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History

The history program at Randolph College teaches students to think critically about how and why change happened in the past so that they can help create a better future.

Why Study History at Randolph?

Experiential Learning

Randolph’s history program emphasizes hands-on learning. Majors learn to conduct original historical research and are encouraged to specialize in geographic regions, time periods, or thematic areas that they find interesting. Recent students have researched topics including the traditional Monacan lands the college sits on and US-China relations during World War II.

Engaging Faculty

Our history faculty are renowned for their innovative teaching. Faculty incorporate captivating novels and memoirs, thought-provoking films and art, expert guest speakers, immersive field trips, and even foreign travel into the curriculum. History students also learn through internships and creative assignments such as designing a Chinatown for the 21st century.

Real Skills, Real Impact

Our history majors develop invaluable skills such as clear and effective communication, meticulous research, innovative problem-solving, and the ability to distill complex ideas and make compelling evidence-based arguments. These transferable skills empower students to become lifelong learners and engaged global citizens.

Career Preparation

A history degree from Randolph College opens doors to a variety of careers. Our esteemed graduates have thrived in fields as diverse as archaeology, public policy, law, foreign intelligence, curatorial and collections management, and education. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees from prestigious graduate and professional schools. Equipped with both hard and soft skills, history majors often rise to leadership positions within whatever industry they pursue.

Program Overview

Faculty employ various approaches to teaching history, incorporating movies, novels, memoirs, guest speakers, field trips, and even foreign travel into the curriculum.

History majors develop analytical and critical-thinking skills and learn to present evidence-based arguments. The practical knowledge and skills gained as a history major are respected in a variety of career paths, as well as professional and graduate schools.

Graduates of the program have gone on to work in a variety of fields, including archaeology, public policy, foreign intelligence, curatorial and collections management, and education.

Studying history is about more than just sitting in a classroom, and in Randolph’s Central Virginia home, it’s everywhere–from national landmarks to Civil War trails and sites to the home of a renowned Harlem Renaissance poet.

Students have the opportunity to expand their knowledge by visiting sites that include Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s retreat home; Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, where Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender ended the Civil War; the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum, where the poet and civil rights activist welcomed such esteemed guests as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall; and the National D-Day Memorial, which honors American D-Day veterans.

History majors are encouraged to specialize within the department, whether it be in a geographic region; a period, such as the 18th or 19th century; or in a thematic area, such as women’s history or social/cultural history.

Why Randolph

Randolph’s history program requires you to dig to the next level of a situation or issue at hand. Often, the first answer isn’t right and/or complete. The history major at Randolph teaches you to not be satisfied with the first answer and to continue searching for the  truth and the most correct answer.

Will Dede '14
Health Policy Associate for Special Needs Plan Alliance

Unique Experiences

Outcomes

Historic Preservation Law

Janie Campbell ’12, history major
Preservation Consultant, law firm of Rogers Lewis Jackson Mann & Quinn, LLC, Columbia, South Carolina

Janie’s group works with developers seeking tax credits for rehabilitating historic properties.

“I work closely with project architects to ensure that historic, character defining elements of each building are preserved and restored, which can vary tremendously as what is significant to a 1929 airplane hangar is vastly different from what makes a 1963 mid-century modern motel unique!”

She writes National Register of Historic Places nominations and Historic Preservation Certification applications, which detail the property’s significance.  She also conducts site visits to ensure work is being completed as described and photographs the before, during, and after conditions of each project.

“Randolph certainly laid the foundation for my research and writing skills. The Summer Research Program, in particular, prepared me for the type of place-based research I do now. “

Opportunities

Top Ranked Professors

Randolph College’s faculty are consistently recognized as among the best in the nation. The Princeton Review ranked the College in the Top 20 for most accessible professors in the 2021 edition of its flagship college guide, The Best 387 Colleges.

Randolph has been ranked in the top 20 for most accessible professors for four consecutive years.

Gerard Sherayko

Professor of History

Read More... Gerard Sherayko

Selda Altan

Assistant Professor of History

Read More... Selda Altan

Connor Kenaston

Assistant Professor of History and Ainsworth Scholar of American Culture

Read More... Connor Kenaston

Julio Rodriguez

Associate Professor of American Culture, Director of the American Culture Program

Read More... Julio Rodriguez

Department News

Bringing the past to life: Professor, students team up to create an oral history of the College

History professor Gerry Sherayko has wanted to conduct an oral history of the College for years. All he needed to make it a reality were the right students.

Read More

Kenaston presents essay at Business History Conference

“The Greatest Story: Commercial Radio and Religion in the American Century" was part of a panel at the 2024 conference in Rhode Island.

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Selda Altan shares research at University of Pittsburgh

Selda Altan, assistant professor of history, spoke at the University of Pittsburgh as part of its Asian Studies Center Modern […]

Read More

Bringing the past to life: Professor, students team up to create an oral history of the College

History professor Gerry Sherayko has wanted to conduct an oral history of the College for years. All he needed to make it a reality were the right students.

