Undergraduate Awards and Fellowships

Information and application forms are available from the Western Michigan University Department of History Advising Office, 4451 Friedmann Hall. The WMU Office of Financial Aid has extensive information on scholarships, grants and awards available to undergraduate students.

History Fellowship Award

Application and requirements
Thanks to generous donations, Western Michigan University’s Department of History will award renewable $1,000 fellowships each year to selected newly admitted, full-time freshman students with declared majors in history (Liberal Education Curriculum), public history, history education, or social studies education (with history minor). A minimum 3.5 high school GPA is required at the time of application. Submissions must be postmarked by January 29.

Undergraduate Emeriti Grant Award

The history undergraduate grant program funds undergraduate history majors and minors who engage in scholarly activities outside the classroom and/or who pursue opportunities that advance their professional goals as historians. Grants ranging from $50-$500 are awarded to further research, encourage internship or volunteer experiences, defray the cost of travel to a scholarly conference, or in support of other scholarly or professional activities in history. Applicants must submit an application form, a resume, transcript, a brief statement describing the project, a proposed budget and a statement of support from a faculty mentor. Applications are due on November 15 for projects taking place in the spring semester, and on April 1 for projects taking place in summer I and II sessions and fall semester. More information.

Peter J. Schmitt Experiential Learning Award

Dr. Peter Schmitt taught for 43 years in the Department of History at WMU and he valued nontraditional learning experiences that explored the natural world, the built environment and human ingenuity. The friends and family of Schmitt created the Peter J. Schmitt Endowment for Experiential Learning as a legacy to him. Fund grants of up to $500 will support varied learning experiences that enhance awareness, understanding and knowledge of the interconnectedness of history with the arts and the natural world. It would include but not be limited to participating in short courses in art or architectural history, in field biology learning experiences, in workshops in historic preservation or traditional crafts, in retreat experiences that emphasize an understanding of the natural world, or in other activities that promote personal insight into the interrelationships between people and their environments, especially in historical contexts.

Eligibility: All members of the WMU (undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, emeriti, alumni and staff) are eligible to apply to the Peter J. Schmitt Endowment for Experiential Learning. To be eligible for this grant, undergraduate students must have completed at least 30 hours of course work at WMU, and have maintained a GPA of 2.50 or higher. Applications from undergraduate and graduate students will be given preference in two out of a three year grant cycle, but if no suitable student applications are received, funding may go to faculty and staff.

Application: Applicants must submit an application form, a resume or CV, a proposed budget, and a short essay (two to three pages) that describes the experiential learning activity they wish to attend and explains how that activity might broaden or deepen their current understanding of the interconnectedness of people and their environments in historical contexts. Published information about the experiential learning program should be included in the application packet. Undergraduate and graduate student applicants should also submit a current transcript. Completed applications must be submitted to the history department chair by March 1.

Bert Nash Scholarship

Michele C. McLaughlin and her mother, Kathryn N. VanDis, have generously endowed a legacy gift that will supports an undergraduate scholarship named after her maternal grandfather, Bert Nash, which would support one of the History department’s deserving undergraduate Social Studies majors. The Bert Nash Scholarship will provide a student deemed to be a promising teacher with $1,000.

Byron Burton “Bert” Nash (1879-1959), Michele McLaughlin’s grandfather, was “a tremendous teacher and the wisest person” she ever knew. Although he worked as a stationary engineer in Chicago, at the Kalamazoo state hospital’s steam plant, and as a caretaker for the Bloomingdale cemetery after his retirement, Michele describes Bert as a teacher at heart, someone from whom she learned a great deal. Naming the scholarship after her grandfather will recognize his influence on her life. Bert Nash imparted a love of learning to both Kay and Michele. Kay graduated from Western Michigan College of Education, as WMU was then known, in 1945 with a degree in history. She later worked as an assistant to the president of Kalamazoo College from 1962 to 1988. Her mother’s love of history was also influential in Michele’s decision to dedicate the Bert Nash Scholarship to the History department. Michele’s decision to fund a new social studies scholarship as well as an English education scholarship that has been in place since 2003 is also partly due to her maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Michele noted that she has many teachers in her family.


