By Elizabeth Childers
While Ohio Wesleyan offers an array of majors in several departments (93, according to our website), over the past five years, and according to the current declared majors, there are four who seem to draw in the most students: Zoology, Psychology, English, and Economics (respectively and according to the number of declared majors).
These four departments being the top are significant in showing the diversity at OWU. Though the university is known for its science programs (OWU is one of the few in the country to offer zoology as a degree and as a separate department, which is a huge draw to prospective students), the four departments with the highest number of students with declared majors are as diverse as what 93 majors would suggest. All four of these programs also happen to be listed by the Princeton Review as some of the top ten majors in the country.
“Be warned, however, that these are not necessarily the degrees that garner the most demand in the job market,” the Princeton Review writes. “More importantly, they don’t lock you into a set career path. Each major offers unique intellectual challenges and develops skill sets that will be applicable to various careers.”
The four departments listed here – zoology, psychology, English and economics – are all very different routes of education, but all seem to do the same thing: preparing students for a wide array of different jobs focusing more on the skills and thinking styles taught by each discipline.
This is part two of a two part series. Last week’s Transcript featured the first and second most popular majors, Zoology and Psychology. Find Part One Here.
English, which provides three different concentrations for their students, has the third highest number of declared majors with 80 currently declared. These students very commonly are double majors (around 40 percent of the already declared English majors, according the English department’s current records).
Dr. Martin Hipsky, the chairperson for the department, had just finished discussing the English department’s programs with a prospective student. “At this time of year, March/April, we have one or two (prospective students) a week,” Hipsky said. “We’re often asked to allow 1, 2, or 3 students in. Often on Mondays after Sunday night stayovers. It’s extremely common.”
Students who come in their freshmen year wanting to be English majors, Hipsky said, often have had pleasant experiences with high school English and AP English teachers and they “conceive a passion for it.”
No department really has a way to track intention to declare and ending up declaring. Hipsky said a lot of English majors register their majors late, due to a switch from outside the department into this one.
“They came to Ohio Wesleyan saying, ‘I want to be a pre-med’ or ‘I’m going to do pre-dentistry,’ or ‘I’m going to be pre-law’ and they discover they don’t have the aptitude or they no longer really like it as much. In the meantime, they’ve taken two or three courses in the humanities and decide they have a real interest in it.”
Hipsky mentioned the common conception is that humanities degrees such as Classics, Philosophy, Religion or English tend to be considered “impractical.” Yet, it is one of the most popular majors both at OWU and across the country.
“The truth is, a lot of people realize that what are valued very highly across different kinds of work places are communication skills, both written and oral,” Hipsky explained. “And because we have a lot of discussion in our classes, we do a lot of oral presentations and obviously we have students write a lot of papers. Our department is, arguably, the best place to develop those communication skills…It’s kind of a one size fits all, in terms of jobs, set of skills.”
The curriculum for English majors is noted to be flexible for students. Because of the three concentrations, there are different required classes and different electives that can be taken.
Required classes also tend to be in groups meaning in the catalogue a lot of required sections will say: “Take three out of the classes listed here” and there will be a list of classes that would fill that requirement. These classes can vary depending on the concentration.
Students who graduate from the English department end up in a variety of jobs.
“Some students end up in Public Relations, advertising, media,” he said.
“Lots of places where the writing skills are put to good use… I also have a student in New York now who is an editor for an online magazine. I have another student who works at the children’s magazine Highlights down in Columbus. We have students who go to law school or masters of Fine Arts…We have students who go for the PhD.”
The English department, one of the physically largest departments, has 12 full-time faculty members and three assistant professors. Classes rarely get overly crowded; Hipsky believes the average class size in the department is 13 to 15 students but there are often students who are waitlisted for classes and don’t get in.
“We have an issue of pressure on the caps (for classes),” Hipsky said.
“A lot (of) courses are capped at 19 and we can get pressure from students to allow in one more seat. Different professors handle that differently. Most professors adhere to the caps, and that definitely avoids overcrowding.”
