MLK on the Purpose of Education

The Advisement Services Center will be closed on Monday, January 15, 2018 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 


The Purpose Of Education

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947

As I engage in the so-called “bull sessions” around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.

The late Eugene Talmadge, in my opinion, possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America. Moreover, he wore the Phi Beta Kappa key. By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers!

Taken from

What is Your Life’s Blueprint?


Meet Tendrina: Communication & Journalism Major


  1. What is your major and why did you choose it?

I’m a double major in communications and journalism. I chose it because of my career aspirations, because of my love for media, and because I’m awful at math and science.

  1. How do people react when you tell them what your major is?

Depends. Most of the time I get a pretty positive reaction because I’m a double major and people tell me that I was meant to work in those fields.

  1. What do people perceive is the most popular or “well-known” career for your major?

Journalist or public relations agent.

  1. What do you think of the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I think it’s a very loaded question. What does that refer to? What do I want to be professionally? What do I want to be in the eyes of others? What do I want to be in the world? And what does “when you grow up” mean? Continue reading “Meet Tendrina: Communication & Journalism Major”

The In-between: Dreams Deferred Interview Series Part 1

goal-729567_960_720.jpgUsually when we have a discussion about “following your dreams,” or living a happy and successful life, we look to public figures, famous people, and wealthy people to speak on their experiences. We hear their stories in hindsight, only after they’ve already gained prestige and notoriety. This model of inspiration is useful for creating a side by side image of “then” and “now,” who they were and who they eventually became, to show the great distances, to show the vast improvements, and the stark contrast between starting from the bottom and ending up at “the top.” But this model also glosses over the actual process of “becoming” because we meet these people only when they are already “successful” and “accomplished.” While this model offers a vision for us to think, “If they can get there, so can I,” I think it is important to recognize the process as it is actually happening. I think it offers genuine perspective and a sort of companionship when we see the people around us who are on that journey to where they aspire to go right now in this moment. And so for this interview series, I picked 3 people who I believe exemplify a fresh model of inspiration, a kind that invites us to watch the path as it unfolds, a kind that shows us there is no magic teleportation that takes us from point A to point B. These are real people who aspire to accomplish “big” things and who truly hope to inspire others along the way. Continue reading “The In-between: Dreams Deferred Interview Series Part 1”

5 Successful English Majors

This post is for all of my discouraged English majors. I know you have your doubts and sometimes you lose hope but you’re not alone and I suspect that we understand each other pretty well.

I’m going to share a story that might be familiar to you (and not just because I might have shared it before): you might be going through it right now or remember a similar time in your lie. When I first started seriously thinking about college, some time in high school, picking a major was the most uncomplicated detail; I knew I would be an English major. Essays weren’t (aren’t) my favorite activity but I loved reading and writing. It was an easy fit for me. I only started doubting myself when I noticed the condescending tones of “concern” that came from other people when I told them my major. How funny is that? I wasn’t worried the least bit but other people felt like offering me career advice whenever I told them my major. They told me I should do business instead. No thanks. If you really don’t want to do business, then you’re probably going to be a teacher. I’m not going to be a teacher, I’d say politely.

When you tell people you’re an English major, they think you only have two options: change it or be a teacher. When I started doubting myself, I went so far as to ask my advisor if I should consider changing it. She didn’t let me, thankfully (after a good conversation about why I shouldn’t). I’m glad I didn’t. English majors get a bad rep but the truth is that we are in great company. I did some research to show you!

I’m providing a list of 5 well-known and greatly successful people who majored in English for their undergraduate degree! Every person on this list has varying professions in different fields just to show you the wide variety of career options you have for the future.

