How I Chose My Major, and a Minor I Wish Was Another Major

By: Tony

I’ve always been good at social studies. Growing up, it was always my favorite part of the school day, and my academics reflected that. I earned A’s in social studies and English, but that trend didn’t always extend to math. As my mom likes to put it, I’m good at words, not numbers. In high school, this pattern continued, and I began to really think about it. I knew that I wanted to attend college, but I wasn’t sure what I would study. This was a few years into the huge STEM surge that we are still going through, and those studies were being pushed heavily at my school. I knew that numbers aren’t really my thing, and I began to worry that I had no idea what I wanted to study. At the same time, I was excelling in my history, economics, and civics classes, and I was also really into reading dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World. I was wary of wanting to pursue these studies in college because I was well aware of the jokes surrounding the liberal arts, and all my friends were planning on studying STEM fields like computer science and engineering. Luckily, this hesitation ceased in the fall of my senior year of high school.

The class that changed everything was my 4th period political science class. I’ve heard of poli sci prior to this class, but I didn’t really know what it was. In case you’re not sure of what it is either, political science is the study of power, specifically what power is, how it’s distributed, and how it should be distributed. In essence, it looks at how society is run and maintained, and possibilities of how those operations can be done better. I absolutely loved that class, we talked about theory, current events, our own opinions, justice, and a whole lot more. After I took that class, I had my mind made up, I was going to study political science in college. During my senior year, I also took a sociology course, which I also loved, but I had my mind set on political science.

The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it's a different kind of life. - R. Buckminster Fuller

Fast-forward to junior year at UMD. I was a happy poli sci major with a sociology minor. I didn’t really pay too much attention to my progress in sociology beyond making sure that I was on track to complete the minor. While applying for Spring semester classes I decided to look at what it would take to complete a sociology major as well. As it turned out, I was much closer to that reality than I thought, but there were still a few obstacles in the way. I would need to complete a branch of required courses related to completing an internship, and it didn’t seem that I would be able to complete everything and graduate on time. The first course in the branch seemed to be similar to one that I completed for my political science major, and so I reached out to my academic advisor to see if I could get that course waived. I got the paperwork for the request, but life got in the way and I forgot to submit it. I still regret not at least submitting it and seeing what happened. Maybe I would be a double major now.

I care a lot about sociology, just as much as, if not more than, political science. If you’re wondering, sociology is essentially the scientific version of people-watching at the mall. The goal of sociology is to better understand how society functions and how people interact with each other. It allows me to better comprehend the world around me and the potentials for improvement. In fact, I am applying to attend grad school for sociology because I want to continue learning and figure out how I can connect those lessons to a career.

So that is the story of how I chose my major, and a minor that I wish I had picked up as a major. Even though I came into UMD with an idea of what to study, I still regret my hesitation in figuring out what additional opportunities I had. Hopefully, my experience will encourage you to take those extra steps if you are in the same spot that I was.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Steve Halama

Why Major in Communication at UMD

By: David

As a double major, one day you will eventually have to prioritize your majors one over the other. In talking with students with a double major, this is typically the case (though not always) with students having the second major supporting their primary major. For me personally, I would say this is especially true with degrees in Communication and Psychology. My main area of focus being Communication and my supporting major being Psychology. In today’s post, I want to highlight the wonders of the Department of Communication here at UMD and why it truly is a “diamond in the rough.” After having conversations with Department Head, Dr. David Gore, Associate Professor Dr. Ryan Goei, and Director of Internships for Communication, Alastair Knowles, I was able to gather an abundance of information from all three in highlighting the Communication department. With that being said, let’s begin!

Overview of the Communication Discipline  

In order to understand the Communication department here at UMD, I find it important to understand the Communication discipline altogether. Generally, Communication programs will have a mixture or divide of the social sciences and humanities (also known as rhetoric in the Communication discipline). You can think of the two as different processes or approaches to communication. On one end, social scientists seek to observe the present, they prefer data, numbers, and statistics where findings can be generalize to the broader population and are concerned with what can be observed in reality. On the opposite end, rhetoricians seek to understand human nature versus predicting it, they prefer concepts related to philosophy, history, and context, and require one core element – the human experience.

In expanding on this topic of social science and rhetoric, let’s explore the concept of fear appeals as an example. A social scientist might look into fear appeals and analyze the effectiveness of fear appeals on people and its ability to persuade. On the other hand, a rhetorician may look at fear appeals, and instead of analyzing the effectiveness, will analyze the ethics of using fear appeals overall. To end, I like to think of social science and rhetoric as an objective and subjective approach to understanding communication. Social science being the objective, while rhetoric being the subjective. Now that we have a basic understanding of the communication discipline as a whole, let’s explore the elements of UMD’s Communication program.

