Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What should I major in?

Trying to come up with some interesting short-speech topics for the Advanced Public Speaking class I am teaching this semester. Today's topic was a one and a half to two-minute talk on "What am I passionate about?" There are about 20 people in the class and we had an interesting array of topics. One response was interesting. Hannah said (paraphrasing) there are a lot of things that I feel strongly about either I love or hate but I am not certain yet what I have a passion for.

Because it was Hannah, who just changed her major to communication, it got me to thinking about the quandary many students face as they try choosing a major. At 17 or 18 years of age there are not all that many people who can know EXACTLY what they want to do with their lives. Heck, with the rate of change in today's world some things they may want to do have not yet been invented. So, when I get the opportunity to talk with prospective Coker students at Open Houses I tell them "Undecided" is one of my favorite majors. And, sometimes, when I can, I will mention to them that I see communication as one of those excellent majors for someone who does not know exactly what they want to do.

It has been my experience that a broad-based major like communication can open a lot of doors. Think about it, nearly every job posting includes the admonition that the employer is seeking people with excellent speaking and writing skills. In the communication area, we have a great variety of courses that emphasize these skills.

At Coker, we have a broad-based communication major that introduces students to a wide range of communication opportunities from film to public relations and from theory to video production. We have former communication majors who are in sales and marketing jobs with big and small companies. There are some communication majors who are serving in the armed forces and one who just returned from a nine-month Fulbright scholarship teaching English in Malaysia. We have former communication majors who discovered a couple of years after graduation they wanted to be teachers or nurses or hospital administrators. Just today I had a lunch with a student who graduated last May who is in graduate school and will probably continue on to a Ph.D., perhaps in political communications. One of her communication-major colleagues who was also her tennis partner and is starting her second semester of law school this week.

Lots of people know that the world of journalism has been turned upside down over the past few years with newspapers consolidating, radio stations being centralized and television stations being downsized. At the same time, the need for professional reporting has never been more important and the number of ways people are able to report have never been so abundant. So, at Coker we do teach writing for media though we do not have a "professional" journalism program. We do teach organizational communication (both practice and theory) though we don't have that as a sole concentration. With the strong liberal arts focus that we have a Coker, we believe that our broad approach to the communication major helps students develop important tools that will aid them in opening doors to employment,to graduate school and to a lives filled with continuous learning.

So, I often tell students who aren't sure what to major in that communication will open a wide variety of doors.

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