By Emma Bradley
The process of deciding on a major has some limits for Bethel students, who essentially pick from a set list with predetermined class requirements. For sophomore Mycah Westhoff of Newton, the major options that Bethel provides did not prove adequate. Instead, she chose to create an individualized major.
Bethel’s individualized major option is a way for students to pursue a degree outside of the standardized list of majors Bethel offers.
According to Bethel’s website, the Individualized Major program as a whole provides some flexibility for students whose desired major is not already offered at Bethel, while still “ensuring program quality.”
The site also states that “through the integration of knowledge from different disciplines across the Bethel curriculum, qualified students are able to create a major focused on their interests and plans.”
Westhoff is creating a Music Theater major by combining communication arts and music. Creating this major specific to her goals required a more difficult process than simply filling out a piece of paper and declaring a field of study.
“I had to find a professor willing to work with me on what I wanted to do,” Westhoff said. “In this case, Megan Upton-Tyner is my main adviser, but I also work with Karen [Schlabaugh] through the music department as well.”
The process first involves finding two faculty sponsors. Upton-Tyner added that, in consultation with these sponsors, a student must “submit a formal proposal detailing the goals of the individualized major and how those goals will be met.”
Upton-Tyner lauded the concept of the individualized major, saying, “in today’s environment, there are so many different opportunities in the job market. I firmly believe that a liberal arts education prepares a student for a more successful career in whatever path they choose, because they have been exposed to concepts and ideas outside of their major.”
Upton-Tyner added that the customized aspect of an individualized major paired with a liberal arts degree can allow students to fully realize their goals.
“An individualized major allows a student to create an educational program that best suits their needs, while still giving them the benefit of a liberal arts education. In Mycah’s case specifically, a theatre conservatory would prepare her for one career path only. Coming to Bethel she is automatically positioning herself to have a better understanding of the world around her and not just one aspect of it. From an artist’s standpoint, that can only be an asset,” Upton-Tyner said.
Doing work for credit rather than during free time can also save students time and allow them even more time for outside work. Upton-Tyner explained, “speaking from experience, I spent many hours outside of the classroom trying to achieve what Mycah will be getting credit for and I’m excited that Bethel has something like this to offer. “
The opportunity to create her own major helped shape Westhoff’s decision to come to Bethel. “I most likely would have actually not come to Bethel if I couldn’t have done what I wanted to do,” she explained.
Though Westhoff said she was accepted to many other universities that offered her desired major, she decided on Bethel for a variety of reasons.
Upton-Tyner showed support for the program and said the registrar’s office has been very helpful, adding that she is optimistic about the process.
“I was ecstatic when Mycah chose Bethel as her college; humbled because she is so talented and she chose to share that talent with community,” Upton-Tyner said. “The fact that she is pursuing this major is a testament to her commitment to pursuing an excellent education as well as pursuing her goals. The fun has been imagining and creating what this education can look like; that has been the most exciting part of this journey so far.”