Barbara Walters (left) interviewing Geralt Ford (center) and Betty Ford (right) and the White House in 1976 (Public Domain Picture)

Barbara Walters: You may recognize Barbara Walters from such popular television programs like ABC’s 20/20 and The View. You may have even seen some of her famous interview specials that include Michael Jackson, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin, and Monica Lewinsky. But her career started many years ago, long before women were even expected, much less allowed, to have as much airtime as she eventually did. Her career started in 1962 when she became a writer and segment producer for “women’s interest stories” on NBC’s The Today Show. In 1974, she was the first woman on network television to acquire the title “co-host” and eventually she became the first female co-anchor of any network evening news for ABC Evening News. But one of her greatest accomplishments was creating The View, a talk show hosted exclusively by female co-hosts who discuss a wide range of political and social issues. Walters received her English degree at Sarah Lawrence college.

542px-andreajungAndrea Jung: Andrea Jung is currently the President and CEO of Grameen America, a nonprofit microfinance organization, “dedicated to helping women who live poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families,” founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus. Before Jung’s position at Grammen America, she was the first female CEO and Chairwoman of Avon Products, Inc., a poplar manufacturer and direct selling company of beauty, personal care, and household products, from 1999 to 2012. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University.

472px-ride-sSally Ride: English majors can even travel to space! Sally Ride was a physicist and astronaut. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and Physics at Stanford University. Sally Ride became an astronaut after answering an advertisement for the space program in. Though many people questioned her about her gender at the time, she eventually went on to became the first American woman to travel into space aboard the space shuttle Challenger for STS-7. You might be thinking that she didn’t get chosen because of her English degree but instead because of her degree in physics. We may never know exactly why but it’s only important to recognize that your degree in English can lead you anywhere, even beyond Earth!

800px-steven_spielberg_1999Steven Spielberg: You may not recognize his face but his name will certainly ring a bell. He is the famed and academy award-winning director of more than 20 films over the course of his career, spanning over 40 years. You’re probably a fan and don’t even know it, as he is the director behind such classic films as Jaws, the Indiana Jones series, the original Jurassic Park, E.T the extraterrestrial, The Color Purple, and War of the Worlds. He is also one of the founders of DreamWorks Studios, the film production label behind movies like Shrek and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. He won the academy awards for Best Director and Best Picture for the film, Schindler’s List, a movie about Oskar Schindler, a man who risked his life and his own money to save thousands of people from the holocaust. Spielberg earned his degree in English at California State University, Long Beach. Though he clearly possesses many different skills, I’m sure his experience with the English major has proven quite valuable to his work over the years!

398px-diane_sawyer_2011_shankboneDiane Sawyer: Similar to Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer is another female broadcast journalist who paved the way for women in television. Her career began as a weather reporter for a small news station in her state of Kentucky. Soon after this stint, she became a White House press aide and then eventually, literary assistant to President Richard Nixon. Sawyer’s big journalist break came as a CBS reporter and correspondent in 1978. In 1984 she became the first female correspondent for 60 Minutes, a popular newsmagazine television program. She has received a Daytime Emmy for Excellence in Morning Programming and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1997. She received her degree in English at Wellesley College.

My message is always the same: a degree in any field is never a sentence to one specific job for the rest of your life. Some people think that an English major will get every door closed on your face. But the reality is that English majors have proven time and time again that their degree offers a unique set of skills that can be valuable for a limitless amount of careers, some you may have never dreamed of. You can be the CEO of a successful company, you can travel into outer space, you can write and direct iconic feature films, and you can pave the way for a new generation and group of people. There is no door that you cannot open. Next time someone gives you that recognizable side eye, show them this article and tell them what’s up. And so they know it’s real, rock one of these awesome t-shirts that you’re sure to love!


Tiffany Araya
UAlbany Class of 2016 
Major: English (Honors) 
Minor: Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Project MyStory Theme: Dream Deferred 
Follow her personal blog at

5 Simple Steps to Start Pursuing Your Passion Today!

By Project MyStory Blogger, Tiffany Araya.

