Research Opportunities: HOUR Program

The Department of History offers the HOUR (History Opportunities for Undergraduate Research) program for undergraduate students interested in research. In this program, students collaborate with department faculty on their scholarly work.

Each semester, students can apply to assist members of the history faculty who would like help on their research projects. Students in this program will gain valuable research experience working with a variety of historic documents and evidence.

Students can receive either credit or an hourly wage through this program:

  • Hourly rate is $15.00. Students who are being paid with department funds, instead of out of an individual professor’s research account, will be limited to payment of up to $450.00 (30 hours) a semester or during the summer (to be determined with a professor). Students may apply for additional research hours pending availability of funds.
  • Credit is for HIST 395: Independent Research, providing the student completes a substantial writing assignment based on their research. If you choose this option you must:
    • Devise a syllabus with the professor with whom you will be working with
    • Register for the course online (please make sure you complete this before the University deadline)

Please contact Jacquilyn Rizzo with any questions,


Students can apply online through the online hour application.

If you want to work for a professor that you have not taken a course with, you must also submit a letter of recommendation from a faculty member who has taught you. Letters of recommendations can be sent to the Department of History office or emailed to


Structured opportunities for HOUR students are listed below. If you’re interested in a different topic, please feel free to reach out to other faculty members in the department to see if you can get involved with their research. Many of our faculty would be glad to create additional research opportunities that would qualify for the HOUR program.

Rochester Voices: (Im)migration (Professor Ball)

This public history research project to create an Immigration Topic as a part of RCPL Rochester Voices site is centered on immigration and migration history to Rochester between 1850 and 1980. It builds on a collaborative initiative with the Rochester Central Public Library (RCPL) begun in Fall 2021. Duties, 5 to 10 hours weekly, will include helping to collate and curate already identified items from the RCPL local history division and finding additional materials when necessary. The project may be extended into the summer. Student should have strong understanding of immigration history in Rochester and should be comfortable working in archival and newspaper sources. Attention to detail and an ability to work both independently and collaborate are also important traits. Some travel to the public library may be required.

Students must have completed HIST252 or have considerable knowledge about Rochester's immigration history

Smith's Island Archaeology Project (Professor Jarvis)

Professor Jarvis seeks 1-2 History, ATHS, or history-interested students to digitize and analyze data related to the Smith's Island Archaeology Project's excavations, 2010-2022. A basic working knowledge of databases is required and some experience with ArcGIS appreciated. Students will digitize context sheets, artifact inventories, and site drawings and make plans from orthophotos in the fall. I anticipate additional work in the spring in visualizing spatial patterns among artifact types within multiple sites.

Digital Kormantin Project (Professor Jarvis)

Professor Jarvis seeks students to help build a virtual heritage tour for Kormantin/Fort Amsterdam, Ghana, and work on a companion website to host the digital history experience.  Work may include doing historical research and public-facing writing; digital environmental modeling using SketchUp, Blender, Mudbox and other software; coding and assembling assets in Unity; audio and video editing; website design and site building using WordPress; content creation using Canva; photogrammetry 3D model building using Metashape.  Interested students should contact for more information and particular project opportunities.

Mexico through Rochester (Professor Sierra)

Prof. Pablo Sierra seeks an undergraduate student to identify specific collections and materials related to modern and colonial Mexico within University of Rochester libraries and special collections. Many Western New Yorkers have traveled to Mexico for leisure, military deployment, or work, leaving behind their impressions, letters, and photographs to our university. This HOUR project requires students to identify, describe, and analyze Mexico-related materials within UofR libraries, and especially in Rare Books and Special Collections.  Interested students must commit to researching 3 hours per week during Spring 2023. Most materials will be in English, however, there is preference for researchers who can read Spanish-language materials.

Program Testimonies

The HOUR Program is a wonderful opportunity for undergraduate students to immerse themselves in active research projects led by Research 1 faculty members in the University of Rochester's History department. Over the past few years, I have offered a 'Digital Caribbean' project to help me identify possible documents for an ongoing book project on piracy and blackness during the 1680s and 1690s. My research centers on people of African descent, who are often very difficult to locate in records from the seventeenth century. As a result, I cast a wide net and invite students to use their expertise to identify print materials and digital archives that might shed light on Black experiences in colonial Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The students that have taken up this challenge have analyzed English-language sources (such as Calendar of State Papers), report and chronicles by French priests and officials, and Spanish-language correspondence between naval officers and governors throughout the Spanish Caribbean. Some students have even learned paleography (the study of ancient handwriting) to advance this research and their own original projects. Others deploy their skills in database construction to analyze marriage and baptism registers in the language of their choice. I am always stunned by the quality of HOUR students' work and the speed with which they learn to navigate these ever-expanding digital archives. Finally, it's worth noting that in this collaborative program, you (the student) end up shaping much of the future research that will be presented at academic conferences and published in scholarly books and journals. It's a wonderful program." -Pablo Sierra                             

"While I was unaware of what a Research Assistant entails, the HOUR program was a great way for me to gain research skills. I received excellent mentoring and regular feedback regarding my work during my research. These experiences have greatly improved my confidence and competence in writing and researching." -Mohammed Bah

"I had a great HOUR program experience under Professor Mandala. I had the privilege of editing a transcription of Horace Waller's diaries, a 19th-century Englishman who traveled to Malawi. I learned a lot about the experience of a white man in Africa at the time, especially when disease, tribal conflict, slavery, and colonialism were prevalent at the time, and it was a great snapshot into the period and place. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Professor Mandala, who gave me constant direction and feedback, and I'm glad I got the opportunity."-Rohat Chari

"As a dual major in history and linguistics, and minor in French, participating in the HOUR program gave me the unique opportunity to pursue all of my intersecting interests. By assisting Professor Sierra in transcribing Michel Bégon’s 'Relation de mon Voyage aux Isles de l’Amerique,' I was enlightened with invaluable first-hand accounts of daily life in the late seventeenth century French West Indies. Not only did this experience ameliorate my translation skills, but I interacted with diary-style narratives that made me feel like I was in conversation with the historical actors themselves." - Megan Emery