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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    A Major Event for Major Decisions

    On Nov.15, 2006, SBU students had the opportunity to take part in the 5th annual ‘Major’ Event.’ Faculty members from each undergraduate academic department were available to discuss some of the defining characteristics of their departments and the degree programs they offer.’ The hope was to give students an idea of the wealth of opportunities available for picking a major or minor along with the subsequent possibilities of career options for the future.’

    William Dawes, undergraduate director and co-chair of the Economics Department, had a few words of advice for students in their struggle to make the right decision.’ Dawes said, ‘You’re going to be wrong.’ People who declare their major usually don’t keep it.’ Interests change.”

    Dawes, who was at the event, was further questioned on why he believed this was the case.’ Why are students prone to changing their career path?’ Dawes responded, ‘Fundamentally, they don’t have enough information to make life plans.’ Students don’t necessarily have to become bio majors to go to med school.’ Getting into graduate school for business doesn’t require one to be a undergraduate business major.’

    The bottom line, according to Dawes, ‘It’s okay to be uncertain.’

    Another faculty member, Harvey Cormier, director of undergraduate studies of the philosophy department who was also at the Major Event, commented on some common questions students have for him.’ Cormier said, ‘Students ask me, ‘What is philosophy? Is it hard?” Then they ask, ‘What can I do with this major?”’ He corroborated Dawes by further commenting, ‘Career options for philosophy majors lie in the academic realm.’ However, students who opt for law school generally benefit from an education in philosophy rather than a standard pre-law track.’ Both Cormier and Dawes emphasized the fact that the subject matter of one’s education is not as important in determining where one goes as to the skills one gains in a particular major.

    According to Cormier, a philosophy student has to be able to read critically.’ He said, ‘It’s kind of hard. Writers sometimes argue with themselves.’ Even though there isn’t a huge amount of reading, you really have to read carefully.’

    Concurrently with the Major Event, organized by Academic Advising, the Career Center was hosting its own workshop in an effort to help students take the right steps in choosing a particular major or career path.’ Elena Polenova, an advisor for the Career Center, mediated the workshop.’ Her audience, mostly freshmen, all intently listened to what she had to say and were able to speak to her directly towards the end of the lecture on a one-on-one basis.

    At the onset, Polenova made it clear to her audience, the student should be primarily involved in his or her own major and career decisions.’ Polenova stated, ‘Nobody else under the moon can tell you what to do.’

    Furthermore, Polenova said, ‘It is important to consider how majors relate to careers.’ There are two types of majors, those that are directly related, and those that are not.” According to Polenova, some professions that lend themselves to specific majors are accounting, nursing, and teaching, to some extent.’ She commented, other liberal arts majors, such as those in the social sciences, fundamental sciences, and humanities don’t translate directly to a particular career path.

    Polenova supposed, ‘An English major could theoretically obtain a job as a programmer provided that he or she takes the proper classes.’ It all depends on the experience that particular English major had in the field of computer science.” Concerning employment options, Polenova commented that the Career Center routinely works with employers all the time.’ In addition, the Career Center has summarized the main factors that employers or graduate school admissions officers see five items when reviewing a student’s application.’ These five items are a student’s major, minor and electives, leadership activities, volunteerism, and part-time jobs or internships.

    Polenova commented, ‘Each of you will do some combination of these things.’ Your skills will come from any one of them.’ It is important to realize any one of them can serve to expand your horizons and make you more marketable for the future.’

    Polenova also said, ‘You have to know what your interests are and what you can do well.’

    Sandy Trapani, assistant director of Sophomore Advising from the Academic Advising Center, one of the main organizers of the Major Event, also commented along similar lines, saying, ‘Students should think about what they love.’ That usually sets them along the right path.’

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