If you’ve been following my work, you have heard me talk a lot about “following your dream,” living the life that you want to live rather than following a path that has been set out for you. This could mean a lot of different things depending on who you are and the endeavors you are currently pursuing. This could mean a story that many of us are familiar with: you want to be an artist but you don’t want to be “starving” so you’re enrolled in the business program instead. You want to write “the next great novel” so you chose the English major but everyone thinks you should be a teacher instead. Everyone is in your ear telling you to be “realistic,” some people favor “practicality” so they want to push that on you. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a teacher or earning a business degree and most of these people mean you no harm, but the simple matter is that not all of us have the same perception of what is “realistic” and some of us care very little for “practicality.”

“If you’re anything like me, you want the kind of life that everyone thinks only exists in dreams, the kind of life that people think only happens to others.”

If you’re anything like me, you want the kind of life that everyone thinks only exists in dreams, the kind of life that people think only happens to others. You don’t want the kind of life that you just “get used to.” You want to live exactly the kind of life that you want, doing what you want to. But maybe you don’t know where to start. If you have an idea but you’re unsure of what to do next, this list may be for you. This list may not be for everyone, but I hope that whoever reads this can find something useful to their own life.

Some of you may not want to give something up if it feels more secure and carries less risk. This is totally understandable. Some people dive right in but others need time to figure it all out before they step out of their comfort zone. I will be listing 5 simple steps that you can take to start pursuing your passion today, even while you earn your degree or work your everyday job.

  1. Identify your dream/passion: This seems obvious but it is quite a2016-1-5 araya 1
    significant step. This step can be complicated because some of us may confuse our “practical” goals with our dreams and passions. For example, you may want to be hired to work at a prestigious law firm. This is a wonderful goal to have. But maybe deep down you really
    want to open your own firm with your name on it. That is a dream.  You might have to dig deep for this one. Some of our dreams have been buried so far down, stifled by external doubts and insecurities, that you might not even remember what once ignited your passions. Or perhaps you already know but you’re too scared to admit it. You’ve been so busy telling yourself that it’s foolish to think about it, that it’s unrealistic to try. I’ll have to use a tried and true cliché for this: Listen to your heart. When you’re doing something that excites you in a way that little else does, tune in.
  1. Gather/Find your “squad”: This step will be different for everyone. For example, when I had the idea to start writing a lifestyle blog, I knew that it would be better if there was a whole team of people to create a variety of content, so I asked my friends one by one if they would be interested in being part of this project. I was lucky because I knew that each of my friends had something special to offer and they were excited to be part of the website.

 2016-1-5 araya 2

If you’re trying to create an app, you might need a team of people that can contribute different things like someone to do coding, and someone to design. Or maybe there’s already a team of people that exist (like a student organization) doing exactly what you’re interested in that you can join. Perhaps you prefer to work on your project solo; your “squad” may be people who you admire that you follow on social media or watch on TV. Whoever it is (and however it is), it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people who can help guide you through the process and offer insight and support when necessary.

  1. Find your medium: There is a market for whatever it is that you want to do and that market is waiting for you to reach out to them. It is important to identify the perfect way to reach your market. There are thousands of ways to reach your target audience and it is up to 2016-1-5 araya 3you to figure that out based on the kind of service, product, or whatever it is that you want to provide. I’ll share a few specific examples: If you’re a writer, WordPress is a great place to share your work with others because it’s easy (and free!) to create a website and post content to it. If you’re a makeup artist who wants to film tutorials, YouTube is the perfect place to post your videos, especially because that’s where most people are going to look! If you like to knit hats, scarves, blankets, etc. you might look into selling your products on and promoting them through social media. Look around the Internet (or anywhere really) and pay attention to others who are already doing what you want to do so that you can learn more about the field and how to break in and make your own mark.
  1. Invest: This one simple word can be intimidating to many and can seem difficult, even impossible but it can make a big difference in your pursuit. Most of you are college students (and even if you’re not, you’re still on a tight budget) so spending money, especially on something that doesn’t seem that important is not something you 2016-1-5 araya 5want to do. However, I suggest that after careful examination of your passion, you determine what kinds of tools you might need to move forward. If you want to sell or display your artwork, it might be time to move those drawings from sketchbook to canvas. Invest. If you want to make a career out of your photography, you might need business cards to give people your information. Invest. When we started our lifestyle blog, we didn’t want “” to be our URL. We invested a reasonable amount of money for the more official “.com.” If you need a briefcase, invest. If you need a new suit, invest. Whatever it is, reconsider some of your weekly expenditures, save your money, and find a way to fund your dream when it needs to be.