The English department also works with others programs on campus.
“We have film courses from Modern Foreign Language from Sociology, even from Politics and Government so we coordinate with them for which classes can fulfill the minor,” he said. “We are involved in the Ancient Medieval and Renaissance program chaired by Patricia DeMarco. So we work with Humanities-Classics and History. We are intertwined with Black World Studies (BWS) and Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS.)”
The past number of students enrolled in economics used to supersede zoology, and the past five year mean indicated Economics had the highest number of students enrolled. This year the number has significantly dropped from an average of 81 students to 68. However, there doesn’t seem to be any changes in the department. The department’s chairperson, Dr. Barbara MacLeod, said it wasn’t unusual for their students to declare relatively late.
“Some of it is ebb and flow,” she said. “And some of it is a few years ago we had a big economic crisis and some people chose to do something else. And some of our majors haven’t declared yet. When you have a large number of majors, there’s more change that can occur.”
There are five majors in the Economics department, and prospective students come to OWU having a basic interest in either economics or business and then decide later on which specific route they’d like to follow.
Students come into the department the same way students enter the psychology or English department, where there are students who come into the classroom freshmen year ready to major in Economics and sticking with it all four years or students who take an Econ course as part of an elective or requisite for another course and find they’re drawn to the major.
And, MacLeod said, it’s rare, but there are cases when Econ isn’t exactly what the student expected, so often they pursue a different major, or decide to make their Econ involvement a minor.
“We also pick up a lot of people who think they want to do pre-med, and I think that it’s true for a lot of departments on campus, where people will drift out of pre-med and into something else,” she said. “We also get a lot of students from the Health and Human Kinetics area who are interested in Sports Management…they take a lot of our courses.”
For an Economics majors, there is a set core of classes they are required to take. Beyond that, there are electives and other courses students can take as well to fulfill their major.
The Economics program is very similar to Psychology in that there are a few guidelines for specific courses students need to take for their majors and what those courses fulfill for students.
“Because we have so many majors, almost all the electives are offered every year and all of the required courses are offered almost every semester,” she said. “And many have multiple sections every semester, especially those freshmen and sophomore classes. It works really well for students who want to double major or work out minors in other departments.”
Class room sizes tend to run around 30 students and according to their own records, as many as 2/3 of the classes in the department run over 19, which is a significant number looked at in rating a college. Overall, most of OWU’s classes have fewer students than that magic number, and this department runs the opposite way.
“Classes are always tight. But we’ve never had anyone not be able to graduate,” MacLeod said. “We have no class that runs more than 35, and I still know the name of every student in my class.”
Students who graduate from the Economics program at OWU end up in a variety of locations and professions, like social media, PhD programs, graduate schools and business schools. “We send people into the finance industry, we send them into healthcare…Some of them are doing work overseas,” MacLeod said. “It really is fun to look at where they end up.”
The department interacts with other factions of OWU through several different programs, one of which is the Woltenmeade Center and international travel. In one instance, a group of interdisciplinary faculty travelled to China to incorporate it into an honors course that focused on different ways to look at the country. This coming summer the group is going to Cuba. They have also been involved in the Teaching Circle, which is “a group of faculty who has been meeting for several years now on how to improve their pedagogy and share ideas on new technology and new pedagogical techniques.”
Though there are no significant changes planned for the department, there has been some major progress in the recent past, and MacLeod said the department is focused on keeping these programs up to date and adding to what they’ve already accomplished.
“In the last few years, we have increased our faculty,” she said. “Five years ago, we started a program for top incoming freshmen called Economics Management Fellows program. Those students have left a real mark on campus…one of the results of that is the Bigelow-Reed House which focuses on economics and leadership and entrepreneurship, which is open to any major in campus. This past fall, we added the Finance Economics major…We want to solidify what we’ve been doing. We are continuing to add courses and we’ve rejuvenated an Economic Thought course and we’re talking about rejuvenating (others).”
MacLeod also mentioned a desire to increase the number of internship and job shadowing for their majors and working closely with the Woltenmeade Center to do so.