The study of history is at the core of a liberal arts education. History teaches us how to draw meaning from scattered yet still lingering traces of peoples’ lives and environments, to apprehend change over time and to account for the variety of the human experience. To understand the present, we have to study the past because the problems, conflicts, and questions that previous generations confronted are now ours; they inhabit the world we have inherited.

Why study history at Sewanee?

History involves critical thinking and increased empathy for the human condition. History cultivates an appreciation of complexity and contingency (understanding the world not just for what it became, but also for the multiple possibilities inherent in each historical setting), and the insight that can only be won by thinking over broad timescales. Students of history at Sewanee acquire a skillset of finely honed analytical and rhetorical tools by learning how to read and pose analytical and historiographical questions of diverse and wide-ranging materials, both secondary and primary, and how to write argumentative histories of their own that are supported by a firm evidentiary backing.


Sewanee graduates secure positions in a variety of fields. Some you would expect, others are a bit of a surprise. Sewanee prepares you for your profession and your passion. Below is a sampling of recent graduates' first jobs.

  • Analyst, Merrill Lynch, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • History teacher, Arete Preparatory Academy, Gilbert, Arizona.
  • Law clerk, Wakefield and Associates, Denver, Colorado.
  • Legislative intern, U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • Arts & humanities presenter, Discovery Children's Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Marketing and promotions assistant, Duke University Athletic Department,  Durham, North Carolina.
  • Media consultant, Meltwater, Inc. Washington, D.C.

Sewanee graduates enjoy extraordinary acceptance rates to top graduate and pre-professional programs–about 95 percent to law school and over 85 percent to medical school. Below is a sampling of where Sewanee grads continue their education.

  • M.S. in environmental policy, University of Cambridge.
  • M.S. in commerce & marketing, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia.
  • M.D., Trinity School of Medicine
  • J.D. ,Tulane University Law School
  • J.D., Washington University School of Law

Domain Discoveries

A Sewanee history professor reads the landscape of the South Cumberland Plateau and finds its human history written—in the soil, on the rocks, and under the trees—just clearly enough to be legible.

If he’s not in the classroom, in the University Archives, or at home, it’s likely that History Professor John Willis is in the woods. That’s where, for the last several years, he has spent countless hours, hiking trails and bushwhacking off-trail, in summer heat and winter ice, to research an environmental and social history of the South Cumberland Plateau. Unlike many historians, Willis conducts much of his research outside, with his eyes and his feet, trekking to seldom-visited tracts on and off the Domain to search for evidence of long-forgotten human activity. Willis reads the landscape like a ship’s captain reads the sea, like a rabbinical scholar reads the Torah—scanning for subtle variations in vegetation and telltale signs in the dirt. All that sweat and squinting has paid off with one discovery after another, giving the lie to the notion that these forests are largely untouched by human hands.

Here, Willis offers his take on five sites along Sewanee’s Perimeter Trail that you, too, can find, if you just look hard enough.

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A Sampling of Courses


Programs of Study & Related Programs

Requirements for the Major & Minor in History

Requirements for the Major in American Studies | Website

Meet some professors


Kelly J. Whitmer
Associate Professor of History

Walsh-Ellett Hall 302, Ext. 1723

News & Events

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