Read More

Kenaston presents essay at Business History Conference

“The Greatest Story: Commercial Radio and Religion in the American Century" was part of a panel at the 2024 conference in Rhode Island.

Read More

Selda Altan shares research at University of Pittsburgh

Selda Altan, assistant professor of history, spoke at the University of Pittsburgh as part of its Asian Studies Center Modern […]

Read More
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Department Chair

Gerard Sherayko

Professor of History

Credentials:BA, Widener University
MA, Pennsylvania State University
PhD, Indiana University
Associated Departments:History, Museum and Heritage Studies
Office:Smith 304
Phone:434.947.8521
Email:gsherayko@randolphcollege.edu

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When I applied for a teaching position here many years ago, I had never heard of the college. I knew I wanted to teach at a small school, but I had no idea how much I would fall in love with this campus, its students, and its emphasis on academics. This place is more than a job for me. There is something special here that makes you feel at home. We’re able to do so much more in class because of the college’s small size.

My classes give me the opportunity to help students understand their world and the importance of history. I teach courses on general modern European history, German history, and Russian history as well as seminars such as The Holocaust, Genocide, Propaganda, Women and the Two World Wars, Disasters, and the History of Christmas. I also teach a course entitled Paris and Berlin in the 1920s: A Cultural History. This class, inspired by my own scholarly research on the evolution of a consumer culture in Germany during the 1920s, explores the unprecedented explosion of artistic creativity that emerged from the cafes, cabarets, and studios of Paris and Berlin.

I also teach classes that are cross listed with the museum and heritage studies major. Those classes include Introduction to Public History, which explores, among other issues, the evolution of memorials, monuments, museums, historic sites, and national parks as well as the field of historic preservation. More than any other of my courses, this one is explicitly designed for those who imagine themselves working in the field of history but not necessarily as teachers in a standard classroom. Along with this course, I teach seminars on Race and Memory in American Life and World War II and Memory that delve deeper into specific issues of public history.

Like other professors here, I try to bring my classroom alive for students. You can’t learn everything from just one textbook. Since I love movies, I integrate films into all my classes. I also assign novels, memoirs, and biographies and utilize images to provide a visual context for many of the topics discussed in my courses. I also take full advantage of the historic sites that surround the college, from Thomas Jefferson’s two homes, Monticello and Poplar Forest, to the National D-Day Memorial, the Robert Russa Moton Museum (one of the schools that was part of the Brown vs. Board of Education case that resulted in the desegregation of public schools), and the Monacan Indian Nation Museum.  

I also take students further afield to sites including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Gallery in D.C. and the Virginia Museum History and Culture in Richmond. Nothing can take the place of visiting places where history happened or is presented, and I’m fortunate to be able to take students on many field trips over the course of an academic year.

As the years have passed, I have also brought more and more of my former students into my classes to share their expertise but also to share the stories about their careers and to provide advice to current students about how they too can pursue a career as a park ranger, historic preservationist, professional tour guide, or museum expert, among other careers.

Through our small classes, discussions, and trips, I have gotten to know students better than many of my colleagues at bigger institutions. Over the years my wife and I have attended many alumni weddings (nearly twenty) from Massachusetts to Washington state, from Bath, England to Houston, Texas, to those held on campus. I also enjoy visits from alums who have passed through town, keeping up via Zoom, and even planning our road trips around seeing former students.

Community involvement is important to me. I joined the board of the Holocaust Education Foundation of Central Virginia soon after I arrived in Lynchburg. As a member of the board, I have been able to help bring several guest speakers to Lynchburg to discuss issues surrounding the impact of the Holocaust. I’m also a board member of the Pierce Street Gateway (dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Lynchburg’s Pierce Street, an African American neighborhood with the largest concentration of state historic markers in Virginia) and the Jones Memorial Library (our region’s preeminent archive and genealogy library). I often get to use these commitments to provide opportunities for my students through internships and other experiences.

Besides my interest in history, I have a passion for historic preservation. Inspired by an architectural boat tour of Chicago back in the 1990s, I became involved in historic preservation efforts while a graduate student in Indiana. Starting in 2010, I participated in the College’s Summer Research Program to conduct research on the individual buildings within the Rivermont Avenue Historic District (including Randolph College). Working with six history majors over the years, we gathered information and took photos of the buildings within the Rivermont Avenue Historic District for the FORHS website, www.friendsofrivermont.org I have worked on other Summer Research Projects while at Randolph, including most recently on Virginia’s changing monument (particularly Confederate) landscape.  I hope to continue working with students on Summer Research Program projects, including on the history of our college.