“A major part of your journey will be believing in yourself and your dream enough that it doesn’t matter what others think or say.”

  1. Spread the Word: This step means exactly what it sounds like. There are people out there who care about what you’re doing, whatever it is. Let them know you’re here! Get involved on social media if that will help your cause. Share your process with your friends and family2016-1-5 araya 4 who are already following you or create new accounts specifically for your project. It will feel good to receive support from others. But spreading the word is even bigger than posting stuff on social media. Spreading the word is a matter of universal energy. What do I mean by that? I know it sounds hokey but it’s really important. A major part of your journey will be believing in yourself and your dream enough that it doesn’t matter what others think or say. Be brave enough to tell your friends and family what you want to do. You may sound silly to them and they might not understand but that’s okay. Let the universe (or God, or whatever you believe in) know that you are ready to pursue your passion. Put that energy out into the world and you will see how everything seems to conspire in your favor (certainly not all the time and not always in the exact way you want, but enough to propel you forward). When you start speaking your passion out loud, you are declaring that you believe it is possible to accomplish what you want, and sometimes that is more than half the battle.

A lot of what I have written may seem specific to people with creative inclinations or people who are interested in entrepreneurial pursuits because I myself am part of that field. However, I think there is a way that each step can be interpreted and molded to fit anyone who is seeking an alternative career or lifestyle. I hope that this list can help you make sense of what you’re thinking and has inspired you to move forward with any ideas that intimidated you before. Good luck with your endeavors. Believe in yourself, and work hard to achieve your goals every day!

TiffanyTiffany Araya 
UAlbany Class of 2016 
Major: English (Honors) 
Minor: Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Project MyStory Theme: Dream Deferred 
Follow her personal blog at 

Dreams, Love, and Hate: Writing My Own Chapter


Inspired by Alex Johnson’s Story, Kiara Hernandez (Class of 2019) sent me the following letter about her 1st year experience. Since her letter fits nicely into Tiffany Araya’s Dream Deferred blog series, we have included it here. Thank you, Kiara, for sharing your story.

Hello Dr. ———–:

My name is Kiara Hernandez and I am not a student of yours, and we have never ever met. I do have a friend who is a vocal music major and she recommended you to answer my question.  As the title of the email, my question is, “What should you go for in life? Your dreams, or should you be realistic? See, I am a freshman. This is my first semester, and I am a Biology major.

When did you learn what you truly wanted to be when you grew up? It’s hard to know the answer to the question when your whole life was written for you.

My whole life, my plan was to become a doctor. That was the goal, the only goal, and my family fully supported it (and didn’t expect anything else)  because of the monetary side of becoming a doctor. I thought being a doctor would be great because I would be able to help others, but, when I came to UAlbany, reality hit me. Of course, I knew what these courses and college expected, yet, I did not find biology, and especially, chemistry, as
Beakersinteresting as I thought. Sure I can find some sickness or disease on the internet and find it fascinating, but learning from a textbook, never mind barely having time to process all of the information, made it all boring. I hate my chemistry laboratory, the only class which is hands on. My partner, who says he wants to become a police officer, liked it more AND did better than me! Huh? Anyway, that should be my favorite class. My roommate, who is also a Biology major, loved the class. I hated it. My favorite part of the class was cleaning up because I found it relaxing to wash the beakers and test tubes with the cold water and soap. It also meant we were almost done with the class. I learned this a month into the semester, and my grades began slipping, as the lack of passion and desire was not there. I struggled with depression.

