University Senate †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Proposed: Sept. 21, 2007
TO ESTABLISH A MASTER OF ARTS PROGRAM
IN ORAL HISTORY
WHEREAS††††† Columbiaís Oral History Research Office is the largest organized university-based oral history program open to the public in the world, with nearly 8,000 taped memoirs and nearly a million pages of transcripts, and
WHEREAS †††† the Oral History Research Office attracts scholars from around the world, and
WHEREAS †††† the Oral History Research Office can serve as a foundation within the University for preparation in the methodology of oral history of practitioners in a wide range of professions in the arts, humanities, and social sciences; and
WHEREAS††††† the program has the support of the Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and the Education Committee of the University Senate has reviewed and recommends this programís approval;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED†††††† that the Senate establish the MA program in Oral History, with the proviso that the Education Committee will review the program in five years, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED††††††††††† that the Senate forward this resolution to the Trustees for appropriate action.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Committee on Education
Oral history is an emerging field that centers on the documentation and interpretation of historical and sociological phenomena from the perspective of first-person interviews. As a genre, oral history is defined by its attention to the ways in which social, political and cultural change is measured over time, through interviews that focus on self-understanding in relation to larger social and political dynamics as well as the phenomena of individual and collective memory.† Interviews are read and interpreted in relation to each other, as well as against other primary and secondary sources.
Oral history is also a writing genre that is defined by the dialogic nature of the interview encounter, the temporal nature of the interview narrative, and the interpretation of the form and subject matter of the interview narrative. †Oral history as a field bridges the social sciences and the humanities in a common examination of how individual memory, and the construction of narrative, impinges on historical and sociological research and writing.
The purpose of the Masters of Arts in Oral History is two-fold: 1) to teach the theory and methods of oral history as an interdisciplinary means of the production and analysis of sources, and the interpretation of research contained in those stories in aural, visual and written form; and 2) to teach the professional standards and methods of oral history documentation and research in order to prepare students to conduct intellectually and professionally sound
interviews, create files for deposit in traditional and online archives, maintain ethical standards in research and interviewing and prepare multi-media documentary productions based on life history narratives.
The student body is expected to consist of: 1) students and scholars in disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, history, and literature who seek to use oral history fieldwork and theory in their research, 2) professionals and recent graduates in fields such as human rights, journalism, social work, and healthcare, whose work involves interviewing and fieldwork and who seek to incorporate oral history methods and theory into their professional work, and 3) professionals and recent graduates in library science and archives who wish to work and/or teach in an oral history program, who would have an M.L.S. or a degree in Museum Studies. Examples of degrees that students and scholars might hold include masters in anthropology, sociology, history, public history, writing and journalism.
The degree program will require that students successfully complete a minimum of 30 credits of graduate coursework, including a masterís thesis.† Five required courses and three or four electives will be required for the degree.† The required courses are method and theory, fieldwork and documentation, analysis of narratives, a workshop series, and a masterís thesis.† Elective courses can be taken in theory and practice of oral history and its applications and/or in the studentís subject area of interest.
Career options for graduates of the program are varied.† Academics in history and other fields will be able to use the oral history training to improve their job prospects, as many academic institutions are incorporating oral history into their existing curriculums.† OHMA graduates will make an ideal pool of professionals ready to work in existing oral history archives, research offices, and institutions.† Journalists, human rights and humanitarian workers, and other documentarians will be able to apply the training in oral history directly to their area of work.† Those working or interested in the field of criminal justice, especially those who compile life histories in preparation for legal appeals, would find this program of great use.