When I’m not teaching, you are most likely to find me traveling. My wife, Carolyn, and I love to visit art museums, buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, presidential sites, movie palaces, lighthouses, and classic diners. We also like to check out weird attractions such as the World’s Largest Bull or the World’s Largest Badger or the two competing World’s Largest Balls of Twine. We’ve even seen the World’s Largest Talking Cow, which rests beside the World’s Largest Replica Cheese in Neillsville, Wisconsin. As always, we hope to hit a few more presidential sites and unique roadside attractions (including the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama) this year.

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Selda Altan

Assistant Professor of History

Credentials:B.A., Bogaziçi University
M.A., Bogaziçi University
Ph.D., New York University

Associated Departments:History, Asian Studies
Office:Smith 302
Phone:4349478522
Email:saltan@randolphcollege.edu

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I am originally from Istanbul, Turkey. I received my undergraduate degree in history and sociology at Bogazici University, Istanbul. As an undergraduate, I attended two summer schools at Tianjin Normal University in China to improve my Chinese. For my master’s degree in history at Bogazici University, I studied at Nanjing University for one year on a Chinese government scholarship. I completed my research in China with an additional semester in Beijing Normal University. When I returned to Turkey, I worked as the assistant to the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at Bogazici University. In 2010, I was admitted to the Ph.D. program in history at New York University. After three years of coursework in New York, I researched in Chinese and French archives. I received my doctorate in 2017 with a dissertation entitled, “Labor and the Politics of Life Along the Yunnan-Indochina Railway, 1898-1911.” Since then, I taught at Swarthmore College and the University of Florida.

I was impressed by Randolph’s commitment to teach Asian history while many liberal arts colleges focus on American and European studies. The global studies program and Chinese language classes convinced me that Randolph is a great institution to pursue my academic goals in training global citizens with sensibilities to the people beyond their borders. During my one-year work at Swarthmore College, I also enjoyed the close contact between students and professors. It was very different from my earlier experience at large research universities where students usually come to college with predetermined academic interests and goals. In a liberal arts college, on the other hand, professors have a larger role in feeding and shaping the curiosity of the students.

The most important component of my classes is participation. I want my students to engage with the material and turn our lectures and readings into usable and functional knowledge. My classes (not seminars) usually begin with a brief lecture on the daily topic and continue with an activity. This can be a close reading and discussion of a primary source (document, original text, video clip, or photo) or a hands-on activity, such as designing an issue of a historical periodical or a poster, solving a puzzle, and role playing activities. I enjoy my classes most when there is noise and movement in the classroom.
Having worked in many different cultural and institutional settings, I can say that student diversity at Randolph is extraordinary. While I am aware that it comes with many challenges in terms of our teaching methods and efficiency, the energy I felt at the convocation ceremony reflects the dynamism and potential of this unique student body. Their boldness is the guarantee of a great learning environment.

I spend my free time with my 4-year-old daughter and my husband. We have a real sweet tooth, so I bake at least three times a week. Shopping at the farmer’s market and cooking fresh vegetables is my favorite activity on Saturdays. Literature is my passion since childhood. Not to lose my Turkish writing ability, I write pieces on Asian literature, culture, and history in my personal blog called Asyatik. I also like puzzles, but I avoid them during the semester because I cannot stop once I start.

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Connor Kenaston

Assistant Professor of History and Ainsworth Scholar of American Culture

Credentials:B.A., Yale University, History
M.A.,University of Virginia, History
Ph.D., University of Virginia History
Associated Departments:American Culture Program, History
Office:Smith 306
Phone:434-947-8381
Email:ckenaston@randolphcollege.edu
Website:https://connorskenaston.com/

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Connor Kenaston is a historian of religion, politics, and culture in the United States. He has published articles on the long civil rights movement, universities and real estate, lynching and women’s ordination in American Methodism, and pedagogy. He is currently working on a book project on the history of religion and radio. In the classroom, Kenaston prioritizes creating an inclusive learning environment where students feel that they belong.

In his spare time, Kenaston enjoys hiking, singing, and playing soccer. In the summer, you’re likely to find him kayaking and swimming in the Greenbrier River near his hometown of Lewisburg, West Virginia.

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Julio Rodriguez

Associate Professor of American Culture, Director of the American Culture Program

Credentials:B.A., East Stroudsburg University
M.A., Bowling Green University
Ph.D., Bowling Green University
Associated Departments:Media and Culture, Sociology, The American Culture Program old 2016, African and African American Studies
Office:Leggett 601
Phone:4349478304
Email:jrodriguez@randolphcollege.edu

News Headlines

Professor Rodriguez has published articles on baseball, basketball, boxing, and the performance of masculinity in sports films.

He is currently working on a book-length project examining the role of neo-conservative foreign policy in action-adventure films released during George W. Bush’s presidency.

In the summers he tirelessly, but fruitlessly, tries to break 80 on the golf course, quitting the game on a regular basis. The winter brings snowboarding and the to-date successful attempt not to break anything. Sports have always been central to his work and leisure. They instruct and inform his personal and professional search for a comprehensive understanding of the male gender.

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