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Well, I Do Declare: Studying Arts Not A Major Mistake

Higher Education Peer Group Session – AFTA11

I have the great privilege of attending this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention as a student representative of San Diego State University. As a student, I was excited to attend the Higher Education Peer Group.

During the session, the conversation gravitated toward the difficult decision college students face as they declare their major. In a fickle economic environment and uncertain job market, students may be deterred from choosing to major in their true passion—music, dance, theater, art, photography, etc.

Furthermore, because there often isn’t a guaranteed, high-paying job upon graduating, the likelihood of accruing debt in student loans seems daunting, especially to students pursuing the arts. Additionally, faculty and staff members on college campuses feel students in the arts will graduate and be forced to obtain a “real job,” which doesn’t always require the training they received during their four years of college.

With all this in mind, is it still possible to recruit potential students and convince them to major in artistic fields? How do we assist students in recognizing careers in which they can earn money while also employing artistic training?

Throughout the session, leaders from colleges located throughout the nation exchanged ideas about the need to combat fears and encourage the pursuit of higher education in the arts.

One person mentioned the importance of sharing success stories to promote a degree in such fields. Similarly, during Newcomer Orientation, Robert L. Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, emphasized the significance of storytelling, particularly in today’s market conditions.

I believe successful experiences can be shared and beneficial storytelling can be accomplished with the creation of interdisciplinary peer scholar programs and major-specific clubs. I am confident that it is possible to recruit students and convince them to major in artistic fields if colleges offer such benefits to students.

As an undergraduate at SDSU, I declared a music major in vocal performance, a major in business management, and the honors minor in interdisciplinary studies.

During my studies, I recognized the interdisciplinary link between music and business. I graduated in four years, earning a job in which I utilize skills from both my business and music training. Now, this fall, I will begin graduate school, concurrently completing the MBA and musicology programs at SDSU.

Although being a double major was demanding, there were peer groups to join, which offered support systems and boosted healthy competition amongst students. I became a volunteer mentor for the Peer Scholar Program of SDSU’s honors program, which gave me the opportunity to meet younger students and share my story and similar stories. Because this interdisciplinary program offers services to all majors, it gives students the opportunity to network with each other, draw from other fields, and bridge the gap between academic departments.

Furthermore, students were not only encouraged to do well because of the accomplishments of their peers, but also seemed more competitive, and sought to improve their GPAs, campus involvement, community service, and artistic endeavors.

Major-specific clubs are also integral to the success and collaboration of students. I joined the vocal club on campus, where I was able to interact with other students pursuing a similar degree. I took on a leadership role, and encouraged students to stick with the program and look outside the department for networking and career opportunities that would draw on their vocal training.

If your college already has programs like these, are they performing to their full capabilities? If not, seek student perspective, be aware of the academic departments that can refer students to the program, and highlight success stories.

In this harsh economic environment, a major in the arts is not a major mistake, and it can lead to a career that will not only fulfill the artistic needs of the individual, but also the monetary requirements.

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