Exploring the University's smaller majors

By Tanaz Ahmed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 13, 2015

Clarification: The headline of this piece, originally titled “LSA maintains unpopular majors despite costs,” has been updated to better reflect the content of the article. The title was written during the editing process. Additional clarification has also been added to the discussion of the University's offerings in Greek.

Though LSA offers more than 75 majors, some majors are far less popular than others.

According to the enrollment report from the Office of the Registrar, as of the current winter semester the Ancient Greek, Modern Greek and Earth Sciences majors each have one student enrolled. Ancient and Modern Greek are offered by the Classical Studies Department. Earth Sciences is housed in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The Earth Sciences major is being retired at the end of this academic year due to pedagogical reasons unrelated to enrollment and has not accepted new students since April 2010. The department currently offers an Earth and Environmental Sciences major, which has 160 students.

However, Michelle Biggs, the undergraduate coordinator for the Classical Studies Department, said there are five students enrolled in the Modern Greek concentration. There are also 14 students majoring in Classical Language and Literature, seven of whom chose Greek as their main language.

The Classical Languages and Literature concentration requires students to study both Greek and Latin, but to choose one language as their main focus. Many more students also enroll in Greek courses, apart from declared concentrators.

The differences between the information in the enrollment report and the actual number of students may result from the fact that the report does not include students who declared their majors after the data for the report is collected.

University Provost Martha Pollack said there is no specific enrollment number and the University does not require concentration programs to retain a minimum number of students because it is important the University provide a large variety of subjects for students.

“What distinguishes us is our breadth of excellence,” she said.

Pollack said the cost of maintain each major and minor is only one of the factors the University takes into consideration. The importance of the major or minor in the field also impacts the University’s decisions.

“We are very, very concerned with the cost of higher education, but we are also concerned with having the breadth that makes us great,” Pollack said.

According to JoAnn Peraino, the University’s curriculum and enrollment manager, low enrollment does not impact how majors are modified or how their futures are decided.

“It’s driven by pedagogy,” she said. “It’s about the subject, not the numbers.”

Periano said the University as a whole also does not attempt to increase enrollment for specific majors. Rather, she said, it is the department’s responsibility to market their majors through their course listings and presence at the Major/Minor Expo.

Biggs said many students do not enroll in the Ancient Greek or Modern Greek majors because they are difficult and the language is not usually taught at high schools. She also said students often do not recognize the versatility of the programs.

“It’s a good preparation for things not just in academia,” Biggs said.

Though the number of students majoring in the programs is low, the departments are not impacted financially since Greek classes offered by the department are filled with graduate students as well as non-majors, according to Biggs.

LSA senior Joseph Jozlin said he chose to study Modern Greek because of the major’s lack of popularity with most students.

“Most people study languages like Spanish and Chinese,” Jozlin said. “I wanted to do something different.”

LSA junior Constantinos Demetral said he decided to major in Modern Greek because it allows him to connect to his cultural roots. He also chose to study the subject because of the quality of the department and its professors.

“I am Greek and I’ve always wanted to brush up on my Greek,” Demetral said. “There are also great professors who are willing to help and the department is very supportive.”

Demetral also cited the difficulty of the upper-level classes as a reason for why students may not want to pursue a major in Modern Greek.

“The 300-level classes are very hard and the grammar is very difficult; it’s nothing like English grammar,” Demetral said.

LSA sophomore Jonas Sese initially considered majoring in Ancient Greek but later chose to major in Classical Languages and Literature instead because he wanted to study both Ancient Greek and Latin.

Sese said he believes the low enrollment in the Ancient Greek major is due to more students turning to science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors.

“I think it has to do with the shift of focus in universities from the humanities to STEM fields,” Sese said. “Ancient Greek is as far into the humanities as you can get. I think a lot of people entering into university want a major that has a lot of practical applications.”

Correction appended: The story has been clarified to reflect that though the Earth Sciences major only has one student, Earth and Environmental Sciences has more than 100. The explanation for the discrepancy in Greek enrollment numbers has also been corrected. The word program has also been replaced with major to clarify the difference.