Studying the Past, Leading the Future

Posted: May 17, 2019 11:00:00 AM CDT

Dr. Jeff Wells History Department ChairDr. Jeff Wells is not a new face at the University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of History, but he is moving into a new role. Wells arrived at UNK in 2014 and recently gained the title of department chair. Originally from Joplin, Missouri, he received his bachelor’s degree from Missouri Southern State University, master’s degree from Missouri State University and Ph.D. from Texas Christian University, all in history.

In addition to his duties on campus and in the community, he serves as an associate editor of the Middle West Review, a biannual scholarly journal affiliated with the Midwest History Association and published by the University of Nebraska Press. He also serves on the Board of Governors for the University of Nebraska Center for Great Plains Studies. 

We asked him about his vision for UNK’s history department, online programs and service to students.

What are your goals as the new department chair? How does online education fit into those goals?

“I plan to work with my colleagues to continue to build our public history program. Public history is the application of history outside of academic settings. Most of our students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are aspiring educators or current teachers at the high school level. We will continue to serve them; however, we also have students that currently work in or are interested in careers through museums, historic sites, state and national parks, historic preservation, consulting and more. Our public history program serves them.”

“We remain committed to supporting and growing our online offerings at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Our department does not distinguish between our on-campus and online programs. Many—if not most—of our on-campus students will take an online course at some point during their program. We have students who start an undergraduate or graduate degree on campus and finish online—and vice versa! Online is interwoven with all of our programs.”

Can you give an overview of UNK’s online history program offerings?

“The UNK Department of History offers several programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. At the undergraduate level, distance students pursue either the Bachelor of Arts in History or Bachelor of Science in History–Social Science Comprehensive degrees. Both of these programs provide a strong liberal arts education and require a wide variety of coursework in history and other disciplines. An online minor in history is also available that complements many majors. At the graduate level, the coursework for the Master of Arts in History degree may be completed entirely online. Students may specialize in a number of fields in U.S. history, non-U.S. history or in public history.

What feedback have you heard from online students about their program?

“Most of our online-only undergraduate students are adult learners returning to complete their degree after some time away from college. They recognize the value of the education they pursue and the degree they will receive.”

“Our graduate students are motivated by a variety of situations: teachers looking for additional content-area expertise to teach Advanced Placement or dual-credit courses, military members seeking to widen their breadth of knowledge as they rise in rank and responsibility or prepare for their next career, or place-bound students isolated from a brick-and-mortar graduate school. They all say our program is rigorous. One of the most common comments we receive from our online-only graduate students is they are surprised at how deep of relationships they form with our faculty members and their peers—even if they do not come to campus until graduation day! We encourage our graduate students to become active participants in the profession by presenting at conferences, writing book reviews and pursuing other scholarly activities. They seek advice from our faculty members—and build a connection with their fellow students and UNK alumni—as they pursue their coursework and these activities.”

What is your favorite part of your job?

“Watching students grow and fulfill their goals. I enjoy serving as an academic mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students. I believe in the transformative power of education—particularly higher education. My interactions with prospective students, current students and alumni of our programs continually affirm that belief.”

Request more information about UNK’s online history programs. 

By: Stacey Schwarz

Category: Natural and Social Sciences, eCampus, General

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