A group of History majors launched a new student-run organization on campus to expand access to the History Department for students regardless of their major.
This fall, the History Undergraduate Advisory Board launched the new History Student Society, which, unlike HUAB, is open all Penn students, regardless of major or school.
“Before History Student Society existed, there was just the History Undergraduate [Advisory] Board,” said College junior William Weiss, who is a History major and an HSS board member. “The undergraduate advisory board was rather nuclear, given that you had to apply to be on it, and that may have dissuaded a lot of people. With the History Student Society, anyone can join.”
HUAB acts as a liaison between undergraduate students and the History Department. Although HUAB is well-established largely because of its affiliation with the department, it was exclusive to History majors and did not have high attendance at its events, said HSS co-chair Archana Upadhyay, a College junior studying history.
Through HSS, the History Department has a new line of communication with the Penn community.
“We thought we would do a history club that is more open to people but also has a wider range of events, more casual and social, that kind of thing,” said Upadhyay.
As an extension of the undergraduate advisory board, HSS has two goals: to strengthen relationships between history students and faculty and to foster a greater interest in history overall on campus. HSS also hopes to bring a historical lens to current issues by hosting events with other student groups.
“For a lot of people, their only interaction with the history department is the survey course they take as a requirement,” said College senior Jillian Grimsley, a History major and the society’s other co-chair. “So we try to pick topics that are interesting to a wide variety of people so we can introduce them to our professors, our department, and show them what history has to offer.”
This October before the midterm elections, HSS collaborated with Penn’s chapter of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan, a national Chicano student group, to discuss the history of Latinx voting rights and voter suppression.
“It was a really fun, cool way to combine our interests,” said Upadhyay.
HSS plans to host a variety of events such as department lunches, lectures, alumni panels, and social events. So far this year, the group has taken a trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary and has had multiple mini-lectures from Penn professors, each covering a different historical topic.
“You learn so much from other people,” said Upadhyay. “When you find other people with the same passions as you, you’re much more likely to stay in it and put all of yourself into it. I think it’s something that can help the department and can help the community overall.”