Skyler Simpkins ’23
The last non-Liepod editorial I wrote was about the importance of liberal arts curiosity and how it seems to be missing at Trinity. While I still believe this to be true, I think it is important to understand how double majoring substantially lessens a student’s ability to fully explore the liberal arts curriculum. Compound this with a relatively late major declaration deadline, and, often, the last two years for a double major is a rush of scheduling stress and 5.5 credit semesters. There has to be a way for a student to double major and still feel like they remain at a liberal arts institution, right? As a double major in two non-overlapping fields of study, I would like to see an institutional change that supports liberal arts exploration while also permitting, and even suggesting, double majoring. There are a few ways I see this manifesting: for one, the College could require double majors to declare one of their majors earlier than the other, and, secondly, the College could require more interdisciplinary courses in all majors. While there are more solutions than these two, these are the ones that I believe would be the most beneficial, and I will discuss why.
Requiring an earlier major declaration probably raises some red flags for a few of you. It is nice to have longer to decide what field of study you want to pursue but, as mentioned above, often for double majors, the amount of time left is just enough to complete all requirements and nothing more. What I am suggesting is a different deadline for double majors to declare their first major. While a double major might not know if they will double major when they begin college, this deadline requires students to spend time focused on deciding one of their majors. I think the end of freshman year would be a good first deadline, leaving the entire first year for prospective double majors to determine their first major. If this change was instituted, students can go into their last three years knowing what requirements they need to meet for gen. ed and one of their majors, guiding their decisions on what classes to take. In my personal experience, my sophomore year was defined by many different types of classes, trying to figure out what I wanted to study. If I had been required to declare my first major, which I was already set on, during my freshman year, I would have been able to tailor my schedule around meeting that major’s requirements while investigating different areas of academia. Then, during my last two years at Trinity, I would have been able to take classes that interested me and study away instead of hustling to finish my two majors. I know this is the experience of many double majors at Trinity, and I think it is important to institute institutional changes that support the academic decision of many to double major while facilitating liberal arts educational paths.
My other suggestion is quite different than the first. Instead of requiring the student to change their scheduling process, focusing their underclassmen years on completing one major and their upperclassmen years on completing the other, this suggestion requires departments to change their structure. The classes that I have taken that are interdisciplinary in nature, combining two groups of students that are typically never in a classroom together, are some of the most influential. I think this is true for many students. Getting outside of your field of study and seeing how it applies to different aspects of academia and life in general provides more than just course content; it shows you how you can apply your education in the real world, perhaps inspiring a career path for some students. Yes, you will always need the structural courses that do not go outside of the major for course content, but it is in the upper-level classes that this interdisciplinary requirement can manifest beautifully. Instituting liberal arts inside major requirements allows students to explore the different academic fields while completing their major requirements. I believe this is the better option, but I know it is definitely the harder option to institute.
Even though this suggestion will probably never reach many eyes, I want to make the suggestion and, more importantly, acknowledge how hard it is to have a liberal arts education while completing a double major. It is important that all students have the same opportunity to explore the curriculum regardless of their major(s). Creating interdisciplinary fields will not only allow students to explore different fields of study, but it will promote faculty investigation and research into different areas of study. Regardless of the strategy, double majoring students need to have more opportunities to study in different fields at Trinity, promoting liberal arts for all.