Notre Dame history department implements new economic and business history minor
Isabella Volmert | Wednesday, February 10, 2021
The Notre Dame history department is offering a new economic and business history minor with the goal of providing an in-depth study of the history of capitalism, markets, economies, business and more for students interested in this side of history.
Department Chair Dr. Elisabeth Köll said the creation of the minor was inspired by faculty members within the history department who focus their research and teaching on the history of economics and business, spanning subfields, subjects, time periods and geographical locations.
Additionally, Dr. Jake Lundberg, director of undergraduate studies for the history department, said within the field of study, there has been a turn toward the history of capitalism — especially in the U.S. — in recent years. Lundberg also said the student population has expressed increased interest in the subject of economic and business history, including many economic majors and Mendoza College of Business students who do not have the time to complete a whole history major on the traditional four-year track.
“They are interested in the history of their profession and discipline, and the intellectual history of how to think about economic structures, institutions and markets,” Köll said.
The economic and business history minor’s requirements are four elective courses and the completion of a capstone class. The available classes focus on a variety of subjects such as the history of commerce, financial markets, gender in the workforce, labor and more. The capstone class is designed to partly be a research seminar in which students can focus on and produce a project of their own specific interest while working with a faculty member.
Köll emphasized students can cater the minor to their specific interests and said the history department has a variety of educators and resources to support their goals.
In regards to why the minor is valuable, Köll said economics and Mendoza students often learn very valuable content in their major-specific classes, but not the rich historical context history classes can provide, especially outside of the context of the U.S.
Such context includes a variety of temporal and geographical histories, such as the history of the role of women in the U.S. economy or different economic approaches to modern India, Köll said. She herself teaches a course on the history of the stock market.
“We are not pretending to be economists; we are historians,” she said. “But we bring something to the table in terms of being able to look more deeply into the political, social and economic conditions that lead to certain developments.”
Finance major and Notre Dame senior Jason Kidwell also praised the importance of historical contextual knowledge for students interested in economics and business.
“Mendoza is great in terms of teaching kids the technical stuff and about market theory and in the job market field, but they don’t necessarily contextualize a lot of things,” he explained. “If you don’t have an understanding of market history or investor behavior and stuff like that, you are basically running around without a flashlight.”
Kidwell officially confirmed his enrollment in the economic and business history minor on Tuesday. He has taken a number of classes with Köll concerning the field. He is currently taking a class on the development of the economy in China, capitalism, and how China fits into the globalized world economy with Köll.
“That’s a rockstar class to be in,” he said.
In addition to finance and economics students, Köll and Lundberg stressed any major is welcome to pick up the minor, as it would be beneficial to all Notre Dame students.
“No matter what your major is — engineering, English, accounting — to see the economy in any country, in any chronological context, and in a broader perspective and to analyze it in that context is a very valuable skill and intellectual challenge that is interesting and useful to learn no matter what you do after in your job,” Köll said.
Additionally, the minor teaches students how to think critically, to analyze and interpret challenging situations and to identify arguments — all based on limited information.
For example, Köll often encourages her students to think about arguments and situations as if they were an analyst working for a firm or a consultant who suddenly has to deal with something they are not at all familiar with.
“We teach exactly the skills you need in any professional environment,” Köll said.
Kidwell said he is very grateful for the role the history department, and especially Köll, has played in his education, and hopes that more Mendoza students will join the minor in years to come.
The life skills the minor provides, Lundberg said, will give students an edge after they graduate.
“I think that for Notre Dame students planning on entering careers in the business world, this kind of historical grounding and historical way of thinking about what they’re doing will be really useful for them within their jobs, but also as citizens going out into the world,” Lundberg said.