Why Comm

What makes UMD’s Program So Unique and Special?

(1) Healthy Balance of Social Science & Rhetoric
After explaining the two approaches to Communication, one can easily see how a divide or rift may quickly emerge within Communication programs. Fortunately, the professional environment here in the Communication department is one that is quite healthy and friendly where faculty members are open and respectful to one another’s approach to communication. The faculty here see the value in BOTH perspectives and therefore the program creates a flexibility of the mind. Additionally, as a generalist program that offers and requires courses in both approaches students in the program can pick whichever route they prefer. This is possible due to the program being an open-minded program and thus offering a variety of elective courses.  

(2) Top Tier Faculty Members
For starters, UMD attracts some of the best Communication scholars across the nation (and I’m not just saying that out of my own bias, it’s true!). With current scholars contributing major research to their fields to individuals previously winning “Dissertation of the Year” awards to professors writing top papers on a national AND international scale, they are here at the UMD Communication Department. Here’s a list of the faculty recognition in the past decade.

(3) Research & Faculty Mentorship
Despite being a satellite campus of the University of Minnesota, UMD is an extremely unique institution as a whole due to its high level of research productivity and its student population consisting mainly of undergraduate students. Commonly, a high performing research institution would consist of numerous graduate programs and a high percentage of graduate students conducting outstanding research. Here at UMD, we have 90% of our students who are at the undergraduate level, yet still conducting research just as valuable as other top-tier research institutions.

With this unique dynamic of undergraduate students and high caliber faculty, students in the Communication department have direct access to these professors who conduct top-notch quality research. In comparison to other schools, typically this is not the case as top-tier research institutions would require graduate students (MA, Ph.D candidates) to teach these courses with zero to limited access to the professors. To conclude, UMD is best known for its engineering and business programs, and typically not acknowledged for its programs in the social sciences and humanities. As a student in the humanities & social sciences, I will confirm and say that it definitely requires a lot of digging in terms of finding the hidden specialty and uniqueness surrounding these programs like the Communication program here at UMD. That is why it truly is a “diamond in the rough.”

(4) Internships
So what happens if you’re not into academia, scholarship, or research? Well, lucky for you there are opportunities to find hands-on experience through the Communication Internship Program. Ultimately, the program has two objectives, (1) provide students with opportunities to apply what they’re learning in the classroom into the real world, and (2) provide students with opportunities to acquire internships related to a career occupation that they find interesting. In addition to the two, starting the Fall semester of this year, the Communication Internship Program will be implementing a new course in which it will better prepare students for the internship process. Before ending, if you would like to learn more or are having trouble finding a good place to start in terms of internships, you can always refer to the Communication Internship Program comprehensive web page, or better yet, set up an appointment to meet with Alastair Knowles.

David Quote

Final Thoughts & Reflection

In closing, I would like to sum up by talking about my personal experiences and self-reflection. Coming into college as Undecided, I was the type of student who wanted to do everything and had a very hard time deciding a major. Eventually, I would stick to Communication after my first semester taking “Intercultural Communication” and since then have never regretted that decision. As I slowly progressed through the program, I was fortunate to take courses with different instructors and professors who I found to be extremely inspiring and brilliant. Their teaching philosophies, passion for research, and devotion for students motivated me to acquire a hunger to learn more about being an effective and efficient communicator in addition to being a charismatic leader.

Throughout my time here at UMD I would say that many of my favorite professors are mostly, if not all, from the Communication department. As I mentioned in my recent blog posts, my experience as a first-generation student has been a significant factor to my college experience altogether. As a first-gen student, there were many moments of insecurity in terms of my academics and intellectual capabilities, but that changed every time I came around the COMM department. Essentially, the COMM department became my safe haven to learn and discuss freely about ideas, history, theories, and communication in practice. The conversations, guidance, and criticism from my professors were all key components to my intellectual and personal growth.

In ending, I know I’m biased when I say that the Communication department here at UMD is perhaps the best program at UMD. But my main point for you, my readers and peers, is to find a program you can be excited about when entering your classes and be hungry to learn in whichever topic or topics interest you most. More than often do I see my peers or other students who come into college and zoom right through to get their degrees and start working right away, but if we just take the time to slow down, relax, and enjoy the time that we’re here the end result will be much more meaningful. Talk to your professors, explore related theories, criticize past research, or even conduct your own research. You never know what you’re truly capable of until you try, and it always helps to have a mentor guide you to your true potential.  

