BY CODY ROBERTS
As the spring semester draws to an end, students begin to prepare for their summer and fall by signing up for their next load of courses.
Most students returning to Salisbury University this summer and fall have already selected their courses, while the incoming freshman and transfer students will be choosing their courses this summer. Both of these groups, though, often chose their classes based on the recommendations of their advisors.
“My advisor created a list of classes required for my application to the business school,” Emily Johnson stated, a freshman applying to major in business, “this helped me narrow down my choices for next semester.”
Fellow freshman Maggie McHahon, who is undecided in her major, agreed with Johnson, saying that her advisor helped picked classes that fulfilled (her) remaining general education credits, while adding in classes from many different fields to help her decide on a major.
Many younger students rely on their experienced advisors to help them develop a plan for their academic career during their first year at SU.
One student is freshman Paige O’Boyle, who is a double major in psychology and social work.
“With a lot of assistance and guidance from friends and especially my advisor, I was able to create a map for my courses over the next three years,” O’Boyle said. “Next semester will consist of the most logical courses for my majors.”
Other students, more familiar with the major requirement sheets and the process of signing up for classes online, took the approach of avoiding the hassle of meeting with their advisor.
One such student, sophomore Sam Hillman, said that he simply viewed his major requirements online and used these to make his selection for the upcoming semester.
All majors and minors offered at SU have core programs, elective requirements and general education requirements posted online at SU’s website under the academic section.
Some students voice difficulties when signing up for their choices of classes for the upcoming semesters, though the most common grievances being that upper level courses quickly fill up and it is difficult to seek out just the right classes to avoid the undesirable 8 a.m. and night courses.
“My greatest difficulty was the availability of the courses I wanted to take,” Hillman said. “The good classes always go fast and I did not want end up taking Friday classes.”
Johnson agreed with Hillman, stating that the classes she wanted to seize for next semester were filled up before she was allowed to sign up for anything.
Other problems have included classes only being offered by certain professors and on certain semesters, classes of certain majors being offered in the same time slots and having to decide which classes would best suit the students unfulfilled general education requirements.
Junior Jordan Hayes said that because he is a transfer student, he had acquired a lot of college credits that were not the right fit for SU’s major requirements.
“Many of my previous classes transferred as miscellaneous credits,” Hayes said.
His class selections for this upcoming summer and fall relied heavily on what credits did not transfer and what classes needed to be fulfilled to complete his major.
Hayes also discussed next year’s spring semester as an influencing factor for his course selections this summer and fall.
“I wanted to make sure one semester’s course load didn’t outweigh the other semester by too much,” he said. “I tried to spread the difficulty as evenly as possible.”
As Salisbury University’s population grows, some majors are experiencing rapid growth while others are slowly hemorrhaging students.
Two examples of each trend are the Fulton School of Liberal Arts’ environmental studies major, which has grown from two students to 133 since its establishment just over ten years ago and the school’s art major, which has fallen 73 percent in the same time (from 179 students to 52) according to data provided by SU’s Office of University Analysis, Reporting & Assessment.
Art Department Chair Brooke Rogers said that the large decline in the number of students majoring in art is not all that mysterious.
As Fulton has grown over the years, more-specific majors have become available, Rogers said.
One of those is the bachelors of fine arts (BFA). The BFA provides students aiming for a career as artists a more-thorough education in their medium of choice, be it graphic design, sculpture or any number of other artistic forms. Often, this is the best choice, he said.
“The main reason is this: the portfolio you have as an art major when you leave here is everything,” Rogers said. “The diploma doesn’t mean as much as the portfolio. When the students go for a BFA they take more studio art courses, and they develop their portfolio.”
In many cases, a BFA simply suits potential artists far better than majoring in art, but this isn’t a reason for the university to abandon the more-traditional art major, he said.
“This isn’t to say that it isn’t good to (major in art),” Rogers said. “For example, some students are interested in art therapy and there aren’t tons of grad programs available for that. In that case, they may want to major in art and minor in psychology, or the other way around.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the environmental studies major, which has flourished since it was introduced to SU in the fall 2004 semester.
Bill Nelson, an adjunct professor and program specialist in the department of environmental studies, says that a larger consciousness and concern for the environment not just nationally, but globally, is driving this growth.
“I would love to give SU all the credit, but I really think a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time,” Nelson said. “I think environmental studies in general is exploding around the world. The downside is that there are so many pressing problems drawing everyone to the field. But one of the big upsides is that in 2012 Maryland made it mandatory that K-12 public schools have an environmental literacy component each year; that they have some kind of experience and they’ve put together some pretty impressive programs.”
“It’s part of the national conversation now,” he said.
And the growth in the major appears to be more than just a local trend.
In a 2009 New York Times article entitled “Environmental Studies Enrollment Soars,” author Kate Galbraith observed that schools around the nation are experiencing high enrollment numbers in the program following Barack Obama’s political emphasis on renewable energy and green jobs, both of which resonate with younger students.
And judging by the prospect of a viable career future, perhaps they should.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLA), employment of environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations largely due to public interest in hazards facing the environment and the subsequent demand placed on the environment due to population growth.
The BLA also identified the median pay for relevant professions as $63,570 in 2012, with the top ten percent earning almost $110,000 per year.