Mining for Credit: Thoughts on Academic Minors at Wes

As I was mucking about the WSA blog today, I came across a minor announcement: “Wesleyan now has its first academic minor!” From the blog post itself:

On Monday, February 27, the Educational Policy Committee passed the Economics Minor, consisting of six courses: ECON 110, three core courses, and two electives. All students who meet the requirements are eligible to receive the minor upon graduation.

After a joint effort by the WSA and the Educational Policy Committee, the faculty passed a proposal on February 7th to allow academic minors at Wesleyan. The hope is to alleviate the pressure on students to double or triple major and grant students recognition for their curricular achievements.

Congratulations to somewhat-econ-inclined people across campus. Spearheaded by Mari Jarris ’14, your friendly neighborhood Academic Affairs Committee Chair, it looks like the initiative for minors got off the ground and became a reality rather quickly. Not only that, but by Jarris’s estimation, if you work to get a minor proposal submitted by May 3rd, it “has a good chance of being passed this semester.” Anyone want to take the lead on a Freeman Athletic Studies minor?

After sharing the link on Farcebook, I was reminded that at times, we’re actually not intellectual lemmings (despite what you may conclude from learning 79% of voters are totally cool with sending robots to bomb American citizens abroad) when there was some debate concerning the merits of minors in the comment chain. That made me start thinking about it (oh God).

My guess is that it’s probably not too hard to come up with reasons that people may think having minors is a good/great/godly thing. In the job market (job free-market (job-free market)), being able to say you minored in something is a quick and easy way to show that just because you didn’t major in Econ doesn’t mean you’re economically illiterate, for example. And since double or triple majoring can, in some ways, be more restrictive to your course diversity than just majoring in one thing, it only gives you more intellectual options when you’re considering how deep you’d like to explore something.

Counterpoints do, however, exist:  some would argue that majors here frequently have less requirements than elsewhere, which is why some of us double and triple major in the first place. And maybe employers who actually care what you minored in pay attention to your transcript anyway – what’s the use of getting the institutional seal of approval planted on it? Might this not just provide another way to pass judgment on someone without really looking at what their time was spent doing? To keep it real for a second, it’s not like having academic minors actually hurts anyone, so the “if you don’t like it, don’t do it” argument might carry some weight along those lines. But for those who think a piece of paper is a piece of paper and putting so much weight on these institutionalized credentials is fundamentally flawed, there might be reasons to push Wesleyan to take a more active role and not participate in systems its students don’t agree with.

Some of the points I saw brought up specifically pertained to the Economics major – what it means to take a few (or a lot) less classes in a department can vary widely. But since it seems minors are proposed largely under the guidance of the academic departments themselves, these things are hopefully thought about in depth.

Well? What do y’all think? It seems there wasn’t much public discourse on it outside the proposal discussion last semester, so now that one is here and presumably more are on the way, some dialogue might be appropriate. As always, Wesleying is happy to provide a forum for the enlightened exchange of ideas in the comments, free of charge. In my mind, regardless of where you stand, this should be way bigger news – that’s why I wrote this post instead of doing something fun, like studying for my midterms this week or handling the mountain of dishes in my sink. Also, “Mar-Mar” Jarris herself would be happy to hear your comments, concerns, suggestions, and so on – feel free to email mjarris[at]wesleyan[dot]edu for some more personal attention.

Relevant linkage:

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2 thoughts on “Mining for Credit: Thoughts on Academic Minors at Wes

  1. Matt

    One other thing I didn’t say on facebook was that the introduction of minors seems to me to be antithetical to the idea of a liberal arts education / “education for its own sake”. An outright stated, though not really checked up on requirement of my major (philosophy, rofl) is that we ought to take a variety of courses from many departments: such is part of the point of going to Wesleyan (or any like-minded liberal arts college). Maybe I’m thinking too much about the “image” of Wesleyan, but the fact that we didn’t have minors always suggested to me that Wes is more concerned about learning and knowledge than being able to say you have a minor in something. 

  2. Alum

    In my experience, employers will look at your resume to see what you studied, but basically never look at your transcript.  So, other than an awkward “relevant coursework” section, I really don’t think there’s another way to signal to an employer that you have some expertise in a topic but didn’t quite major in it.

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