: (619) 594-4893
Office: AL 534
Email: [email protected]

Meet Some of Our Current Students

S.L. Kay finished her thesis ("Arabia Infelix: Britain, Sharif Hussein and the Lost Opportunities of Anglo-Arab Relations, 1916-1924"), won one of the first Dwight Stanford Graduate Student Conference prizes for her paper and PowerPoint presentation of "The Politicization of the Caliphate in World War I" last spring, and edited Professor Bonnie Harris'  book Philipppinne Sanctuary: A Holocaust Odyssey which was released last month. She expects to graduate this May.

Hannah Friesen is a graduate student studying 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.

Hailee Josefina Menchaca is a first-year Master’s student in the History Department at SDSU. Her research focuses on reproductive justice, body politics, and the juvenile carceral system through the analytical framework of comparative race and gender studies in the mid-twentieth century. Hailee's article "Some Psychological Tips on Handling Women: Mental Health Services During the Second World War” has been accepted for publication in 2021 in the Journal of San Diego History.



Gene Philips is a Master’s candidate at SDSU in the fields of American foreign relations and post-World War II Germany under allied occupation. He specializes in the US-West German alliance and his research project is 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.

John Gove is an MA candidate in the Department of History at San Diego State University. His research focuses 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. He is currently working on his MA thesis, which explores the history of gay rights movements in the San Diego region during the 1960s and 1970s.  In November 2019 he presented, “Activism on the DL: The Gay Liberation Front at San Diego State” at the American Studies Association annual meeting, Honolulu, Hawai’i.  Also in 2019, he was awarded the Jackie Donath Prize by the California American Studies Association.

Alumni Success Stories

Three of our students went on to Ph.D. programs last year, all with some degree of funding.  Aditi Joshi (Mentor: Dr. Penrose) is attending the University of Colorado;  Alexandria Vasquez (Mentor: Dr. Putnam) is attending Syracuse University;  and Stephanie Griswold (Mentor: Dr. Kornfeld) is attending Claremont.  Ian Abby, who earned a Ph.D. at Texas A&M and is now teaching at Prairie View A&M in a permanent position there.

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.

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.

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