Friday, March 12, 2010


It's probably my biggest pet peeve.

When it comes to majors, ego can often times come int play. For professors it's understandable; they've devoted their careers to the area of focus in which they teach, so it's only natural for them to preach about what makes their department stand above the rest. In my experience it should all be taken with a grain of salt. The only way you can really know if something is right for you is to try it out for yourself.

My adviser, Karin Aguilar-San Juan, gave me some of the best advice any student could ever hope for. Sure, she tended to lean towards the American Studies major, but she also recognizes that, as a student here, it's my responsibility to figure out what I want to do. Long ago I'd narrowed my focus down to the social sciences, and she had this to say:

"When you're picking your major, it shouldn't be about the courses offered or what you think the focus is. They're all asking questions, and what you have to figure out is what questions you want to ask and your method of inquiry."

People are what I am fascinated with. I want to learn about them, understand them, and help them (as do most students at Mac). As such, I already knew the kinds of questions I had. The trick then was, and is, deciding how I want to go about answering them.

Macalester upholds the idea of creating lifelong learners. Your education doesn't stop once you graduate, but continues on for the rest of your life. Think about the problems or issues of today that you're interested in, the kinds of questions you have. Then, decide how you're going to go about asking and answering those questions. Every department has a lot to offer, and every student and professor will try to brag about their major and/or point out the flaws in others. However majors do NOT exist in some kind of a vacuum. There is no "best" or "worst." There is only what works for you and what doesn't.

Take your first year or two here to explore as much as you can. Try to get a feel for a variety of departments. I was someone who thought I knew what I was going to major in, but that ended up changing more times than I can count. Now I'm in a department I never expected to be in, and that still could change.

The general premises of my questions never changed. They've become more refined, more 'fleshed out', but what drives me has remained the same.

All roads lead to the same destination, so to speak. The major isn't the destination you seek, but the road you decide to take.