As spring semester trudges on, sophomores officially declared their majors on Monday, Feb. 6. While the college offers around 50 major and special major programs, some are more popular than others.
Raina Williams ‘18 is majoring in economics, one of the top five most popular majors at the college. Although she originally considered majoring in biology, another popular major, her first course in the economics ultimately swayed her course of study.
“Amanda Bayer was my first econ professor, and just an awesome woman in the field. [She] works at the fed, for women, women of color too, I don’t know -— just an awesome first impression,” Williams said.
Bayer has not been a singular influence on Williams; the department as a whole has contributed to her learning.
“I think there’s really good support with the professors. I’ve gotten passed along between a couple professors because of pregnancies or people going on sabbatical and stuff, and I haven’t had a problem going seamlessly into another professor’s office, so I’ve been really comfortable with it,” Williams said.
Despite the support, Williams does note that Economics, while a popular major, is not a very diverse one.
“Being a black woman, you don’t see too many other black women in econ, I think there’s like two, maybe, in my class, and it tends to just be very male dominated, very white male dominated, which is fine … it’s been okay for me but it can be overwhelming for some people. Luckily I have friends that are in that kind of group so it works for me, but you do see a lot of like, damn, I think if I wasn’t on a [sports] team I think it’d be hard sometimes, just for (things like) study groups,” Williams said.
In terms of advice to newly declared sophomores, Williams says the best thing to do is to go visit professors.
“They want to do nothing but help. They honestly, like — everyone is so nice in the department … they’re waiting to help you with an internship, too, so it’s kind of lit!,” Williams said.
Another benefit of econ, Williams believes, is its capacity to be part of a double-major combination.
“It’s a good major I think to pair with others like poli-sci, psychology, even history, just like a lot of different other majors, so I think that kind of just being a little proactive in terms of meeting people, too,” Williams said.
Hayley Raymond ‘18 is part of another such other major, albeit a less popular one— chemistry. Her love for the subject began during her freshman fall.
“I wound up placing into honors chem my freshman fall … and I wound up loving it and decided this was what I wanted to major in. I pretty much knew right off the bat, just being in that class for a couple of weeks,” Raymond said.
Raymond’s favorite part of the major is its capacity and potential for specialization.
“Even though it’s all chemistry, there are so many different subtopics and subfields that we look at, and I always think it’s so interesting that even within the chemistry and biochemistry majors … you have people who are so focused in certain areas, like some of my friends will love organic, or will love inorganic, because their brain works one way but not in the other. And it’s always so interesting just to see how people’s brains work and see how you can be so subspecialized in a field that’s all still considered chemistry,” Raymond said.
However, this broad range of specific topics does have its drawbacks.
“There are things that you’re really really gonna love about chemistry, but there are also some sub-fields that you’re not gonna love so much. So I think that navigating those courses and maybe doing something, not necessarily that you don’t like, but something that doesn’t come as natural to you, because some chemistry is very math-based, then others is very much like visual thinking and flipping molecules around in your head … if your brain works in one way it’s not necessarily going to work in another way and that makes things challenging because you still have to take all of the courses to be a major,” Raymond said.
Raymond believes that labs, too — characteristic of many STEM classes— are a challenge.
“Labs are hard and time-consuming, you spend three to six hours in lab per week, and then have hours of data analysis on your own on top of that. Especially in the upper level courses, the lab reports are challenging … but they really do add to your learning in the end. I mean, you have to love it, because it’s a lot of time,” Raymond said.
This passion, Raymond believes, is beneficial regardless of your field of study.
“I think that goes for all majors, [it’s] something that you’re passionate about and that you want to put the work in, because you’re going to be putting in a lot of hours in the department and a lot of hours in class. So it’s not always fun, but you do have to enjoy it at the end of the day,” Raymond said.