Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Students and faculty prepare for major declarations

First-year Augustana students were instructed to declare their majors by the end of week three to work with their new major advisors when registering for fall classes. Throughout week two, major declaration days were held in various locations around campus by different academic departments. There, faculty members introduced their majors and minors to students, talked about study abroad opportunities and signed declaration slips.
According to registrar Liesel Fowler, just over half of all first-year students declare a major each spring. Around a third changes their major, which Fowler says is just under the national average. “I think ours is lower than the national average because students have the first year of exploration to really figure out what their interests are.”
Students are allowed to defer their major declarations until the end of their sophomore year. Until then, they continue working with their first-year advisors.
Professor of history, David Ellis, believes that students who are “fairly confident” about their majors should declare on time to “begin building relationships with their professors and their fellow majors and minors.” However, Ellis also thinks that “students should continually be open to adding a major or minor or possibly changing their major as they take additional coursework and perhaps become deeply engaged with ideas and programs that they have not previously considered.”
“You always have the right to change your mind,” Pastor Kristen Glass Perez, director of vocational exploration, said. “You never know what’s going to lead you into your passion.”
However, Glass Perez also acknowledges that in some cases, making a change might not be feasible. “Sometimes when people are really far into their major, I try and talk to them about the importance of having a bachelor’s degree.” Glass Perez also talks to students about alternative ways to pursue their passions, such as through immersive minors and certificates in non-profit leadership, entertainment media, inter-religious studies and aging studies or being involved in extracurricular activities.
Junior Elizabeth Weinzierl switched from communication sciences and disorders (CSD) to psychology in the winter term of her junior year after realizing that she was not enjoying the CSD program.  She was initially told that she could not take the public health major because the professor teaching its senior inquiry was taking a term off the following year and thus could not take on any more students.
“I had to deal with a lot of people telling me that if I tried to change my major to anything else, I wouldn’t graduate on time,” Weinzierl said.  “Only once I started talking to professors in the Psychology department did anyone tell me they thought I would be able to change majors and still graduate on time.”
Sophomore Lauren Amella had a different experience. Undecided between biology and communications studies, she realized she had lost her “passion for the sciences.”
“In high school, I enjoyed every art class I took, but I always pushed my passion,” Amella said. However, after taking two art classes at Augustana, she realized she could have a future in the field.
Amella says her biology advisor saw her uncertainty and suggested she go to CORE, where Amella spoke to Keri Bass. There, she took personality and job surveys over the course of three weeks until finally coming to the decision to switch to communications Studies.
Pre-med and biology majors are required to meet with an advising coordinator prior to declaring their major. “We are a huge department, and there’s so much to know, so we want to match students to advisors who share their interests, so they can speed up that process,” advising coordinator Stephanie Fuhr said.
Fuhr said she enjoys working with those students who don’t yet know where their interests lie, although she doesn’t recommend that students from other disciplines switch to science in their second or third years. “It would be really tough. There are three year long sequences, and labs to schedule.”
Like Ellis, she approves of students taking on an additional major, perhaps completely unrelated. “Our goal is to make that a possibility. That’s why we want to know what the students are planning as soon as possible,” Fuhr said.
Mamata Marme, director of advising for the business administration department, explained why prospective business majors only begin taking business courses in their second year. “We want that first year to be about exploration” Marme said. “I’ve had students come in on day one of week one wanting to declare their major, and while I understand that adamancy comes from their excitement, it goes against what we want them to get from college.”
She is supportive of students who transfer out of the business department, and believes that “whatever major you declare, you have to identify with it.”
David Ellis also spoke about the importance of major declaration days, saying that they offer students many advantages. “ Many students seem to appreciate the fact that such an event makes it easier for them to enter into a conversation with a professor about the prospect of a major, and the event makes it logistically easier for students to get all the required signatures at once for their declaration forms,” Ellis said.
Lauren Amella agreed that major declaration days meant that students did not need to “run around campus and stress about finding signatures.”
“My only complaint is that they could be advertised better, especially the [communications] meeting because I had no idea that was being held until an hour before,” Amella said.
David Langum, freshman, declared a History major at the history declaration day. Also a Political Science major, he said, “I’d always been interested in politics, and then I discovered that history actually had a lot of overlap, so I decided taking it as a major would make me a better player overall.”

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Students and faculty prepare for major declarations