This past week, I hosted an event called, “What’s Your Major? Exploring the Arts and Humanities.” Originally, I had planned to host an alumni panel event at Union and invite students to come and hear from successful graduates that worked within the arts and humanities. After some planning, I realized that this event would target upperclassmen who had already decided to major in the arts and humanities, and I wanted to create an event that was geared to undecided students.
I decided to host an event in a first-year residence hall because most events on campus require students to attend panels in classrooms, and I wanted the event to be informal and approachable, and not feel like a “required” event. Students at Union do not typically declare their majors or minors until their sophomore year, and during their first year students often struggle with figuring out their course of study since they have not had the opportunity to candidly ask questions to upperclassmen. Since I am a NY6 Think Tank Fellow working to promote the arts and humanities on Union’s campus I decided to invite successful upperclassmen from a variety of fields within the arts and humanities to come speak at the event.
The first part of the event featured a workshop session where I talked about the goals of the NY6 Think Tank, and I opened a discussion about the perceived value, and lack thereof, of majoring in the arts and humanities. I asked the first-years what they were intending to study, and many responded with “economics” or “engineering.”
When I asked the students why, they responded that these areas of study seemed to lead to job offerings and were valued by employers. I then asked the students to write down a stereotype about someone who majors in the arts and humanities on a post-it, and stick it on a poster so that we had a clear visual for the group. I then read the post-its aloud and some of the responses were “broke,” “not too many job opportunities,” and “not athletic.”
I then proceeded to talk about how there is a growing body of research that demonstrates the value of studying the arts and humanities and that they create students who can critically think, effectively communicate, and have creative impulses. I set up a scenario where two economics majors applied for a job at a high-powered business on Wall Street. One person only majored in economics, and the other double-majored in economics and music. I then articulated that the applicant who majored in music had “added value” over the other applicant since they brought a whole other set of skills to the job and had demonstrated a passion of theirs.
After the workshop, I invited upperclassmen who represented Dance, English, Art History, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Philosophy, Music, Studio Arts, and Classics to talk about their personal experiences majoring or minoring in the arts and humanities.
One student, Kyra DeTone ’16 talked about a course she took called “The Business of Visual Art” which was comprised of about half economics majors. In the course, economics majors created business models for companies involved in the visual arts and were introduced to a whole other area of work.
Daniel Mayne ’16, a Biology major, English minor, pre-med student talked about how he is currently applying to medical school and that his English minor has allowed him to effectively communicate his experiences and internships in a way unlike his peers who have only focused their studies in the sciences. He articulated that his minor has already been viewed as impressive and “added value” by those he has worked with at the National Cancer Institute. He then read a poem called “Victory” that was a crowd-pleaser and engaged the students (poem featured below).
After the last student spoke, I announced that all of the students and myself would stay around to talk to any students if they had any individual questions that were not addressed throughout the event. To my surprise, many first-years hung around after and approached specific students to thank them for their guidance, and said that they now wanted to take courses, explore the idea of majoring or minoring in the arts and humanities.
Moving forward, I hope to hold this event next year as well, possibly in the fall and winter, so as to encourage the study of the arts and humanities even earlier in the undergraduate careers of Union students!
By Daniel Mayne ’16
Oh, glorious Nike:
Thou divine charioteer of Zeus’ Olympian steeds;
When godly lightning and titanic inferno clashed,
Yet You emerged victorious:
The final arrow to pierce the flesh
of some enemy, a thousand times over;
The subtle nod of approval
towards a triumphant statesman--
recently elected into the Boule.
Oh, magnificent Nike:
Who watched over the labors of Hercules,
and the building of a horse outside Troy:
Merciful Nike, I pray to you--
won’t you let the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year?