By Angela Romansky and Christina LoBrutto
Standing out in a job interview, being well-rounded and pursuing interests that enhance each other are some of the reasons that Rider faculty encourage students to take a minor.
And in fact, more and more Rider students have decided to declare minors over the past five years.
In the fall of 2007, 943 students had a minor, according to Susan Stefanick in the Registrar’s Office. Last fall, 1,543 had a minor, a 64% increase. In addition, 158 students had a second minor last fall, up 103% from five years before.
Dr. Danielle Jacobs, assistant professor of chemistry, says that taking on a minor can be helpful for students.
“The benefit of a minor is increasing the depth and the breadth of your education,” she said. “You only get to do it once. In my eyes, what a minor should do is certainly complement your major, even in a way that you might not think it does.”
Many tout the advantages of minors, but logistical disadvantages can include not finding enough open class sections and making the student’s last two years complicated to schedule. Study abroad also can get tricky.
In both 2007 and 2012, the top minor was special education, a choice supported by Dr. Sharon Sherman, dean of the School of Education. She stressed the importance of students taking on a minor, especially those studying education.
Sherman added that multiple certifications make education students more appealing when they are searching for jobs.
Also among the top five minors in both 2012 and 2007 was early childhood education.
“Some of our students pick up their certification in early childhood in addition to that so they can go [pre-Kindergarten] through grade 8 because they have the minor plus the early childhood coursework,” Sherman said. “It makes them very marketable, because when a principal is looking at a candidate, and they know that their population is likely to shift and the needs of the school are likely to shift, bringing in a teacher who is versatile is a good decision.”
According to Sherman, Rider is the perfect place for education students to get a comprehensive college experience.
“That’s why we urge our students to take as many certifications as possible, and quite honestly, that’s what sets Rider apart from other schools,” she said. “When a high school student is looking to select a college and they say, ‘Why Rider?,’ the answer to that question, in part, is because at Rider the program is strategically designed so that you can get multiple certifications in the four-year period.”
Last fall, as in the fall of 2007, the minor with the second highest enrollment was law and justice. Following that, last fall, came business of sports, early childhood education, and social work.
“I’m going to grad school to become a social worker, but since Rider doesn’t offer a social work major, I had to minor in it,” said senior sociology major, Kate Mina. “A lot of sociology and psychology majors do.”
In 2007, among the top five minors were event planning and production, and psychology.
“I was a business major, but I minored in psychology because I felt it would help me better understand the people I would be working with,” said graduate student Chris Dudo. “So far, it really has helped me see the logic behind how decisions are made and how people interact.”
Though they haven’t made the top-five list, many students choose to minor in foreign languages like Spanish and French to complement their degrees.
“I minored in French because I’m a dance major, and a lot of ballet terminology and culture is derived from France,” said junior Kelly Vallery. “My French minor will make me more appealing to employers.”
Senior human resource management major Jen Campbell said that she originally entered college as a Spanish major, but then switched it to a minor.
“When I switched majors, I felt that I should at least complete [Spanish] as a minor, which is what I think a lot of people who wind up switching do,” she said.
Jacobs, the chemistry professor, explained that many biology majors minor in chemistry, and vice versa, as the two complement each other well. However, she said she is more excited by the possibility of students taking minors that don’t, at first glance, seem related.
“So, a chemistry major with an English minor; some sort of business major with a science minor; a film and media studies major with a political science minor,” Jacobs said. “Having the depth in two areas that are seemingly unrelated, but probably come together, is really important. No one’s just a bench top scientist anymore. They are science writers; they’re science communicators. You need to have that other experience.”
Jacobs added that this balance of two or more content areas is ideal for the job-seeking student.
“Another benefit of having a minor, or experiencing two seemingly different areas, is making yourself stand out when you’re going for a job interview, and honestly being able to communicate in two different arenas,” Jacobs said. “Scientists communicate very differently than historians, but if you get someone who has experience in both, they can bring those worlds together in a very cohesive manner.”
Mosto added that the proposed revisions to the CLAES core curriculum might encourage more students to take on a minor.
“Students see the core as something like, ‘I need to get it out of the way to get to my major,’ but in truth those [classes] are the foundation for life long learning, within and outside your major,” Mosto explained.
As more students take on more minors, a concern will be staffing these courses.
“I would say that in theory taking a minor is a good idea but that it only works if the university provides sufficient numbers of sections to meet the needs of the students who are minoring,” explained Dr. Jeff Halpern, a leader of the faculty union. “In the last couple of years the university has reduced the number of sections in many departments as well as canceled courses that failed to register at least ten students. I am afraid that because of this, many students will discover that they can not complete their minor and graduate on time.”
Junior graphic design major Lily Lin explained that her semester abroad in China ironically might prevent her from graduating with a Chinese minor.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to complete my minor because of studying abroad and those credits coming back are as electives and not courses that would count for my minor,” she said.
Dr. Patricia Mosto, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences (CLAES), says the college is working on making the classes available as needed.
“We are now moving to a system where we are, instead of closing courses with low enrollment, opening courses as needed when we see interest,” she said.“The new Banner system allows for students to ping the system. So if we see that there are a number of students who would like to have that class, we will be able to open it. We’re trying to be more intentional on the scheduling and the course offerings to try to avoid not having the classes that the students need to take.”
According to Mosto, the proposed Bachelor of Arts in multidisciplinary studies, which allows students to combine three minors, would help to make students more well-rounded individuals when they enter the workforce.
“It is driven by the realities that the world is changing and it’s becoming more and more interdisciplinary,” Mosto said. “Even disciplines are becoming more interdisciplinary.”
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