The Lost Art of… Art (as a major)

art history picThis guest post was written by Katie Merrill, an NU and BC alum and Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at NU.

I can remember being eighteen years old and having just gotten accepted to my dream college. I was sitting with the student handbook and course catalogue in my lap, and flipping through all the possible majors I could declare.  There were classes I had never seen before, topics I was eager to explore, and a few I was thankful to be free from (goodbye math!!!). I remember my father telling me that I could major in anything I wanted, that the purpose of college was the quest for knowledge (he comes from a liberal arts mindset), and so scanning the pages I picked out the two subjects I liked the best in high school: history and art.  I couldn’t decide which I wanted to pursue, so I figured why not squish them together? Mind you, I had never taken an art history course before in my life, but I liked museums and Indiana Jones’ adventures as an archaeologist, so I thought that was reason enough to declare an Art History major. I spent four years studying all the great artists through the ages, and even spent a semester in Italy taking art lessons and eating gelato.

Not once, during my entire undergraduate career, did I have that desperate thought I hear so often today as an advisor: “But what am I going to do with That?…”

The answer? Anything you want. My degree in art history taught me to examine things analytically, to write well, and to understand how others organize thoughts and information. Did it lead me to becoming a world renowned Art Historian? No. But it could have, if I hadn’t had an internship at a highly regarded art museum, during which I learned that I had no interest in becoming a curator.  Pouring over texts in Dutch and spending all day in the underbelly of a museum was not my passion. (Note: the basement of even the most beautiful museum still looks like a basement.) The point is that it was the skills I learned that mattered, not necessarily the content. That is why experiences are so important to your undergraduate education.  Very basically, experiences teach us about our likes and dislikes. Better yet, intentional and meaningful experiences can teach us about what we do or do not like about a career path.  They can teach us our strengths and weaknesses, about our abilities to adapt, our way of interpreting new information, and they can shape our values and goals.

I am not saying that everyone should switch majors to pursue something with art.  What I am saying, is don’t rule anything out completely because you have rationalized in your head that one major is going to set you on a path to success, while another will condemn you to eating ramen for the rest of your life.  I think it is important to pursue what you love and stop worrying so much about the end result. Skills and experiences are what lead you to succeed, not necessarily the specific content you studied. After all, that’s what graduate school is for.

Katie Merrill HeadshotKatie is an Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at Northeastern University. She studied art history as an undergraduate in Boston, and received her Masters degree in College Student Development and Counseling from the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. She likes to run and cook in her free time. 

Blending Art and Business: A New Dual Major Opportunity

image source: www.fastweb.com

image source: www.fastweb.com

This guest post was written by Sam Carkin, a sophomore studying Marketing and Interactive Media.

I was going to be an architect major. I had visited architecture firms all over the area, toured fourteen campuses for the major, and was dead set on pursuing this profession. Then, like most 18-year-olds, I changed my mind less than a month before applications were due. I felt my creativity was going to be limited to just structures, so I looked for other ways I could channel this desire for a creative profession and came across marketing.

Marketing allowed me to be creative in problem solving, content-creation, strategy, and many other areas, and I realized I had found my future. However, there was one school that stood out as being able to provide me with a cutting-edge education in this industry, and that school was Northeastern, thanks to its dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media that was still in development at the time. Well this dual major is now official, and the number of students enrolled in it is growing every semester. It brings together the art school and business school to create future professionals that can “speak both languages” and become highly effective in the worlds of marketing and advertising.

Since class sign-ups are just around the corner, I highly recommend that interested students check out the list of required courses for the dual major. I also encourage making an appointment with someone in the advising office of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business so they can further assist in planning course schedules going forward. I am excited to see this awesome program continue to grow in the years to come!

Sam Carkin is currently in his sophomore year at Northeastern University. He is a dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media and will be going on his first co-op in July. Feel free to contact him at carkin.s@husky.neu.edu with any questions related to the blog post or his experiences.

“There Are No Dumb Questions Here”

How many times have you sat in an interview and swallowed a question out of fear it may be the dreaded “stupid question”?   Wouldn’t it be nice to run a few of those by an employer knowing there’s nothing at stake?  Just once?  Well, you may be in luck!

step brothersCopyright: 2008 Columbia Pictures

Career Development has been offering the Employer in Residence program for several years, providing students the opportunity to meet with professionals in an informal setting. They are encouraged to share their apprehensions about interviewing, the job search process and posing those tricky questions they aren’t sure are appropriate to ask during a formal interview.   “It’s like a webinar in that students get information without getting tested on it afterwards,” shares Ezra Schattner ’93, New York Life agent and current Employer in Residence.  “It’s fun for me when students come in and have some good questions like, ‘I don’t know what to say when an employer asks me about a weakness.” (Tip: Repackage the question so references an area for development that complements a strength)

“When I’m interviewing a new candidate, I’m hiring for technical skills, but I”m also hiring someone who can be a fit within the culture of the group and company.  I want a student to ask themselves if they’re going to be in a position they’ll appreciate and grow in it.”

Thuy Le, recruiter for City Year, loves when students ask the “Day in the Life”  question, what motivates her every day and what challenges exist in her role or at her organization.  “I remember attending networking opportunities during my undergraduate years and feeling nervous about it.  ‘Networking’ is often associated with being aggressive and being out of people’s comfort zone.  I learned to understand that it’s simply having conversations and obtaining as much information as you can, and that employers want students to talk to them and ask questions. I always try to paint a realistic picture of what their experience will be like in City Year, because like all employers, we want to find the right people who will be the best fit.  I would also encourage students to relax and be themselves – we want to know the real you!”

