Up-and-coming minors help students explore options
June 25, 2014Tweet
When Amanda Cardone arrived at Binghamton University, her goal was to be an occupational therapist, but she realized that teaching would be a better career if she wanted to work with children, so she enrolled in the new undergraduate minor in education. While delivering a 10-minute lesson plan for a required course was a nerve-wracking experience, it helped her realize she’d made the right choice.
“After having done that, and going through it and having it be okay, it kind of just calmed me down,” Cardone said. “It’s like, ‘OK, maybe I can stand in front of a class and do this every day.’”
Cardone isn’t alone in her appreciation for the minor in education. The ability to explore careers in the field of education before making the leap into graduate school makes the minor a popular choice for curious students like herself. Despite launching as recently as fall 2013, it was the most enrolled minor at the University in spring 2014, with a total of 261 students.
What makes the minor so appealing? For Dave Archer, undergraduate education minor coordinator, this “wildly successful” minor helps students decide if they want to get into teaching — or run away screaming.
“There’s a lot of students whose parents say ‘If that doesn’t work out, you can always teach,’ like it’s this big safety net that anyone in the world can fall into,” said Archer. “And I think through the minor they really begin to say, ‘You know what? This is something I can really get passionate about and love.’ And for others, it’s saying, ‘I’m scared to death to talk in front of a class.’ It helps them figure it out.”
Even for those students that don’t go on to pursue a master’s in education like Cardone, the minor can help them acquire skills that will help them succeed later in life, said Archer.
“Whether they’re a School of Management student making a presentation to a boss or they end up being president of their town Little League, they’re going to have to teach or coordinate or lead,” said Archer. “It gives them the basic skills.”
But the minor in education isn’t the only minor on campus drawing in droves of inquisitive students. By offering an in-depth overview of the practical skills and behaviors of healthy living, the health and wellness studies minor has risen rapidly in popularity. Launched in fall 2012 with just 50 students, the minor saw a huge surge in enrollees over the 2013-14 academic year: 178 students were enrolled in the minor as of this spring.
For Lisa Hrehor, health and wellness studies director, this emerging minor gives students the opportunities to explore possible career paths they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
“We’ve been able to help students on campus that in the past didn’t have an avenue to go into these health-related fields that are pretty popular,” said Hrehor. “I think that’s another reason why the minor is as successful as it’s been. Now that we’re starting to get the word out, the students are coming down because this is exactly what they want to do.”
When the Department of Health and Wellness Studies first established the minor, it thought it would be mainly attractive to nursing students. The department is finding, however, that students are coming from all over campus and are using the minor in unique ways. For some it’s personal, for others they “found their passion,” said Hrehor. There’s the English major who wants to be a health and fitness magazine writer. The math majors who joined so they could pick up skills to stay healthy during stressful times in their careers. Integrative neuroscience and human development majors are flocking to the minor, too.
Then there’s the women, society and health policy major who also happens to minor in environmental studies, Kaitlin Voellinger. She was moved by the experiences she had during an internship class, where she sat in a community discussion about the barriers for health and wellness in the local area. The minor offered her more than she had expected.
“Not only did I learn more than I ever thought there was to know about the body, mind and spirit, I learned so much about myself,” wrote Voellinger. “I was supported and guided to define what health and wellness means to me, and for that I will always be grateful.”
Like Voellinger, Cardone appreciates the opportunities that the minor provided to her. Minors like these give uncertain students the ability to put their feelers out, to explore areas of interest without risk of making the wrong choice.
“I know it’s tough for people, when you’re 18 years old, to pick what you’re going to want to do for the rest of your life,” she said. “And some people don’t always pick right, so I think it’s a great opportunity for them to get a little taste of the field… so they can feel confident in their decision.”