Small majors have benefits and drawbacks for UI students

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By Jenny Horne

Urban planning professor Stacy Harwood said that small majors are excellent for a number of reasons.

“The faculty knows all of the students by name. We can sit around and talk about the students as a group … Or sometimes, one person might notice, ‘Hey, have you seen so and so, he/she hasn’t been to class in a week. Can someone find out what’s going on?’ Our undergraduate academic director meets regularly with all of the students in the major,” she said.

Harwood described her experience as a professor teaching urban planning, one of the smallest majors at the University.

“As an instructor, I can give a lot more individualized attention and give more feedback on assignments. In small classes, we delve deeper into the subject matter as well. Students also have more power and influence in small classes,” Harwood said.

Max Dolinko, junior in elementary education, said being in a small major has helped him develop a closer relationship with his fellow students. There are about 75 students in the Elementary Education program per yearSO. Consequently, the Elementary Education program groups students into “cohorts,” which establishes an even smaller group within the major.

“We are in cohorts, with about 20 to 25 students that we have every class with everyday. Those are the people I feel I have a strong personal relationship with,” Dolinko said.

Dolinko said the best part of being in a small major is the intimacy it has created in his academic environment.

“My favorite thing about being in a small major is I feel the teachers are now able to give us more attention and focus their time with us more,” he said. “Advisors, professors and TA’s know us personally and actually care about our success.”

The Special Education program is even smaller than Elementary Education. Special Education only accepts around 30 to 35 people each year.SO

Jill Gronwick, senior in special education, also said that being in a smaller, more “niche” major has impacted her academia and social life.

“Some of the people in my major have become my best friends because we spend so much time together,” Gronwick said.

However, there are a few downsides to being in a small major.

Madeline Stephany, senior in urban planning, said that although studying her major at the University has helped her develop close, personal relationships with her teachers, she also has an inflexible schedule.

“My professors and I are on a first name basis which is nice, but they also will call me out for skipping class because there aren’t many people in any of my classes,” Stephany said.

Hardwood said that it is necessary to keep the urban planning major small due to the material the subject covers.

“Our students do a lot of group projects and hands-on assignments. Students observe community meetings, analyze data and learn to make maps, develop policy recommendations, do summer internships and work with real clients for class projects,” She said.

Gronwick also said that the worst part of being in a small major is the inability to ever miss a class.

“My professors all know me by name, and whenever I have to skip class — even if it was for an emergency — they jokingly call me out and every student in the class is aware I skipped. Since there aren’t many of us, it’s impossible to miss a class, ever,” Gronwick said.

Dolinko said his least favorite part of being in such a small major is the lack of diversity as a result. He said since there are such few students, there aren’t many males.

“My least favorite thing is that not many guys are in my major. Since it is so small, the number of guys is even smaller,” Dolinko said. “I wish there was a larger number of guys in my major. I feel that there needs to be a lot more Elementary Education male teachers. Kids need more male figures in their life.”

Regardless of the downsides to a small major, Stephany said she would not change a thing.

“At the end of the day, I love being in a small major and the opportunities that have arisen from it. I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Stephany said.

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