Both Thuy and Ezra will be taking part in the Employer in Residence portion of the Senior Career Conference as well as also hosting hours throughout the semester.  If you’re looking for another voice to assuage your concerns and dispel some of the mysteries about the working world, head over to Stearns on Thursday, 1/23 or check out the programming calendar for upcoming dates.  Match Education, Peace Corps, Raytheon and Shawmut Design and Construction will also be on campus throughout the semester so be sure to come on by!

Derek Cameron is a member of the Career Development Employer Relations team and always looking for new ways to bring the employer’s voice to campus.

Which box do I check?

Sarah Pugh grew up in northern Massachusetts, not far from Boston. She is in her third year at Northeastern as a political science major. She ultimately hopes to attend law school and work in the federal judiciary. 

There was this little box on your college applications that said something along the lines of “What program are you applying to?” or “What will be your major?” Some people (the lucky ones) know the answer to this question and have known for quite some time exactly what they want to do. I (and many others) am still trying to figure it all out. And here I am in my third (middler? junior?) year.

When I was filling out my application, I saved that ominous question for last. There was absolutely no way that I was applying as an undeclared student. Because then everyone would know that I didn’t know what I was doing and everyone else has it all figured out, right? After ruling that out, there were only a hundred other choices. Much better.

Image from us.123rf.com

It came down to political science or biology — two majors on very opposite ends of the spectrum. I had always enjoyed learning about the government, and watching the debates during elections season was fun too. To be honest, I didn’t know what political science even was. I couldn’t fathom what made it a science. Also, what kind of job would I have with a degree in political science? You can’t just graduate college and become a successful politician. Ultimately I checked the box for biology. After all, I liked AP biology in high school and I did well in it — what could possibly be different?

I went to orientation, met other biology students, and registered for classes. I was excited about my decision. My first semester was filled with microbiology, chemistry, calculus, and economic justice (an elective for the honors department).

After what was only two week’s worth of classes, I hated chemistry, calculus, and worst of all, biology. I loved my economic justice class. It was engaging, the readings were interesting, and I just liked it. I can remember being on the phone with my boyfriend complaining about school and he asked, “If you could be studying something other than biology and you had to choose now, what would it be?” And it was then that I decided to change my major to political science. I loved learning about the government systems and how it affected our everyday lives, and I could figure out what to do with it career-wise later.

Later that week I was in my advisor’s office signing the paperwork and talking to the department head about why I wanted the change. I felt so grateful to be at a school that encouraged its students to explore their interests and that they made changing programs of study so simple. I attended the major fairs that are typically held for the undeclared students to talk with other students. There were these pamphlets that they passed out called “What To Do With a Degree in Poli Sci” — just the question I needed answers to. Today I know that there are plenty of options.

Image from theviewspaper.net

Technically I am a political science student with a concentration in comparative politics and a minor in international affairs — talk about a mouth full. Furthermore, I’m looking into adding a minor in history. I recently completed my first co-op job at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts as a legal intern. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and have nothing but wonderful things to say about my experiences, though not enough time to share them. In short, I am now looking at law schools for when I graduate from NU.

As cliché as it may sound, the biggest and most important piece of advice to someone that may find themselves in a similar situation to my own is study what you love; the rest will fall into place.

We can’t all be engineers.

I was an American Studies major as an undergraduate. It was possibly the broadest major I could have chosen at a liberal arts school. And I LOVED it. I loved reading history and sociology and literature and politics. I would do it again if I had it to do over. Except I would have double majored in sociology.

I knew even before high school that I was better at reading comprehension and writing, not as good in math and science. Remember those silly bubble tests they give you in grade school? I performed far better on the language components and got placed into advanced English courses. I continued to struggle with science and math – particularly math, for which I had tutors through most of high school. I eventually discovered that I was pretty good with applied math, such as statistics and accounting, but my reading and writing were still stronger. Someone recently suggested that I just didn’t have the right teachers to get through to me, but I’m not so sure it would have made a difference.

Image from i.livescience.com

Based on my interests and academic performance, a liberal arts college made sense. Yes, there were science and math majors there, but they were outnumbered by the English and history and American Studies majors, so I fit right in. There were no engineering, health or business majors. It was only when I went home or to the bank I sometimes worked at, that I got blank stares or sometimes sarcastic comments about my degree. Being first-generation college, my parents didn’t know what to make of my major. My father asked who on earth was going to pay me to read books and write essays. People at the bank rolled their eyes and assumed I’d be a history teacher (not once in my life have I ever wanted to be a history teacher).

What did I intend to do with that American Studies degree? I didn’t. I picked the classes and major that I liked most and went with it. Not necessarily the most practical of options, but 15 years later, I still don’t regret it. Based on my experience with several campus programs conducting research with faculty members, a staff member in my school’s Career Center helped me identify the research and consulting firm where I ended up working right out of college. And dad said no one would pay me to read and write!

I’m not suggesting everyone should be a liberal arts major. A college degree is a significant investment, and it would be foolish to ignore practical implications when choosing a major or career. College is far more expensive now than when I went. But practically speaking, we also can’t all be engineers or doctors, or other “obvious” jobs people think of when they think stability, prestige and high income. Not everyone has the skills or drive to succeed in those positions. I know I don’t, and I can either spend my life feeling like I’m somehow not good enough, or I can get over it and take satisfaction in career opportunities that actually fit me.

And for those wondering what an American Studies degree has to do with being a career

Image from t2.gstatic.com

counselor, I use two of the core skills I learned in school – researching and analyzing information – every day.

In the words of Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

Tina Mello is Associate Director of University Career Services, and has worked at Northeastern for over 10 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.