Inside USD

Fair Helps Students Make a Major Decision

Monday, April 21, 2008

Everyone’s different when it comes to choosing their college major, but for Matt Rutz, the decision on what to study at the University of San Diego focused what interested him most — and what didn’t. 

“Science was where I needed to be,” says Rutz, a biology major and a chemistry minor who will graduate next month. “I’d read business books and law books, but they were boring to me. But whenever I’d read a science book, I was always interested in it. (Biology) met all of what I wanted in a major. It’s the perfect major.” 

Rutz spent his lunch hour Tuesday on some homework when he wasn’t answering questions from curious students about Pre-Health Studies programs offered through USD’s College of Arts and Sciences. His table was one of several representing various academic disciplines and programs for the Majors Fair, put on by USD Career Services. 

For USD students still searching for the right fit, the event was one-stop shopping to learn about majors such as engineering, computer science, business, foreign languages, ethnic studies, anthropology, English and more; minors in Peace and Justice Studies and in Leadership; certificate programs from Paralegal to American Humanics; and to find out about study abroad opportunities. 

Each representative was asked the same question — I’m a freshman student. Why should I major in your program? 

“It’s a guaranteed job in every industry and in all organizations,” says Jan Morris, an accountancy lecturer in the School of Business Administration. “They all have someone taking care of the financials. Our degrees can open so many doors and help transition them into management positions because it’s important to know how money works.” 

The engineering program at USD is listed under the School of Business umbrella, but it continues to grow on its own. Students earn a B.A./B.S. in the discipline they chose. Two senior mechanical engineering students, Jason Gasmin and Nate Allera, believe the program offers several important aspects. 

“Everything you learn, you’ll apply,” says Gasmin, who will graduate in May. Allera, who will graduate in December, praised the professors in the department for their expertise and guidance. 

Allera was at the Majors Fair to answer questions posed by young students interested in studying engineering — electrical, industrial and systems, and mechanical are offered at USD — and Tuesday’s experience took him back to his earlier days on campus when he was the one searching for a major.

“I took all kinds of classes. I think one of my first classes was in archeology. I guess I thought I wanted to be Indiana Jones,” Allera says with a laugh. 

There are majors that certainly encourage students to explore the world beyond themselves and for one student, ethnic studies has lived up to everything she hoped it would be during her time at USD.

“I like it because it’s not your typical major,” says Jocelyn Beavan, a senior ethnic studies major and sociology minor who will graduate in May. “It allows you to learn about different people and different cultures and have a better understanding of yourself.” 

Students are required to take three semesters of foreign language courses and USD offers both majors and minors in this area of study. There’s also opportunities for students to immerse themselves in another culture and to learn a foreign language beyond the classroom by studying abroad in places like Guadalajara, Mexico — USD’s oldest study abroad summer program that will celebrate its 45th anniversary in June — and many more programs worldwide. 

The Peace and Justice Studies minor provides another key aspect of learning about others. The minor promotes conflict resolution, nonviolence and cross-cultural harmony through an integrated multi-disciplinary program. Coordinator Kathryn Statler, who is also a history professor, says there are 60 students taking the minor and it continues to gain in popularity. Three students in the program, juniors Mark Dreschler and Katie Gross and sophomore Jaclyn Miller, say the minor has plenty to offer students. “It covers so many fields, it just depends on how you want to apply it,” Gross says.

The curriculum requires 12 units of distribution requirements that involve thematic or regional focus and a capstone seminar in which students “develop a project designed to illuminate the dynamics of peace and justice,” according to a program flier. 

The Paralegal program is another solid choice, especially for students considering law school, says assistant director Gretchen Veihl. Paralegals are trained members of a legal team who work under the supervision of attorneys. They work on legal research, drafting legal documents and more. The varied programs offered at USD run anywhere from 14 weeks to one year. The American Bar Association-approved program has its own employment-assistance program and works to get graduates internships, Veihl adds. “It’s a great way to get a head start in law school and it’s a tangible skill. No matter what field you’re in, there’s always some kind of legal connection,” she says. 

It’s the same way with all major and minor programs offered at USD — the one, or in some cases, two you chose provides a chance for a lasting connection.

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