HIST 489: Senior Seminar

HIST 489: Senior Seminar

Welcome to HIST 489, taught by Professor Tom Isern. This is the Senior Seminar required of all History majors at NDSU. It is the History Department's designated capstone course for the major. The subject of our Fall 2014 seminar is the Dakota War in Dakota Territory, 1862-65. Our research will contribute to the work of the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, which has charged NDSU with defining the 1862 Fort Abercrombie battlefield for purposes of preservation; defining the site of the Battle of Killdeer Mountain and making recommendations for its preservation; as well as conducting a general battlefield survey and historical reinterpretation of this pivotal conflict on the northern plains. We view this conflict as a war between sovereign nations and as one with international dynamics.

We take as our motto the famous aphorism of Leopold von Ranke, "wie es eigentlich gewesen." It is our task to determine what really happened on the ground. We must not presume, however, that either Ranke's aphorism or the task we undertake is simple. We will conduct imaginative research to uncover new documents; engage in the critical reading of sources; synthesize historical knowledge with archeological investigations and military science; and reflect upon the nature of historical memory. Most of all, rather than merely completing a classroom exercise, we will make a palpable contribution to historical knowledge.

Prof. Isern takes seriously the motto that runs across the NDSU home page: "Student-Focused Land-Grant Research University." Here's how it pertains to HIST 489.

- This should be the most student-focused course you ever took. In a seminar, the professor does not generate the knowledge; you do. This requires both individual initiative and team effort, with the prof serving as organizer and leader. The seminar operates with a lot of small-group discussions and individual consultations.
- A characteristic of the land-grant universities founded under the Morrill Act of 1862 is that they engage in public service and apply knowledge to meet public needs. This seminar answers a public need, under direct charge from the Naqtional Park Service, to define and document battle sites of the Dakota War.
Research University
- The Senior Seminar makes History, and it makes historians. Students in the seminar engage in original research that makes a contribution to knowledge. More specifically, the product of the seminar is applied research, inquiry conducted for a specific purpose. This is what a research university does. It generates knowledge, and it trains research scholars. In the Senior Seminar, you are no longer a History student. You are a historian.
Central Desktop is the online headquarters of the seminar. Within Central Desktop is a workspace for the Senior Seminar. You have to be subscribed to this online workspace to get in. Here students in the seminar find comprehensive guidelines for completion of the course. When you get an invitation from Prof. Isern to join the workspace in Central Desktop, come on it!

Tom Isern, Professor of History
University Distinguished Professor

Bulletin description:Capstone experience focused on understanding major concepts and applying knowledge of basic methods and problems. Students evaluate secondary literature, conduct primary research, and master standard forms of historical writing.
Accommodations for persons with disabilities:Any students with disabilities who need accommodations in this course are encouraged to speak with Professor Isern as soon as possible to make appropriate arrangements.
History major:Required of all History majors at NDSU

Tom Isern / NDSU History Department