Less common majors offer valuable opportunities

Jodi Moore

SDSU offers more than 70 majors, but some are more popular than others. Whether the major has hundreds of students or 10, each has its own advantages and disadvantages for those enrolled.

The majors with the fewest students are French studies, German, range science, agriculture and resource economics, and electronics engineering technology and management.

“SDSU’s portfolio of majors has evolved over time to fit the mission of a land grant university,” said Provost Laurie Nichols. “It’s partly historical. However, there are also changes in majors and programs as new career fields emerge or workforce needs change. … We are always surveying the landscape to see what else might be needed.”

Every academic program goes through a comprehensive review every seven years. According to Nichols, the hope is to make sure SDSU is offering the best programs possible.

“A strategic goal is to enhance academic programs so as to offer the highest quality major possible,” Nichols said. “In addition, having a diverse portfolio is crucial to a land grant university.”

Students who choose to go into one of the smaller majors receive the benefits of more personal attention, smaller classes and closer connections with faculty. Students who add the French studies major to their course load also gain an important tool for future employment.

“[The French studies major] complements any major because of the added language skills and cross-cultural skills that are so necessary in today’s workforce,” said Molly Enz, an assistant professor of French in the Department of Modern Languages. “Double majors range from arts and sciences to biology and pre-med.”

According to Enz, there is a misconception that people can only teach with a French studies major. French is the official language of almost 30 countries — not just France.

“Proficiency in a second language helps with learning more languages,” said Maria Ramos, the Modern Languages department head.

Many graduate programs either require or look favorably upon proficiency in a second or third language in students.

“In any type of research, communication is key,” said Jaimie Gibbons, a senior biology and microbiology major. “The ability to speak French will open up a wider audience with whom I can collaborate.”

Libby Marking, a fifth year French and Global Studies major with a goal of working for a U.S. Embassy, said that being bilingual has more benefits than just the academic and professional ones.

“I can use this ability anywhere I go, in any position I find myself in, and it allows me to connect to others on a cultural basis,” Marking said.

Teresa Hall, department head for Engineering Technology and Management, said the electronics engineering technology major is a “freshening up” of the old Electronics Engineering Technology Program. The program was terminated a few years ago due to a lack of students. Because South Dakota has a shortage of qualified electronic engineers, the program is now back on its feet and looking for new recruits.

Hall said students with this major have the option to choose one of two tracks: the technical side, with jobs such as customer service technician, or the managerial side, with jobs like a first line supervisor or production manager. According to Hall, there is always a demand for people with this skill set.

“We need to grow,” Hall said. “This major is very recruitable and placeable.”