Self-designed majors prepare students for successful careers
August 12, 2010
major, studied abroad in Managua and lived with a
home-stay family, above.
Bethany Pratt ’10 designed an environmental studies
major at Centre. “Having to create my own
major pushed me to concisely verbalize my aspirations
and have the courage to present my dreams to others,”
Although Centre College offers many traditional majors, students also have the opportunity to create majors unique to their talents and interests.
For example, Bethany Pratt ’10 came to Centre College for a personal education but couldn’t decide on any of the traditional majors offered by the College. Instead, she opted to focus on her passions for sustainable resource use and humanities by creating a self-designed major.
“Many of the environmental concerns of today stem from human use and abuse of our natural resources,” Pratt says. “As a student and environmentalist, I’m interested in learning about the complex relationship that humans have developed with their environment.”
Using the College’s environmental studies minor as a foundation, Pratt designed a comprehensive curriculum that helped prepare her to address what she calls “a growing resource crisis. Science alone can’t solve all the problems facing our world today,” she says. “However, by blending science and elements of the humanities, a more comprehensive and lasting approach to conservation can be achieved.”
Pratt’s major, titled “Environmental Studies,” pulled heavily from courses listed in the biology and anthropology/sociology catalog but integrated credits from the history and English programs. Pratt also had time to take numerous studio art courses, as well as to study abroad in Mexico and Australia.
While several colleges across the country offer environmental studies majors, Pratt says that her experience designing a personalized education plan at Centre has additional benefits. “Having to create my own major pushed me to concisely verbalize my aspirations and have the courage to present my dreams to others,” Pratt says.
Erica Horton ’10 of West Chester, Ohio, was undecided about her major at Centre College. When she realized that no established major perfectly embodied her educational passions, she designed her own—social justice studies.
“I was originally interested in history and anthropology/sociology,” she says. “As I was deciding on what to declare as a major, I decided to look into a self-designed major and tailored it to fit my interests.”
Centre faculty and administrators work with students who choose to design their own majors. Horton is pleased with the results. “I believe that my choice to design a major around such an abstract concept has opened a lot of doors for me,” she says.
Because Horton plans on attending graduate school to study social work or community development, her self-designed social justice studies major has given her the academic background needed for her future.
Other recent self-designed majors include Design and Culture, Social Justice Studies, Urban Development Studies, Studies in Creative Writing, Diversity Studies, East Asian Studies, Religion and the Performing Arts, Medieval Studies and Public Policy.