The power of degrees outside of Isenberg

The business school is great, but so are the other schools

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Jake Russian, Collegian Columnist

It seems to be a well-known fact that the students at the University of Massachusetts are lucky to have such a renowned business school, the Isenberg School of Management. Year after year, the college is widely praised for its innovation and exceptional motivation for improving business education. But sometimes I wonder if some of the other colleges here at UMass receive less praise than they should. As students of this University, we are fortunate enough to have access to over 90 undergraduate majors in eight schools and colleges. Unfortunately, I often feel as though because Isenberg is so successful, the community of UMass parents and students may not recognize the power of earning a degree in a different field of study.

I often recall contemplating the many choices available to me as I honed in on what my major in college would be. In fact, I often felt overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities of the many directions that different degrees might take me. At first, my parents pushed me toward joining Isenberg, simply because of the perceived versatility of a business degree in the contemporary job market. Though I did give this option some thought, I ultimately decided that studying business in college was not for me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow missing out by choosing to not be a student in Isenberg. To me, the number of students actively enrolled in business classes or interested in switching into the college seemed exceptionally large. With such a competitive job market following college, I find it easy to see why I felt so worried about choosing not to study business. In fact, I think many students at UMass have come to assume that success and Isenberg are synonymous.

This feeling of anxiety over the future of my career as a non-business major has certainly bothered me throughout my first year of college, but recognizing the potential of other degrees has done wonders to ease my fears. In my personal experience as a communication and English double major, I’ve come to learn that liberal arts classes can provide students with valuable skills just as well as Isenberg can. Students are often challenged to think critically about the world and their opinions of it when involved in majors that fall into the liberal arts category. These students are also able to develop communication and team building skills just as students in a business school do, but simply in another fashion. In the words of former Amherst College admissions officer Willard Dix, “A good liberal arts curriculum puts students in touch not just with ways of interpreting the world around us but also with the fact that the world can be ‘interpreted’ in the first place. Ultimately, it tries to help us understand our place in it and our relationships with each other.” While obtaining a business degree is surely a popular route for many, pursuing a degree in the liberal arts can teach a student valuable skills in different ways. I believe that recognizing the differences between certain academic routes — but continuing to respect the value of each — can empower students to choose a path that is right for them.

The difficult truth about college is that the time we spend here as students is fleeting, and we have only so many opportunities to carve out the future. The less time we spend worrying about whether or not a specific major will guarantee us success, the better. Nothing in this world is ever certain, especially not the majors we choose and the money we stand to make. Picking a major that one is passionate about and genuinely interested in learning makes more sense to me than choosing a major based solely on a loose perception of what classes will make a student successful.

Jake Russian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]