kiara blog pic 1Yet, music was always there. I believe God has given me a beautiful voice, and I love singing. I sang every time I could in my dorm. I love theatre, I love dancing, I love English, I love the arts! I love anything in which someone can express themselves! I find it beautiful! I don’t like cold, hard, factual science. I can find it fascinating, but I could never compare it to the love I have for the arts. I have friends who are Theatre majors and I envy their schedules. Play Analysis? I wish I could explain why a character fits into a certain plot, what he symbolizes, ect, etc. Yet, instead, I learn how two atoms form bonds and learn how to draw them with Lewis structures. I guess, what I’m really trying to say is, I know I love music, and I want to learn more about it. I want to minor in it. I say minor, because part of me is still afraid I could not have a financially safe future with a music degree, so I would like to major in something else. That “else”, could be anything.

I am going undecided next semester because I have haven’t tried or thought of anything else. Am I doing the right thing? I’m scared for the future. I’m afraid of not knowing, of not being sure, especially when I thought I had my whole life mapped out for me. I wish I knew I was making the right choice. In the end, I’ve already made a choice. Financially, I’ve become a burden to my mother, who is the only one working in my family. She is working so I can go to school, and I believe that is unfair. I am transferring to a community college for next semester, as undecided, and will take my time learning who I am there. How did you figure yourself out? When did you learn what you truly wanted to be when you grew up? It’s hard to know the answer to the question when your whole lifkiara blog pic 3e was written for you. Now that I’ve been given options, and choices, I have no clue what to do with them. I’m sorry for this rant, but thank you for taking the time to read all of this.

I know it is late, but, good night.

Kiara Hernandez

S-T-R-E-T-C-H: Following Your Dreams

By Tiffany Araya, Project MyStory Blogger

I’ve heard that it’s most tempting to give up right before some kind of breakthrough is about to happen, something good and unexpected. I’ve also heard that it’s easy to settle when you accomplish something, rather than pushing yourself to accomplish more. I think that getting comfortable with certain accomplishments is most pervasive in our society. There’s a one size fits all mold that everyone is expected to follow: Graduate from high school, go to College, graduate again, get a job, work hard, get a promotion, keep working hard and eventually retire. Generally, we are supposed to be satisfied with these accomplishments. It’s a lifestyle we’re all familiar with because we see it everywhere around us and we hear about it (all the time).

But if you look closely, some of the most successful people in the world, the people who have made the greatest impact on society and humanity at large didn’t conform to that one-size-fits-all path that I mentioned. A lot of them dropped out of college to pursue their dreams, to create their own products and businesses. Of course, a college education is invaluable and I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to drop out, but it sure does make me wonder.

[Screenshot from the video below]
[Screenshot from the video below]

So, I’ve been thinking for a long time that this mold might not be for me. I had determined on my own that it wasn’t. But my feelings were validated when I attended the BlogHer ’15 convention this past July with fellow ETC contributor, Stephani.

Of all my hobbies and interests, writing is one of the things I love to do the most. It always has been, since writing short stories to share with my teachers during recess in elementary school. When I reached high school and we started talking about college, I already knew that my major was going to be English. For some reason, everyone started trying to put me in this box that I had never confined myself to in my life. People assumed I was going to be a teacher, because they figured that was the only thing I could do with an English degree. Some people even tried to discourage me from being an English major at all. But none of this mattered to me because I knew my degree was not a cage to be trapped in.