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Photo source: Unsplash | Aaron Burden

How I Chose MIS

By: Kimberly

On my student orientation day, I came in strongly believing that Computer Science was the major for me. My first semester consisted of some liberal education courses and one computer science course. I knew that this computer science course would either further solidify my decision or reject it. Soon enough, as I quickly stumbled upon the halfway mark of the semester I started to question myself and this major. My grade in the computer science course was slowly dropping, I wasn’t happy in the course, and I couldn’t help but doubt my abilities.

After a week of contemplation, I knew that the only way I could resolve this situation was… setting up an appointment to meet with someone who had the experiences and knowledge behind this dilemma – my advisor. It was through her I found out about Career & Internship Services and how helpful they would be. She recommended I take a few assessments through their department and in addition, schedule a follow-up appointment with a career counselor to dive more in depth into the assessments. Without hesitation, I made my way to their office and got all three assessments and all appointments scheduled.

MIS Major

My appointments with the career counselors were absolutely phenomenal. I came in stressed, frustrated, and full of negativity about the possibility of finding a new major that would fit me. Immediately, after I expressed to them about why I decided to take the assessments they responded with such positivity and reassurance that it was not the end of the world. As they went on explaining the results as well as shining some lights on some of my interests, we were able to narrow down a few possible majors that could potentially be options for me.

I took it into my own initiative to further my research behind the different majors that were most appealing to me. Thankfully, I knew some peers around me who were currently majoring in these majors, I could reach out to. Each one of them was extremely generous by taking their time to respond with helpful information and even sharing their own experiences. After many research and consideration, I decided to take courses related to the MIS (Management Information Systems) major.

In my MIS courses, I noticed a huge difference in my performance and interest within the major. For example, I didn’t score poorly on my exams and I enjoyed the material  I learned within each course. I was also able to slightly get a grasp of what I could potentially do with this major which made me more certain with this major. After halfway into Fall semester I decided to change my major officially and declare my major as Management Information Systems.

Currently, I am a Junior with an MIS major and I absolutely love it. I enjoy the things I am learning in my upper division courses and my performance also reassures me that I understand the material as well. Overall, if you feel like you are completely lost and don’t know which direction to go when deciding on your major(s), I highly recommend that you seek out the resources available to you. It’s also a great idea to explore on your own skills, interest, and truly get to know yourself better. Lastly, remember that if something doesn’t work out, it could just mean there is something else out there, that you are much better at.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Luca Bravo

Navigating Human Resources: Part 1

By: Tori

I came to college undecided. Not just on what I wanted to study, but on if this was the best school for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Duluth. It was by far my favorite school, but I felt so much pressure to get everything right the first time; to meet all of my expectations. Soon I learned that when it comes to expectations, they sometimes are set too high. And when something doesn’t go how you expected it to, you get thrown for a loop.

I didn’t expect to be a Human Resource Management major. Honestly, it was not appealing to me at all. I was drawn to business, interpersonal relationships, and helping others, but I couldn’t figure out where all of this fit together. And then BAM! one day someone (actually it was my Strong Interest Inventory assessment) said, “What about Human Resources?” and I said, “What about it?”. So I learned more.

Human Resources is the “umbrella” of all businesses. It is where the development and managing of an organization and its people happens. Some would say that without Human Resources there would be no business. There are 5 overarching sectors to this “umbrella” that stretch across all aspects of an organization.

navigating-hr

Recruiting and Staffing
People are a necessity to an organization’s success; without them, organizations wouldn’t exist. But how do you figure out who you want to work in your organization? This is where Recruiting and Staffing come into play. Recruiters look for and “recruit” qualified employees to work for their company and staffing makes sure we have employees whose skills match with open positions. Interviews, phone calls, brochures, questions, job descriptions, and first impressions all happen in this sector of HR.

Compensation and Benefits
No one works for free; aka there is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want people to perform services and do their job, we need to reward them. Compensation and Benefits is the sector of HR that motivates employees. Compensation looks at pay structures, which determine how much money you want to pay your employees for their employment and tasks accomplished. Benefits are the alternative, non-financial parts of a business offered to employees, this includes stock, insurance, paid vacation, etc.

Employee and Labor Relations
Recognizing state and federal laws and abiding by them is the purpose of Employee and Labor Relations. Understanding the government, how it works, and how to maintain positive relationships with your employees are all important tasks for this position. Remaining discreet and ethical is vital in this area of HR.

Safety and Health
Safety and Health HR employees strive to minimize any legal action that might be taken against the company by implementing safety procedures and health guidelines. Their main goals are to provide for physical and mental well-being and prevent work-related accidents.

