Ph.D. Program in Rural, Agricultural, Technological, and Environmental History – Overview

The Department of History is not accepting applications at this time. Please contact Director of Graduate Education Kathy Hilliard [] with questions.

Students in the RATE program address important and enduring questions about rural and agricultural communities throughout world history, technologies developed and employed by these communities, and environmental contexts in which they operate. RATE’s unique focus brings diverse student and faculty interests into dynamic conversation about the past, preparing scholars to share and develop their expertise in a wide range of professional settings.

Students are admitted either after completing an MA in history elsewhere, or they may obtain an MA in history at Iowa State while progressing toward the Ph.D. degree.

Quick Facts:

The RATE program requires thirty semester hours of graduate credit for the MA and an additional 42 for the Ph.D. (72 hours in total). In some cases, the MA may be recommended as the terminal degree. Students who continue beyond the MA are expected to pass a qualifying examination covering four general fields selected by the student, complete a dissertation, and defend it orally in the Ph.D. final examination.

RATE generally enrolls about a dozen students, at various stages of the doctoral program.

Recent dissertations have included studies of the development of agricultural communities in California, the creation of farm safety programs in the mid-twentieth century, adoption of technological and scientific innovation by mid-twentieth century midwestern farmers, and work, family and community in communal societies. If you are uncertain whether your research interests match our program’s areas of focus, please contact the Director of Graduate Education

Our graduates have found employment in institutions inside and outside academia. We’re proud to see ISU historians in a range of positions across the United States:  historian at the US Army Center for Military History, director of the Wapello County Historical Society, director of the Academic Success Center at Wayne State College in Nebraska, digital repository specialist at ISU’s Parks Library, and other private and public institutions.

You’ll find our alumni in university teaching as well, working in tenure-track or visiting positions in History departments at Tennessee Wesleyan University, Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Illinois College, Mount Royal University at Calgary, Southern Indiana University, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, and Bemidji State University, among others.


The History Department endeavors to provide five years of funding to all students enrolled in the RATE program, typically in the form of teaching assistantships. Beyond that point, students may apply for additional funding which, if available, will be awarded on a competitive basis. All funding is contingent on students making good progress toward their degrees, and on the department’s annual budget. Students are encouraged to seek outside funding as well.


For more information, see the Department’s full RATE program here.