By Michael Sugerman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 20, 2014
Seeking to “connect, learn, emphasize and unlock,” the LSA Student Government held its inaugural Alumni Connections event Thursday night, bringing in a panel of five LSA alumni to highlight the values of a liberal arts degree.
The panel was sponsored by the LSA Dean’s Young Alumni Council and the LSA Sophomore Initiative, and hosted by LSA-SG.
With underclassmen in mind, the event looked to show students the value of an LSA degree and provide them with the chance to see firsthand the kind of success it can offer.
Business senior Sagar Lathia, LSA-SG president, said the event was everything he hoped it would be. He said the goal was to reassure LSA students that choosing a major is about following passion, not worrying about the future.
“Ever since I was campaigning last year one of the biggest complaints I found was that LSA students love what they are learning, but they are very afraid of the applicability of their majors in the future,” he said. “I got to thinking, what could we do to rebrand the LSA degree, or at least change the perspective that students have. It shouldn’t be about fear.”
Roughly 40 students attended Thursday’s forum at the Union, which hosted five LSA alumni, four of whom are currently University graduate students. They talked with current students, taking questions, addressing concerns and offering advice.
LSA sophomore Emma Saraff, a member of the Sophomore Initiative’s advisory board, identified a kind of sophomore limbo, in which students struggle between the “eagerness” of freshman year and the more “intense focus” of juniors and seniors who generally have concrete, long-term academic goals. With this in mind, she said having alumni speak to the normalcy of this sensation was both necessary and relevant.
First-year medical student Julia Stella, a panelist who graduated from the University with a degree in Neuroscience, spoke to this point, noting the struggle to choose a major is not a bad thing.
“Don’t worry about it,” Stella said. “It’s not the biggest deal in the world if you decide on a certain major and then you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to do something completely different.’”
Law student John Lin, a Central Student Government representative, said choosing a major is far easier when students let their passions guide them rather than picking classes because they potentially look good on a résumé. He added that a liberal arts major is valuable in many professions.
“Being a liberal arts major has such a versatile background and pedagogy, and when you leave this University, it makes you a more well-rounded person,” he said. “We’re multi-dimensional majors and people.”
First-year Business graduate student Neil Tambe, who graduated from the University in 2009 with degrees in political science and organizational studies, highlighted Lin’s words with an anecdote.
“One of my best buds talks about getting reps in things,” Tambe said. “It’s like weightlifting. If you can get reps in something that is a little bit off the beaten path, you can get something out of it that is more than just listening to a lecture and writing a paper on it or taking an exam on it.”
For this reason, first-year Social Work graduate student Kate Balzer said changing a major should not be looked down upon.
“Nothing is permanent,” she said. “Most of us here had some point where we either did switch or thought about switching. There are a lot of opportunities in every field, so if it ends up being that you can’t change, there’s a lot that you can do just because you learned how to learn.”
LSA junior Kendall Johnson, LSA-SG vice president, added that having the alumni panelists from a variety of backgrounds and interests added to the event’s success.
“I think we had a pretty diverse panel of people, especially people who took untraditional pathways and ended up somewhere different than they thought they would before,” Johnson said.