Training and Development
Training and Development is the first step to helping employees feel at home. So much so, training and development is usually part of the on-boarding process. This includes making connections, navigating new positions, and learning the company culture. Diversity inclusion, performance management, and team building all happen in this sector of HR. Keeping employees up-to-date will allow them to continue to be an innovative part of the company.

If after reading this post you are interested in learning more, check out the Human Resource Major at UMD and talk to your advisor or the department head. Or come into our office and meet with a career counselor. They are more than happy to help you navigate Human Resources and all the nitty gritty details.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash|Jose Martin

Why Health Care Management was Right for Me

By: Cassie

I recently wrote a post explaining the careers that fall into health care management. There are so many different sectors and areas you can go into. I realized after I wrote the blog post that I didn’t explain why health care management was the right fit for me. Maybe it will inspire you to consider it as a path for yourself.

I originally was dead set on being a nursing major. I wanted to work in a clinical setting and I wanted to be able to help people. Then I took high school physics and realized if that was that hard, there was no way I was going to make it through the nursing classes. At this point I hadn’t picked a school and I was searching through programs when I found health care management. I did some research into what it was and decided, “well I can always change my mind!” Truthfully, I didn’t have any knowledge of what the major entailed until I got into my sophomore year and made an upperclassmen friend who was also a health care management major. She told me about all the classes and what they were learning and I thought hey maybe this really will work out! I am now a junior and I absolutely love all my health care management classes and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. There are a large number of reasons this major is right for me.

There’s Variety
Depending on what job you get, you may not do the same thing every day which is a huge bonus for me. The fact that there are also so many different directions within health care management is a huge contributing factor for me. I’m someone who likes options and who doesn’t like doing the same thing all the time. Health care management is great for that type of work environment.

You’re Constantly with People
This is a very people oriented field. Not only will you have coworkers, but you also have to work across different departments, with other managers, patients, and more. I am someone who is extremely extraverted, so this part of the job is very appealing to me.

It is a Part of Health Care
These jobs are very essential to the health care field. You get to help patients without having to deal with the “blood and guts” aspect of health care. You are always working towards people’s lives better, even if it is behind the scenes.

These are just a few of the reasons I chose health care management. I hope if you have even let the thought of a career in health care management cross your mind you consider these reasons for pursuing the major and career path.

Of Possible Interest: 

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So You’re Thinking About Health Care Management

By: Cassie (an actual Health Care Management major!)

There is a common misconception that working in a hospital means that you have to be a doctor or a nurse. Well, I am here to tell you that that is WRONG. There are so many more opportunities in the hospital setting than what you see on the surface.

Health Care Management is the section of the hospital that works behind the scenes. They are the people who run the ship, so to speak, and they make sure everything is running smoothly and swiftly. The jobs they do include things such as scheduling, clinic management, financing, data analysis, quality management, and so much more. If you don’t know what some of those jobs entail, don’t worry, I’ll give you some examples.

Clinic Managers
These are the people who organize specific clinics in the hospital. By this I mean the sections of the hospital like pediatrics or orthopedics. As a clinic manager you wear a lot of hats so to speak. You are there to keep everyone happy. You work with nurses, physicians, and patients to make sure schedules are working and to make sure that everyone is having the best possible experience. Clinic managers also have to attend meetings to make sure they are meeting hospital standards. A large chunk of this job involves rolling with the punches and being able to think on your feet and be flexible, so if you are looking for a job that isn’t the same every day this is something you should really look into.

Financing
Health care is expensive and insurance is very confusing and it can be very hard for patients to figure out what they need to pay and why. Working in this area of the hospital means that you help patients work through how they are going to pay their fees and you work through how insurance can benefit them. If you are interested in math or money this job would be good for you. In this role you get to work with people and you get to help them and if those are areas that interest you, this is something worth looking into.

EHR’s and Coding
EHR stands for Electronic Health Records which in short terms are the health records that are attached to each person’s health history. By working in EHR’s you are focused on things like technology advancement, data collection, and troubleshooting. You can also go into coding which is the computer language EHR’s are written in. This is less people focused and more focused on progressing health care management into the future.

Community Outreach
Being a health care management major means you can also go into areas of public health. This means you are focused on the overall wellness of communities and focus on getting healthy habits out into the community. This would be things like focusing on nutrition, physical activity, water quality, and laws & acts to enhance the influence of health care. This area of health care really focuses on working in a team to decide how to benefit the lives of the community that you serve.

