Friday, March 22

Little-known majors offer more personal experience


Little-known majors offer more personal experience

Smaller classes, close student-professor relationships are
‘major’ advantages

By Rachanee Srisavasdi

Daily Bruin Contributor

Some UCLA departments still provide a personal approach to
higher education, an option not considered by most
undergraduates.

Several undergraduate majors – out of dozens offered at UCLA -
have less than 20 students enrolled. While thousands of students
major in biology or political science, only a handful choose to
study majors such as Italian, Arabic, Scandinavian and Jewish
studies.

Some students think that smaller majors provide a rare
opportunity to get to know professors.

"I was scared to come to UCLA because I thought I’d be just
another student," said Dawn Williams, a fourth-year Italian
student. "But that hasn’t been the case in Italian.

"The classes are small and you get to know professors and
everyone else in the major," she added.

There is a much smaller student-to-professor ratio in smaller
majors; classes often have less than ten students per
professor.

Administrators said that a student in a small major can have a
totally different experience than most other UCLA students.

"Students get the feel of attending a small liberal-arts
college," said Jane Crawford, director of Letters and Science
counseling. "They get to know each other much better than in larger
majors," she added.

Yet, small major departments are not without problems. There is
always a risk that a major could become obsolete if there is not a
minimum amount of declared students, according to undergraduate
Italian counselor Thomas Harrison.

"It’s a struggle to get more (students) when it’s a small
program," said Harrison. "We always have fewer students than we
would like to have."

There are two Italian majors – general Italian, which has five
declared students, and Italian and special fields, which has 15
declared students, Harrison added.

The Scandinavian major, which has a five-student enrollment,
focuses on the study of Scandinavian language and literature.
Students said that small enrollment has had a positive effect on
their education.

"You get to foster a personal relationship with professors as
opposed to being just a number," said Amelia Smith, a fourth-year
Scandinavian student.

General mathematics, which has about 20 declared students, was
designed to provide a mathematical background for students who plan
to teach mathematics at the high- school level. Some students
prefer general mathematics to the other mathematics majors, which
have over 100 students.

"I have a lot of friends who are (general) math majors," said
Susan Kim, a fifth-year general mathematics major. "I see them in
different classes all the time. It’s easier to get notes and study
together when you actually know the people."

Established in the 1960s, the Near Eastern Studies department
has four majors which have historically had less than 20 students
enrolled: ancient Near-Eastern civilizations, Arabic, Jewish
studies and Iranian studies.

"Students who take our majors come back after they graduate and
say they became closer to professors and the field itself because
of the small size," said Antonio Loprieno, chairman of Near Eastern
Studies.

Iranian studies has the highest enrollment of all four majors
with about 20 declared students. Ancient Near-Eastern
civilizations, Arabic and Jewish studies all have less than 10
declared students in each field.

"It’s a lot better being in a smaller class," said Rodney Abadi,
a fourth-year student double majoring in Iranian studies and
political science. "Students in political science either want to go
into business or law.

"But everyone (in Iranian studies) is spontaneous, and doesn’t
necessarily know what they want to do," he added.

Tougher requirements are one reason some majors have small
enrollments. The majority of small majors are language/literature
majors, which require about two years of foreign languages studies,
according to Harrison.

Other department administrators said that students do not think
specialized majors are practical.

"There is the idea that these majors are about pure scholarship
without a tinge of reality," Loprieno said. "But this is not true -
students can find alternatives to what they do with a major."

Loprieno added that the majority of language/literature students
seek careers in academia. But, Abadi said that regardless of career
choice, students should follow their interests instead of choosing
a major based on its practicality.

"People think there is no future with this major," Abadi said,
who wants to go into international politics. "But it’s not true. I
feel this major will help me through the course of my
life."Comments to [email protected]

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.