How relevant is your major?

Jenna Staul

Mike Cover sat on a hallway bench in Bowman Hall, laptop in hand, remembering the moment it occurred to him — soon he would graduate, and he needed to find a job.

“Last spring I think it really hit me,” the senior political science major said. “Teachers and advisers need to actually push students to start job sea much as students tend to ask ‘What can my student do with this major?’” Chandler said. “They’re making a very big investment, and they want to know what the return on that investment will be at the end of four years.”

Chandler said the increased focus on narrow career paths isn’t a direct product of the recession, but it is changing the way the university approaches both new students and degree requirements.

“I think it’s been a growing trend, but the recession has exacerbated the issue,” Chandler said. “One of the reasons for the new 21st-century undergraduate philosophy and the four pillars that support it, as well as the new Kent Core curriculum, is to focus more on those skills and abilities that we want students to take away, rather than just learning information.”

Real World Experience

Cover, for his part, entered college as a mathematics major, envisioning a career as a teacher before making the switch to political science.

“I came here focused on career training,” Cover said. “Now, I think I might end up getting a teaching certificate to teach government.”

In the meantime, Cover said he is focused on building his resume and applying for internships with the help of the political science department.

As students more quickly hone in on a career path, educators are touting experiential learning opportunities, including internships. Chandler said he expects that in time, every student at Kent State will be required to complete an internship before graduation.

“There’s a tremendous amount of effort to constantly keep the experiential learning opportunities up-to-date, refreshed and alive,” said Timothy Moerland, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, citing the Washington and Columbus programs for political science majors.

Moerland said the economic downturn hasn’t kept students from majoring in the liberal arts — College of Arts and Sciences hasn’t seen any dips in enrollment in recent years.

But college keeps an eye on the ever-changing job market — computer science is once again an in-demand field for new grads, Moerland said.

“I have a daughter who is a graduate student in philosophy, not here but elsewhere,” Moerland said. “And I’m concerned about that. But philosophy is a great steppingstone to another career. Everything is relevant, but you have to understand the pathway to a career.”

The Big Picture

Ohio Education Chancellor Eric Fingerhut said students shouldn’t enter college with a narrow career focus, despite Gov. Ted Strickland’s push for a closer tie between higher education and economic growth.

“Many jobs today rely on people innovation and creativity and communication,” Fingerhut said. “There’s a much higher focus on jobs, but it’s consistent with broad-based higher education.”

Though career preparation has remained a part of discussions to alter the university’s curriculum, a liberal education will always be its backbone.

“There’s not an automatic disconnect between a good liberal arts experience and job training,” Moerland said. “A good person with a good education will find a job.”

Contact administration reporter Jenna Staul at [email protected].