Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Choosing Another Major

I had a student come in today for advising. This is a student I "inherited" from the colleague I'm replacing for the year, so I don't know the student from before or anything.

The student was doing education, but doesn't want to do education, and actually doesn't want to do English. So we talked about some other possibilities.

I think sometimes, students really need someone to give them permission not to pursue an education degree (and I'm sure some need permission not to pursue other pre-professional type degrees, too, but education's the one I see). He'd set up his schedule to fill education requirements, but they really make no sense for the other major he's thinking he wants to study. So, we talked and he's planning now to sign up for courses that will help him explore the other major and a possible minor.

This is one of those interactions that would seem negative on paper. Bardiac's lost a major! Oh nozors! The bean counters who care about how many majors we serve would tsk tsk. They'd look carefully at our bottom line, and think about how they can cut our funding, maybe.

But from the student's point of view, it was a helpful meeting. He said, at least, that he was feeling much better about school from our meeting. He went from seeming stressed and unsure/unhappy to looking enthusiastic and engaged. He's excited about the courses he'll be taking next semester.

I think the bean counters forget sometimes that we're educating human beings and not beans. A bean can't choose to be a different sort of bean, but a human being can change majors and learn different things. My student wants to learn different things. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with the bean counters tsk tsking, too, I guess.


  1. that sounds like a very productive meeting. the U exists to serve students in a variety of ways, with many varieties of academic pursuit. people who end up in administrative forts lose sight of the real work of the place. [that's true in other professions, too.]

  2. Excellent post. This takes me back to the way I originally thought about college, when I was an undergrad in a (very) SLAC. College was inspiring, an adventure, fun. I could play with majors, and if I took a gen ed course that gripped me, I was ready to do more or switch majors if I wanted. I imagine that pressure to keep majors existed even then, but not so much, and I was certainly unaware of it. The whole process has become so freighted, so burdened, so regimented that it sometimes threatens the very reasons I entered the profession.

    You did a good thing for the student.

  3. You are a good professor, and you dealt with the student and his needs in a responsible and sensitive way.

    That is what we are all supposed to do.

    If any bean counter cops an attitude about your being a responsible and decent advisor, please tell said bean counter that I said to take two running jumps and go to hell. You can quote me on that.

  4. Holy crap, I never ever would have thought that an advisor had an interest in keeping me in the major. Now I know why they let me substitute a whole bunch of classes.