An AHA-Mellon Career Diversity Pilot Program

HIA is led by Project Director Professor Adam J. Kosto.  In AY 2016-17 Professor Kosto and Professor Deborah Coen are the Faculty Co-ordinators, and Wenrui Zhao and Lotte Houwink ten Cate serve as Graduate Student Co-ordinators. To contribute to the HIA website, please contact our Social Media Co-ordinators Anisha Padma and  Sally Xing.

History in Action is one of four pilot programs comprising the Career Diversity for Historians Initiative, funded by the American Historical Association and the Mellon Foundation.  HiA hosts workshops and lectures throughout the year, supports a skills-based clinic course, and runs the annual HiA Conference. HiA also provides seed money for student projects through the History in Action Project Awards (HAPA) and places students in professional training experiences with local organizations through History in Action Research Assistantships (HARA).


In March 2013, the History Department at Columbia University delivered a workshop, “History in Action: Historical Thinking in Public Life” (HIA). HIA was an effort to think seriously about the relationship between history and life beyond the university and to propose concrete, incremental initiatives that might better unfold that relationship.The workshop generated further discussion devoted to several topics including the development of partnerships between the History Department and other organizations inside and outside the university with a view toward setting up RAships and infrastructural support for independent projects.In 2014, the American Historical Association (AHA) successfully applied to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a grant to implement expanded career education pilot projects for history PhD candidates at four selected universities (Columbia, Chicago, New Mexico and UCLA) and  to continue, expand, and enhance its “Career Diversity and the History PhD” initiative. Their long-term goal is to establish a new norm: that doctoral graduates in history (and by extension the humanities) know how to pursue a wide spectrum of career opportunities that includes the professoriate, higher education administration, cultural institutions and other nonprofits, government, public education, and the private sector.

Goals Going Forward

At Columbia University’s Department of History, the effort is to think broadly about where history is located and how it is enacted. We want to focus on the skills-training needed for all graduate students within an intellectual paradigm. We see this initiative as relevant to all of our graduate students, regardless of their temporal or geographic specializations, and in full sync with their own understandings of how they think of their scholarship. Under our “History in Action” programming, we will introduce our students to diverse professionals, trainings, and ideas that will not only make them a better historian, but prepare them to be productive members of a wide array of communities in the world.

Previous HIA Co-ordinators:

For AY 2014-15, Professor Pamela H. Smith and Assistant Professor Manan Ahmed were the Faculty Co-ordinators, and Tania Bhattacharyya served as the Graduate Student Co-ordinator.  For AY 2015-16, Professor Karl Jacoby and Associate Professor Rebecca Kobrin were the Faculty Co-ordinators, and Caroline Marris and Jake Purcell served as Graduate Student Co-ordinators.

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