There were many keynote speakers throughout the course of the convention but my favorite was presented by the CEO of Egami Consulting Group, Teneshia J. Warner. She shared her philosophy of the STRETCH, a concept that basically encourages people to chase their dreams and reach further than settling for something “good” when they know they can accomplish more. Her keynote address confirmed for me that I could go far beyond what people thought for me, that I didn’t have to do what people were telling me to do. It’s not that these people didn’t want to see me do better but perhaps that they were never encouraged or inspired to dream bigger and to believe that they could accomplish anything they wanted….Or maybe we just have different ideas of accomplishment.

I will not explain the video myself because it is truly a presentation worth watching; hearing her speak really changed my perceptions for the better.

Cross-posted here: Eat the Cake Blog

The Art of Healing

By Project MyStory Ambassador, Tiffany Araya

Art InstrumentsThere are many misconceptions about every different major you can think of. Some are more pervasive than others and some majors experience much more side-eye glances from their peers (you know the kinds of looks I’m talking about). The liberal arts have notoriously been taken for granted and regarded as lesser degrees than almost anything else, but especially majors like business or biology (just to list the more popular ones). Perhaps one of the majors that experiences the most condescension is the art major. Most people think the art major has it easy – that they do not have as much work as other students. All they have to do is paint stuff, right? Maybe people think that it’s something like finger painting when we were in elementary school or something. Even worse still, it seems that many people think that the art major is strictly a solitary experience, an isolated career for the glory only of the artist, with no real-world application. This may be true to a certain extent. Art is very often an expression of the individual’s vision. However, this doesn’t mean that art, and the very process of creating itself, cannot influence people and the world.

woman-74595_640Art therapy is a relatively new field that combines several fields of education including but not limited to art, psychology and human development. According to The Art Therapy Blog, Art therapy “is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.” Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t collect data on art therapists specifically, instead including this profession under “therapists, all other.” The more specific numbers are provided by the American Art Therapy Association, which currently estimates 5,000 members in the United States who own approximately between $30,000 and $80,000. The numbers tell us a few things about the profession, depending on how you think about it. Some people may look at the number 5,000 and think this means that it is more difficult to get a job as an art therapist. This may be true, but when I look at these numbers, I see a field bursting with opportunities for artists to apply their craft to this cutting-edge mental health profession.

Though many people may not have even heard of art therapy (I certainly hadn’t before my friend shared her aspirations), it is actually practiced on a bigger scale than people think. On the American Art Therapy Association’s website they state that art therapy is “practiced in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. “ Many people can benefit art therapyfrom art therapy depending on what their personal needs are. And as it seems, there is an added bonus to art therapy beyond resolving internal conflict: learning, practicing and enjoying the “life-affirming pleasures of art making.” Not only can art therapy help someone work through the problems that already exist in their life, it can also add to their quality of life by encouraging them to practice art beyond the therapist’s office.

An art therapist is required to get a master’s in a selected field related to therapy and then the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc must credit them as a licensed professional. Like many other professions, an art therapist is required to go through rigorous academic training, especially because their chosen field involves a broad interconnection of studies including psychotherapeutic theories, “knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques” (AATA). It may seem to others like the art major isn’t engaging in valuable study, but of course, this simply isn’t true only because bigger institutions do not see the value in the arts.

pencilsArt therapy is only one of the many professions that an art major could eventually pursue. The message to gain from this career profile is simply that misconceptions about career opportunities or about the usefulness of a particular subject can be harmful not only to the people who study them but also to those who may not benefit from the knowledge that someone has to offer because they were discouraged from seeking anything beyond what they were told they could do. Every major, even if others cannot see it, has valuable insight and information to share. And besides, as I mentioned in my first post, a major is only a course of study, not a stone that has your destiny engraved in it.

Dreams Deferred: What are You Going to Do with that Major?

