Niche minors fulfill students’ interests

By Anna Pevey, Staff Writer

When Dawn McNulty, academic adviser in the Department of Sociology, helps students select a minor to pursue, she stresses they acquire skills in their interest areas.

“The most important part about approaching your undergraduate education is thinking about the skills you want to gain over the time you are at the University,” McNulty said. “The courses that are in a minor help feed into that set of skills that you are creating and adding onto your major, making it extremely valuable.”

The sociology department began offering a criminology, law and society minor two years ago. McNulty says the new minor has gained popularity among all types of students.

“It appeals to a wide audience, like a lot of majors on campus,” she said. “Students (who) are sociology majors and are interested in social work, the criminal justice system and hoping to attend law school have been really enjoying the minor and what it has to offer.”

McNulty said minors are growing in popularity among the general student population “because students want to master the skill set and interests that they are interested in, whether it be related to their major or not.”

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    According to the University’s Division of Management Information, minors such as business, public relations and computer science have historically been the most popular.

    But minors with a niche set of classes and skills such as the criminology, law and society, as well as a minor in linguistics don’t have huge populations of students. Students who pursue these specialized minors get a unique educational experience.

    Isabella Russell, a junior in AHS and LAS, is minoring in both linguistics and psychology.

    As far as her linguistics minor, Russell knows the classes and subjects are worth taking.

    “I personally think that the classes within the minor are completely worth it because they are a better way to help develop my interests and to explore the more niche aspects of my interests such as language and speech,” she said.

    Though some students choose not to pursue a minor, McNulty says having one can only improve your chances of succeeding in the career you choose or the path you take.

    “Your competitiveness in the field that you are pursuing, and the skills that you have acquired to get you there, help you always,” she said. “It is how you tell your story and how you use the set of skills you have, whether it be from a minor or major; it is how you market yourself.”

    In Russell’s case, her minor helps further her future career ambitions and fulfills her own personal interests.

    “I’m really interested in cognition and language, which is mainly why I chose my majors and minors, based on academic interests,” Russell said. “I’m considering working either as a speech language pathologist or an audiologist, so the linguistics minor specifically will totally help me with that.”

    Russell credits the help of all her program advisors for helping her figure out each major and minor.

    “I met with different advisers for each major and minor, depending on the concentration of each, and they really helped me try to figure out what to do,” she said.

    Russell met with linguistics adviser Zach Reed to discuss the logistics of declaring a minor and what her interests are.

    Reed has been an adviser for the Department of Linguistics for almost two years and knows that deciding on a minor can be difficult.

    “The first question I ask (a) student is to have them describe the kinds of things that are interested in doing after graduation, and hopefully that can kick start a conversation,” he said. “Lots of students come very happy with their major but want to minor in something that can help them group their interests both in and out of their major.”

    Reed sees value in a linguistics minor considering its importance in everyday technology.

    “If you look at where technology is going and how it is advancing, especially with Siri, Alexa (and) Google Home, we’re getting into voice-automated everything,” he said. “Linguistics is really at the core of that. wYou learn the science, syntax, semantics and so many more parts of language.”

    Reed encourages students to get the most out of their time at the University, in both their major and their minors, for its long-term benefits.

    “Don’t do the bare minimum for your degree,” he said. “Really seek out a minor and multiple RSOs as well as personal projects because that is what is going to separate you from the other potential employees that are all competing in the job market.”

    [email protected]