What goes into the decision to declare a major? Whitman sophomores, juniors and seniors across academic departments praised perspective and problem-solving as two factors that attracted them to their field of study. Dozens will share further insight at the annual academic majors fair, which takes place Tuesday, Oct. 17 in Reid Campus Center's Young Ballroom from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
"This event is incredibly beneficial for the first-year and sophomore students who are still unsure about what major to declare," said Nora Leitch '18, a film and media studies and sociology major who interns in the Academic Resource Center and is coordinating the fair.
"There is only so much information you can get from reading the online descriptions of the departments and the course catalog, so being able to talk with upper-class students who have actually experienced the major is invaluable."
The fair facilitates such peer-to-peer connections by enabling students to interact directly and informally, she added. "Department heads recommend a few students to represent the major, so they are the ones running the show."
Whitties who plan to represent their departments offered a preview of the words of wisdom they intend to share.
"Explore, take beginning classes in a few disciplines you think you might be interested in and go for it. No shame in disliking something you try. College is all about getting to know yourself and what you like and dislike, and choosing a major is no different."
—Noah Cavanaugh '18, psychology
"Take classes in the economics department that go beyond your basic major requirements! I took financial accounting my junior year, and it is one of my favorite classes I've taken at Whitman. Professors are able to bring real-life applications from their own work experience or graduate school studies into the content that they teach in the courses."
—Rachel Cohenour '18, economics
"Prepare to be challenged, but do not be discouraged! The jump from calculus to higher level mathematics was jarring at first, but if you are dedicated to succeed, then you will. I would recommend planning out the required classes ahead of time, especially if you are planning on studying abroad."
—Sarah Rothschild '19, mathematics
"Everything we do and use on a daily basis can be explained by physics, so the more physics classes I take, the more I know about how things work. I love being a computer science major because there is no single solution to any problem. Everyone problem-solves differently and, as a result, I not only learn how to solve a problem my way, but also in the ways of the people around me."
—Melissa Kohl '19, physics and computer science
"For aspiring environmental studies majors, start early. ... This way there is time to double major, minor or just take other interesting classes. Also, consider taking advantage of environmental studies internships during the year or summers once you've declared!"
—Elizabeth Greenfield '18, sociology-environmental studies
"English is fun because everything we do involves critical thinking, discussion and comparing ideas. ... Take English 290 early on so that you can see if you like the major."
—Harper Howard '18, English
"I love the material and the amazing perspective it gives me to look at the natural world and see a myriad of processes that have made the landscape what it is. .... There are so many niches within geology, which makes it a very applicable science to a diverse collection of interests."
—Maddie Wilner '20, geology and physics
"The theatre major is what you make of it. There are endless opportunities for involvement in the department; it embodies a liberal arts education in that most people have a hand in multiple elements.
—Donovan Olsen '19, theatre
"Make connections with the professors and ask about what they're doing—it could help you get involved in some cool research. My adviser even got me in touch with an infant cognition lab at Yale for which I ended up doing a summer internship."
—Ashley Weibel '19, psychology
"If you love reading and debate, the politics major can be a great fit for you. ... Ideological differences and conflicts are readily explored and debated. It is very purposefully not a political science major, so be prepared to become fully immersed in political theory."
—Alden Glass '18, politics
"Don't over-commit yourself. Taking four hard science and math classes and three labs a semester is not healthy. Find balance in your life and make sure to add in some fun classes outside your major like Greek and Roman art history or Politics of the 2016 Election (two of my favorite classes at Whitman)."
—Amanda Mercer '18, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology
"Anthropology makes you reconsider everything you assume to be 'normal'—who counts as family, what to eat when, what words mean, how things came to be, the list goes on and on. And in doing this, you gain more empathy than you could imagine. Anthropology not only teaches you to rethink the world you've constructed for yourself and where you fit into the grander scheme of things, but it also helps you realize the human capacity for cleverness, creativity, connection and even delusion or narrow-mindedness. Anthropology truly is the holistic study of humankind."
—Matt Uecker '18, anthropology
"Our major is so applicable to numerous different fields and is honestly mostly the study of problem-solving. ... Computer science teaches you technological literacy, which in my opinion is going to be one of the most important skills to learn in the coming years. Understanding the dangers, benefits, uses and types of technology out there as well as being able to creatively use them is going to be a relevant skill for all fields in the future."
—Kai McConnell '19, computer science