 By Project MyStory Ambassador, Tiffany Araya

child writingI was the young girl who wrote stories in her bedroom to share with my teachers during recess while all the other kids ran around on the playground. I was the young girl who received Barnes & Noble gift cards and book series box sets for Christmas (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, and Twilight). I had known through all of my high school years that I was going to be an English major in college. It was my favorite subject simply because it required the two things that I loved to do: reading and writing. In my sophomore year when I was preparing to take the English regents I would cry at the impossibility of writing 4 WHOLE PARAGRAPHS in one night and my teacher would laugh at me and say that I could do it, but that moment of suffering was a small price to pay so that I wouldn’t have to pretend that I like math or science. The reason I say “pretend” is because usually people believe that any kind of major involving math or science, such as Business or Biology, will be more rewarding after graduation than something artsy like English. I almost fell victim to this pressure my freshman year of college. I was worried about committing to the English major because people were psyching me out with that age-old question, “What are you going to do with that?” It seemed like the standard line of questioning for anyone who was an English major. “So, you want to be a teacher?” “But isn’t English the language you already speak?” (That’s the hardest one to answer for my Puerto Rican family members).

People have given me funny looks and have even discouraged me from pursuing a degree in English, politely explaining to me that if I do something like business instead, I might actually get a job. So one day, I told my advisor, Kristen Swaney, that I was having doubts about being an English major. I worried about wasting 4 years (and thousands of dollars) on something that would yield no reward. Thankfully, she didn’t jump to change my major without imparting some guidance. She brought in another advisor who told me about all of his friends who majored in English and were currently working cool and interesting jobs that weren’t just teaching an English class (which is totally cool if that’s what you want to do!) I decided to trust my own feelings and stick with my major.

My sophomore year, I tried doing a double major in English and Business because the doubts were still nagging at me but I didn’t want to give up the major I truly wanted (English). I took Financial Accounting, Microeconomics and a psychology course, in addition to my English courses. I did a lot better than I expected, receiving a B in my business courses. But I wasn’t happy. So I finally accepted that even if the job offerings might be more plentiful in the business sector (which isn’t necessarily true), it wouldn’t matter to me because I wouldn’t be doing what I really wanted to do.

fence-266094_640The truth is that your major is not a cage. There is a whole world of opportunities; a whole world of careers that maybe haven’t even been created yet and you could be the one who makes it a reality. I know a person who majors in Art and wants to build a career in art therapy. When I first heard this from her, I didn’t know what art therapy was and she seemed weary of explaining it to me (most likely because as an art major, she probably experiences the same dubious expressions from other people that I do). But I encouraged her to tell me more and she was more excited about the prospect of her aspirations. Art Therapy is a relatively new field that is easier to understand when you think about how music therapy (a field people may be more familiar with) works. But instead of music, the therapist employs art activities to work through someone’s emotions or challenges. When my friend graduates and enters the work force, she may be one of the first people forging a new path for people who major in art. She will be building a foundation for others to stand on in the future. It may seem intimidating to pursue a career that isn’t fully formed yet or that most people have no clue about but it’s also really exciting to be part of something new and innovative.

girl leapingDo not feel weighed down by your major. Be inspired by it. When people ask me what I want to do with my English major, I feel genuinely confused because I do not feel defined (or confined) by my major. I can do anything I want to do. I could even one day decide that I want to go into business! I have used majors in the humanities as examples of who gets the most slack but all of this applies to any major. As a business major, you might think that maybe you’ll get trapped working an office job for the next 10 years before you make any headway into something more lucrative. I encourage you to consider becoming an entrepreneur. Build your own brand, your own company, your own business. It can be anything you want it to be! You might have to start off working in somebody’s office but you don’t have to stay there if you don’t want to. Most of us have more than one dream that follows one solid path and you’d be surprised how you can accomplish all of them by making them blend in together! To most people, I might be just a silly English major who is going to end up teaching an English class somewhere, but to me, I’m the future president and owner of my own media empire, a publisher of empowering novels, the director of influential films and television shows, the editor-in-chief of a powerful women’s magazine, anything and everything that I want to be. My personal mantra is this: Live the life you have imagined for yourself, not the one that others have set out for you.