Though students are engaged in remote learning, the campus tradition of faculty celebrating their students when they declare their respective majors continues. Centre College faculty recently created a series of videos featuring professors from a variety of academic programs to welcome their newly declared students.
“Programs welcome their majors in different ways—lunches at Cowan, picnics, socials and so on,” said Charles T. Hazelrigg Associate Professor of Anthropology Robyn Cutright, interim director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
For example, anthropology and sociology hosts an event to welcome new majors called the Kula Ring advising meeting.
“The Kula Ring is a classic concept in Anthropology—a system of exchange in the Trobriand Islands studied by famous anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowksi,” Cutright explained. “Trobrianders travel around the ring of islands to exchange necklaces and arm bands with trading partners on different islands, building relationships of friendship and mutual aid.
“We adapted the concept and have new majors travel around a ring of junior and senior majors to get to know one another and share information about courses, opportunities and so on,” she continued. “But each program does something that invites students to participate in program culture and build relationships with faculty and other students.”
While not all of Centre’s programs made videos, Cutright said there are a number of programs that are already in daily contact with their majors, as well as others that are planning in-person celebrations when this becomes possible.
“This is one of the creative and fun ways we are staying in touch with our students,” said Dean Ellen Goldey. “Declaring a major is an important milestone, and even if we have to do it virtually, we want to celebrate with them.”
Cutright believes that, at the current moment when everyone is socially and physically distancing themselves, the need for connection and community is greater. She came up with the idea for the videos to connect students with their faculty from afar.
“It is strange for students at a small residential college like Centre to be away from campus and taking classes from home, and I thought that welcome videos were one way that students could feel connected to the program that they chose,” she said. “I didn’t want students to feel that their choice of major didn’t matter or that they weren’t seen, and this is one way I thought we could try to emphasize that our connection to students and our sense of community is still real.”
Cutright said students carefully consider their choice of majors.
“At Centre, students don’t need to know their major when they start, and we really encourage students to explore their interests and take a wide range of courses across the College,” she added. “But they also need to specialize, so choosing a major—or two—represents a commitment to a program and a group of faculty to pursue a field of study more deeply, and to become part of the life of the program and the discipline at Centre.”
View the new major videos:
by Kerry Steinhofer
March 31, 2020