Six Arts & Sciences students shared how they found and fell in love with their chosen areas of study.
Across Arts & Sciences this February, sophomores are attending Major-Minor Welcome Sessions as they officially declare their majors and minors. To mark the occasion, six students discussed the majors they've chosen and what drew them to their fields of study. If you are a sophomore who has not yet attended a welcome session, be sure to view the session schedule and register!
Mandy Huang, Environmental Biology
Mandy Huang has decided on an environmental biology major and is also considering a second major in environmental analysis. Currently serving as the vice president of project advising for Student Sustainability Board and as compost co-leader in the WashU Green Ambassador Program, Huang found a way to merge her passions outside of the classroom with her studies.
“I have been really involved in sustainability on campus and realized that I want it to play a really large, if not central, role in my professional life,” Huang said. A few of her career options include becoming an urban planner, sustainability consultant, or a sustainable project director.
“My favorite part of the environmental biology major is the freedom of it — the broad choices and exposure to different topic areas as well as the opportunity to explore other disciplines… I love how modern and interdisciplinary it is,” Huang said.
Luke Ehrenstrom, Political Science and Business
Luke Ehrenstrom arrived at Washington University with a love of politics, so his choice to pursue a political science major seemed like a no-brainer. After taking an introductory accounting course in Olin Business School during the second semester of his first year, he discovered a passion for it and chose it as a second major.
Ehrenstrom discussed the way that pursuing a business major enhanced his understanding of political science back in Arts & Sciences.
“I've always looked at the world in a political lens, but my accounting courses gave me a way to analyze the economy on a detailed, line by line level that I think a lot of PoliSci folks miss out on,” Ehrenstrom said.
“Currently, I am working on a research project focused on electoral systems around the world, and a nerdy, younger-me reading Wikipedia pages about parliamentary systems would be very proud,” Ehrenstrom said. “I would've only had that chance by committing myself to being involved in the department, and I'm very happy with that decision.”
Erin Meller, Environmental Analysis
Erin Meller's self-described “evil plan” of taking only classes that she enjoyed in her first three semesters and then seeing which majors best fit her overall course selections worked out. Meller ended up selecting Environmental Analysis, a brand new Arts & Sciences major.
“Three semesters of fantastically fascinating coursework later, my amazing transcript wasn’t actually lining up with anything, so I started asking my professors what advice they had for next steps. The first professor I met with said, “Well, we’re actually working on a new major right now. Do you want to see the class list?” Lo and behold, my evil plan panned out perfectly (albeit with some lucky timing!)”
“Deciding on my major took me somewhere between a year and a half, and about 10 seconds – depending on whether you started counting from day one of college, or from the moment I knew the major existed,” Meller said.
Much of Meller’s passion for the environment and sustainability causes stemmed from her coursework, and it also allows her the opportunity to take that passion outside of the classroom.
“I took one class about climate change my first semester at WashU and everything escalated from there,” Meller said. “The course work in Environmental Analysis is really interdisciplinary, and it’s giving me the knowledge base I need to pursue sustainability as a career and as a personal interest.”
“There’s this fantastic variety of topics included in the major, so there isn’t any monotony, and they all come together to complement each other. Sustainability is a really dynamic field, and it’s great to be able to have a well-rounded understanding of all the different parts of it.”
Ramadan Ibrahim, Education and Pyschology
Similarly to Huang, Ramadan Ibrahim came to WashU with his designated major in mind: education. What he didn’t know, however, is that he would discover a newfound interest in a second field of study.
“I came to WashU knowing that I wanted to do education, so I decided to major in education in my first semester. The psych major came later,” Ibrahim said. “Most of the education classes at WashU are psych-based, which I liked, and the psych classes at WashU complemented my Ed major a lot, so I decided to take the major.”
Ibrahim finds fulfillment both in his current coursework and in his professional aspirations.
“I get to affect many lives in the future,” Ibrahim said. “I think that's my favorite part outside of WashU. Inside WashU, it's definitely Andrew Butler, the head of the education department.”
Cam Lind, Anthropology and Creative Writing
As a Nemorov writing scholar, Cam Lind knew that she would be declaring a writing minor right away. Finding her major took a bit more time as she decided between following her passions and settling on a major with a more linear career path. She determined in the first semester of her sophomore year that an anthropology major would be the best match for her interests.
“People often ask me what I plan to do with an anthropology major,” Lind said. “I always say that I will either take it in the academic direction and pursue a PhD, or the applied direction and go into marketing or some kind of media-related career. I also just find all of the classes and material interesting and love the variety they provide.”
Lind said that the major is ultimately rewarding because of the multiplicity of disciplines it provides.
“My favorite part about my major is the interesting mix of people I meet through the classes and other activities. Anthropology contains so many different subcategories, and everyone has a unique perspective to offer.”
Vivieng Huang, Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology
For Vivien Huang, deciding on a major wasn’t a difficult decision at all. In fact, PNP, a one-of-a-kind major that combines the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, was one of the biggest selling points for her to attend Washington University in the first place.
“After I got to WashU, I did occasionally have my moments where I wondered whether this was truly the right major, but at the end of the day, I think I always knew deep down that PNP was the perfect major for me. I officially declared last semester and have not looked back since,” Huang said.
“Because it is so interdisciplinary, it honestly doesn't feel like a single major at all. There's never a moment where I feel like I'm confined to studying one thing.”