New Oral History Master of Arts Program at Columbia University

NEW YORK, April 3, 2008 The Columbia University Oral History Research Office and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) are proud to announce New York State approval of a new degree program, “The Master of Arts in Oral History,” located in ISERP.  The program will begin in the fall of 2008 and will be the first of its kind in the nation. Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office, and Peter Bearman, director of ISERP and the Lazarsfeld  Center for Social Sciences, will co-direct the program.


“Oral history is absolutely central for our understanding of human rights abuses, traumatic experiences that arise from campaigns of repression or ethnic cleansing, the experiences of illness, both physical and psychic, and the ways in which experiences shape our life course”, notes Peter Bearman. "We are delighted to finally be able to meet the increasing demands of students who want training in oral history theory and method to allow them to incorporate fieldwork into their research in disciplines ranging from history, anthropology, sociology, literature, library science and public health – or a mixture of all of the above,” said Mary Marshall Clark. “Also, we find that students who have had training in oral history and are prepared to teach it fare much better on the job market.”

The degree program will require that students successfully complete 30 credits of graduate coursework, including a master’s thesis.  Courses will include a master class in oral history method and theory, fieldwork and documentation, the sociological analysis of biographical life narratives, the uses of oral history in social sciences and the humanities and electives in radio production, and editing oral history for publication.  Students will also be able to take electives in graduate programs throughout the university that match their disciplinary interests.

The interdisciplinary Master’s program in Oral History focuses on interviewing methodologies and interpretive methods. It links social sciences and humanities research across, but not limited to, six disciplines - history, sociology, literature, anthropology, psychology and public health - and also has practical applications in historic preservation, radio production, writing, and legal and human rights work. The program aims to teach the theory and methods of oral history as a means of the production and analysis of sources; the interpretation of research contained in those stories in aural, visual, and written form; and the professional standards and methods of oral history documentation and research. Students will be prepared to conduct technically proficient interviews, create files for deposit in traditional and online archives, maintain ethical standards in research and interviewing, and prepare scholarly proficient documentary productions.

The Oral History Master’s program invites applications from professionals and recent graduates in a variety of fields including, but not limited to, human rights, journalism, social work, healthcare, and library science. Applicants must have received a baccalaureate granted by an accredited college or university by the time of enrollment. The program admits students only for the fall semester.

For information about applying to the OHMA Program, contact the program administrator at (212) 854-0435, or by fax at (212) 854-8925, or by e-mail at  Additional information about the program and the application can be found at:

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 25 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at is the gateway to its services and resources.

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest organized university-based oral history program open to the public in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains 17,000 hours of taped memoirs, and 1,000,000 pages of transcript. The program is also a center for teaching and research, offering opportunities for students, visiting scholars and fellows. For additional information about the 2006 Summer Institute or for general information about the Oral History Research Office, please see:

Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) is the research arm of the social sciences at Columbia University. Its core mission is to catalyze and produce pioneering social science research and to shape public policy by integrating knowledge and methods across the social science disciplines. Website:


04/03/08 LMK