I know I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, and I want to emphasize just a few of the jobs and job areas that a health care management major can offer. The nice thing about a health care management degree is that you have SO many options of things to do. I hope you really consider this major because it is a field that is always growing and a field that allows you to help people and help the health care field.

Of Possible Interest

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What Can You do with a Computer Science Major?

By: Kirsi (double major in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering)

CS_Careers

There is so much you can do with a Computer Science (CS) major that I did not know where to start! As a result I turned to a community of over 3,000 computing students on Facebook for their thoughts. I am a part of the NCWIT Aspirations In Computing Community comprising of women from across the US who study computing related to majors. I asked “what are unique things that you can do with a CS major?” Some responses include programming for deep space exploration technologies; wearable tech; engineering an bionic pancreas; and programming a robotic octopus arm to tighten jar lids, lift the jars into boxes and load pallets for Smuckers Company. The possibilities are endless with a CS major alone or even paired with another discipline. In 2012 Forbes listed Computer Science at number 3 college major in their “Top 15 Most Valuable College Majors” article, for “hirability” and salary. A CS major can also prepare you for medical, business, or graduate school. I will share what University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) alumni are doing with their degree, what CS majors across the US are doing with their degree, and future applications of computer science.

CS Major

Photo source: Unsplash | Sai Kiran Anagani

Careers of UMD CS Alumni

UMD has been collecting statistics of alumni employment about the computer science major since 1981 (when CS became its own major after splitting from Math). The CS program has grown in the number of graduates and employed graduates. 93% of CS graduates from 2013-14 are employed while 7% are pursuing post secondary degrees (this is with a 94% response rate for our graduate follow-up survey). Of the 93% employed, 84% have indicated they are in a position related to their major. Occupations held by these graduates include Programmer, Analyst, Automation Engineer, Software Developer, and Web Designer. Data on our 2014-15 grads will be released in the next few months.

Diving further into UMD Alumni statistics, LinkedIn offers of a view of where CS graduates work in industry since the beginning of the CS program. If you log into your LinkedIn account you can see the analysis for yourself. Top five employers for UMD CS Alumni in order include UMD, United Health Group, Target, Thomson Reuters, and Medtronic. These professionals perform engineering, information technology, operations, and research related work.

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Testing Fishnetstockings interactive art instillation by UMD’s Joellyn Rock, Alison Aune, and Pete Willemsen

UMD is involved in a number of cutting edge CS research opportunities and projects. One group that stands out is SIVE Lab (Simulation and Interaction in Virtual Environments) lead by professor Pete Willemsen. SIVE Lab uses position tracking and virtual reality to illustrate data in a new way. Combining arts and computing SIVE Lab and UMD’s Art and Design department installed interactive artwork at Lydgalleriet art gallery in Bergan, Norway. This interactive installation is called Fishnetstockings and is composed of multimedia elements. A user can enter Fishnetstockings casting a shadow like a mermaid, make virtual waves, and display words from a Twitter stream. Other projects SIVE Lab works on include an iPad app that records/analyzes motion for bio-mechanics, energy/budget measurement station, and simulating urban environments to maximize sustainable structures.

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Capturing illustrations from Fishnetstockings interactive art instillation by UMD’s Joellyn Rock, Alison Aune, and Pete Willemsen

CS Careers of CS Majors Across the US

Looking back at LinkedIn’s search tools you can search for all positions open with the keyword “Computer Science”. There are currently over 100,000 positions posted on LinkedIn related to computer science. The highest number of positions open are at Technosoft (8,833) and Amazon (3,795). The most popular locations for these computer science positions include San Francisco Bay Area, Washington DC, New York City, and Boston. Top positions being offered include Information Technology, Computer Software, and Recruiting. Hot topics of computer science include artificial intelligence, bio-medical engineering, and robotics according to Forbes “13 of 2015’s Hottest Topics In Computer Science Research“.

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Working with LabVIEW sofware at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. [Photo source: Kirsi]

Future of CS Careers

A unique aspect about computer science is that you can have a CS career in any discipline or industry. New CS careers are being made daily, inspired by new applications of computing. Essentially, the CS major creates the future. While interning at NASA Johnson I learned how a deep space habitat’s life support systems communicate their statuses with an interface for astronauts, a critical application of CS. Code drives automation of the International Space Station’s life support system. Data analysis tools alert flight controllers of the Space Station’s well being. An autonomous program recently landed SpaceX’s reusable rocket on a barge out at sea! If you want to be at the forefront of the future in any industry, CS is the career for you.

Want to try out some programming? Try some of these projects which can be completed in less than an hour!

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