History Department at Ripon College

Academics | History

History Department

Starting with Introduction to the Study of History and continuing right through the independent historical research they write in their Senior Seminar, Ripon history students move beyond the “timeline” approach to the past. They don’t just learn what happened—they analyze why events occurred, arrive at their own view of events, and discover the implications historical events have for understanding enduring human issues.

The Ripon faculty offers a remarkable variety of courses, examining the complete scope of history and delving into every time frame and every era. History students take full advantage of study-abroad programs, as well as In Focus study and travel (including, in spring 2012, a scholarly excursion to study the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade in the south of France).




Russell Blake

Brian Bockelman

Rebecca Matzke

Barbara McGowan

Diane Mockridge




Ripon College encourages all students to embrace a Four-Year Career Development Plan. This plan is based on the premise that career planning is a development process that involves learning and decision-making over an extended period of time.

First Year

  • Incoming students are assigned a Faculty Mentor based on their interest area(s). Please see the FACULTY tab under your major area;
  • All Freshman are required to enroll in a First-Year Seminar, which is designed as a transition from high school to college learning, providing an interdisciplinary introduction to the liberal arts and the pursuit of in-depth study;
  • Freshman are encouraged to meet the career development staff early on and complete interest and skills inventories, and self-assessment tools; and,
  • Attend the pre-Fall Break “Major Fest” to explore the various major options and career tracks.

Third Year

  • Assume leadership positions in on-campus clubs and organizations;
  • Participate in mock interviews with the Career Development Office;
  • Attend the Wisconsin Foundation of Independent Colleges Job Fair in February and other relevant career fairs;
  • If relevant, begin to research potential graduate school programs and take the appropriate entrance exam(s);
  • Continue to meet regularly with your Faculty Mentor;
  • Continue to build a solid network and a list of work references, and build your resume;
  • Consider off-campus study: Semester and/or alternative Spring Breaks;
  • Continue to job shadow; and,
  • Gain further career experience associated with your education during the academic year and as part of a summer job or internship.

Second Year

  • Get involved with on-campus clubs and organizations, athletic teams and/or intramural sports;
  • Attend the pre-Fall Break “Major Fest” to explore the various major options and career tracks;
  • Declare a major;
  • Meet regularly with your Faculty Mentor or match your interests with a faculty member in your major department. Determine which professors have areas of expertise most similar to your interests. Talk to people in the academic department to find out about faculty research, scholarly, and creative interests;
  • Attend on-campus career workshops;
  • Work with the Career Development Office to create an approved resume;
  • Job shadow people involved in various careers and professions of interest; and,
  • Gain further career experience associated with your education during the academic year and as part of a summer job or internship.

Fourth Year

  • Complete a Senior Capstone/Thesis in your major area(s);
  • Continue to meet regularly with your Faculty Mentor;
  • Perfect your interviewing skills;
  • Expand your existing network of contacts;
  • Finalize your resume and prepare cover letter;
  • Build a credential file in the Career Development Office;
  • Interview with on-campus recruiters;
  • Set-up informational interviews with target companies;
  • If relevant, apply to graduate school programs, and if necessary, re-take entrance exams; and,
  • Practice career goal-setting.


What Can I Do with a History Major?

Some Ripon history graduates choose careers in academia: they have entered Ph.D. programs at such universities as Princeton, Wake Forest and Penn State. Others go into archival work: a recent graduate now works for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC. Many Ripon history majors share their love of history as high school teachers. Others have taken positions with insurance companies, as lawyers, and as bank branch managers.

As part of her Ripon Local History class, Kathryn Stepanek, ’13, practiced archival research and oral history to help preserve the past. She researched the Ripon College archives from the late 1950s and early ’60s. Then she interviewed an alumna from the class of 1962. Based on her research and interview, Kathryn wrote an analytical paper about academics and student life at Ripon in the early 1960s that will contribute to a larger project on the history of the College.

Recent graduates of our program work for…

  • American Players Theatre
  • Citicorp Investments
  • City of Chicago
  • City of Philadelphia
  • Clear Channel Radio
  • Epic Software
  • Georgia Pacific
  • Heartland Communications Group, Inc.
  • Indiana State Library
  • Michael Fitzpatrick Law Office
  • National Forensic League
  • Peace Corps
  • The Rochelle Lee Fund
  • The Museum of the Red River
  • USDA Forest Service
  • University of Wisconsin
  • West Allis Memorial Hospital
  • Wisconsin Historical Society

Job titles of recent graduates include…

  • Costume Technician
  • Teacher
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Attorney and Legislative Assistant
  • Life Skills Educational Assistant
  • Writer
  • Programmer
  • Photographer
  • Assistant Principal
  • Admissions Director
  • Director of Information Technology
  • Attorney
  • Assistant Professor of Sociology
  • Assistant Superintendent
  • Director of Youth Ministry
  • Securities Operations Specialist
  • Television Producer
  • Archaeologist


Off-Campus Study

Ripon students study history in overseas programs in Spain, France, Germany, Costa Rica, China, Zimbabwe, the Czech Republic, and many other destinations around the world. The London-Florence program is particularly exciting for Ripon history students.

Those interested in advanced historical research pursue their interests at the Army War College or at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Ripon faculty members regularly lead In Focus study-and-travel experiences. One of many is a trip to southern France, led by history professor Diane Mockridge and Spanish professor Michelle Fuerch, to study the history of the Albigensians, a heretical sect against whom the king of France led a crusade in the 13th century.