Michele has been an employee of WMU since 1973, and is also a 1982 graduate of WMU with a B.A. in biomedical sciences and a B.B.A. in business. Since starting at WMU, Michele has worked in accounts payable, the Medieval Institute, the chemistry and English departments, and as associate registrar, from which she retired in 2011. Since then, however, she has been working part-time for both Lee Honors College and WMUK. Perhaps most remarkable about her affiliation with WMU is the fact that Michele has averaged taking at least one course per year since 1982.

One of Michele’s favorite professors at WMU was Howard Mowen, a faculty member in the History department from 1949 to 1982. As she recalled, professor Mowen was not only a scholar but was someone who could make the historical subject matter interesting and engaging. Michele hopes that the Bert Nash Scholarship will provide financial support to a promising young social studies major who might someday similarly engage and excite young people about the value of history. The first scholarship was awarded in spring 2013.

Awards are given via nomination by faculty.

Smith Burnham Outstanding Intern Award

This award encourages an environment in which a future teacher is given close, expert supervision. The intern participates in a variety of authentic teaching experiences with at least one, and often several, outstanding teachers at Portage Central High School. WMU’s College of Education and Human Development’s Office of Field Placements works with the history department in this placement. The intern teacher also receives letters of recommendation from his/her supervising teachers at PCHS, a member of WMU’s Department of History and the PCHS school principal following the completion of the internship. More about this award.

Applicants are required to submit the following:

  • A letter of interest that describes what you would hope to learn during your internship as well as the skills and interests you would impart.
  • A detailed resume describing your school and relevant work experiences.
  • An unofficial transcript.

Application materials are typically due by the end of September. The award comes with a stipend of $500.

Margaret MAcmillan Undergraduate Writing Award

Application form
The Margaret Macmillan writing award honors undergraduate papers of not more than 4000 words (excluding notes and bibliography). Submissions are unrestricted as to historical subject and will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Mastery of writing skills necessary for effective communication.
  • Appropriate thought in the interpretation and analysis of historical information.
  • Clear, concise expression and nuanced use of language. Only papers prepared for courses taken or completed during the current academic year will be considered. A call for submission announcement is forwarded to students each winter; the deadline for submissions is mid-February. The recipient of the Margaret Macmillan writing award receives a stipend of $250.

Cheryl Lyon-Jenness Advanced Undergraduate Writing Award

Application form
The Cheryl Lyon-Jenness Advance Undergraduate writing award honors student papers exceeding 4,000 words that fall under the broad rubric of research papers. This includes senior theses, historiographical works, material culture or museum related pieces, methodological/theoretical analyses, and critical review essays. Submissions are unrestricted as to historical subject and will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Mastery of writing skills necessary for effective communication.
  • Appropriate thought in the interpretation and analysis of historical information.
  • Clear, concise expression and nuanced use of language. 

Only papers prepared for courses taken or completed during the current academic year will be considered. A call for submission announcement is forwarded to students each winter; the deadline for submissions is mid February. The recipient of the Cheryl Lyon-Jenness writing award receives a stipend of $350.

Honors in History

Application Form
History majors may apply for and receive an "Honors in History" designation on their official transcript.

At the time of application, history majors must have:

  • completed 30 credit hours in history including 6 hours in writing-intensive or 4000-level history courses,
  • completed at least 90 credit hours overall,
  • have completed at least half of all credit hours and all writing-intensive and 4000-level history courses used for the Honors designation at WMU,
  • have a minimum overall WMU GPA of 3.5, and
  • have a minimum history GPA of 3.75.

Application Process:

  • Complete the application form - download from this page or pick up a form in the Department of History Advising Office, 4451 Friedmann Hall.
  • Include a current unofficial transcript
  • Submit a letter of recommendation or an“Honors in History” evaluation rubric from a faculty mentor
  • Submit a substantial writing sample that shows capacity for original thought in the interpretation, analysis, and effective communication of historical information.
  • Turn all information into the Department of History director of undergraduate studies at the beginning of the last semester prior to graduation.

A committee of Department of History faculty will consider all applications for Honors in History. If you are eligible for the Honors designation, the department will notify you in writing and instruct the University Registrar to enter the Honors in History designation on your transcript. If your GPA falls below the required minimum for Honors in History, the designation will be revoked. Past recipients received a $250 stipend.