Why would you major in (fill in Liberal Arts and Sciences major)?

By Scott Cohen

Like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” winter break is too long. You go home to relax and recharge until you’re bored. And if you’re me, you go home to allow that recurring nightmare to dissipate, but it never does. I’m talking about the one where you sleep through your midterm and then your professor morphs into an evil yellow coffee mug that sprays burning espresso into your eyes! You then brace yourself for the holiday party. For my family, Aunt Marcie’s party offers damn delicious sweet potatoes but, inevitably, Uncle Dan will corner me and begin asking about my post-undergraduate plans. Despite my best efforts, this incident causes me to seriously wonder, “What the eff am I going to do with a degree in political science?” This dilemma is not exclusive to any single major, but seems to mostly afflict those majoring in the humanities or social sciences. Sure, it’s easy to be snarky and tell Dan, “Work at Starbucks,” as I sip my fifth holiday-eggnog concoction. But with the current economic crisis, that actually appears to be the only viable answer. “Oh that’s good … if you want to live in a box on lower Wacker Drive!” Thanks for the morale boost, Uncle Dan. I hope you enjoy the holiday gift I left under your pillow. Is that a lump of coal, you ask? Well, it sure doesn’t smell like it.

For the moment, I’m ignoring the possibility of grad school, but that’s not to say that I haven’t thought about what I’m going to do. I told a friend, who happens to be a finance major, of how I’m thinking of working at a nonprofit organization when I leave the C-U. “Wow, you must be really liberal,” he responds. Does this imply that all businessmen are heartless Reaganites? I’ll leave that one open for debate.

Countless others are in a similar dilemma. My friend, Pamela Tunetto, is constantly bombarded with inquiries as to why she chose to pursue a degree in international studies with a double minor in French and art history. “Parce que je suis sexi quand je porte un beret,” she retorts disdainfully.

Speaking on behalf of those LAS students who find themselves in similar situations, we are tired of defending our choice. We happen to enjoy sitting in the decaying coffin that is Lincoln Hall with our noses buried in Hobbes. Seriously, though, our majors allow us to develop our analytical skills, and also conceptualize intellectual questions. We chose our major because we find these subjects intellectually stimulating. So not all of us may be great with numbers and derivatives, but we have mastered the art of essay-writing. (And if you disagree with this comment, feel free to tell me via Letter to the Editor a.k.a. “Columnist Hate-Mail.”)

For many of us, our major is essentially the study of the human condition. And similar to the drugs we take during finals week (coffee, I mean), this subject really gets us going. Take for example, a friend of mine, Jeff, who currently works at the University of Chicago. He began his undergrad career as a literature major with the hopes of becoming a writer. Inspired by Faulkner’s poignant portrayals of the human condition and psychological suffering, Jeff took his degree and began teaching emotionally disturbed kids and studying mentally ill adults. This work inspired an idea that has since guided his intellectual pursuits. As he extinguishes his cigarette in an ash tray that happens to be sitting on a tattered copy of “Light in August,” he says, “I became almost obsessed with the idea that we structure the world in our heads as an incredibly complex weave of thousands of stories, which we acquire as a language of stories from our culture.” Spoken like a true lit major, this fixation on how people interpret the world meshed with his sense that the machinery of the brain weaves these narratives together.

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    He eventually took this to grad school, obtained a doctorate, and, as a neuroscientist, is developing the field of narrative psychology. Furthermore, he hasn’t given up on his dream of becoming a novelist.

    I, for one, like the sound of “Pulitzer-prize winning author Dr. Jeffrey Hartz-Kuh.”

    What this means is that a degree in the liberal arts gives us something infinitely valuable.

    Instead of as a CPA, we leave Green Street with an idea, a concept, a philosophy to struggle with.

    This struggle can act as the caffeine kick-start that guides the direction of our life.

    But even if you fail to come up with an idea that inspires you, don’t worry, Starbucks offers free coffee to all employees.

    Scott is a sophomore in political science and is also in love with Pamela Tunetto and her sexy new hair color.