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Uncommon Majors

by Grace Gulino

Graphic by Samantha West

With so many students at BU, it’s easy to associate them with their overarching college rather than acknowledging their individual majors. In turn, some pretty fascinating majors may be overlooked. With over 160 majors offered at BU, it’s no surprise that there are several very specific academic choices in the mix that don’t necessarily come to mind right away.

A lesser known, but increasingly useful field is Deaf Studies, known as the study of sign language and communication with those who have hearing impairments. Julia Clarke (CAS ’17) has a double major in Deaf Studies and Psychology, as well as a minor in advertising.

“Deaf Studies is a hidden niche within not only the university, but also within it's individual college,” said Clarke of the field of study. “I mean, I was always confused as to why Deaf Studies was within the School of Education. All of the other language-based majors are in the College of Arts and Sciences! It's tucked away in SED only because those who study the deaf are usually going into the field of deaf education.”

By taking courses for the major, such as Psychology of the Deaf, Clarke has become fluent in the visual language, and has found great value in studying it as opposed to traditional spoken languages such as Spanish and French. Along with learning the language, classes in Deaf Studies have exposed her to a whole new community within BU.

“I think awareness of the Deaf culture is key to changing how people perceive their ‘disability,’” Clarke said. “Most don't even know there is an entire culture surrounding deafness that goes beyond language. Deaf culture contains qualities such as heightened directness (despite seeming exceedingly rude to us hearing people), and hugging. Lots of hugging!”

While Deaf Studies is a hidden gem in the language department, there are still more fields of study within the individual colleges that are lesser known. For example, The School of Theology offers a major in philosophy.

Jamell Sirleaf (CAS ’18) is one of only a handful of philosophy majors, as he says there are no more than 300 people in his major overall.

“There aren't a lot of philosophy majors, but many people at BU have it as a minor or have taken a few classes and have a background in it,” says Sirleaf. “I would think it’s not as popular because many people look at school only for its practical uses in the job force or in a particular industry.”

Sirleaf was drawn to the major after enrolling in a philosophy class at the university.

“I wanted to learn something I was interested in while I was an undergraduate, as well as the skills that would be beneficial for a transition to law school after BU,” Sirleaf said.

If philosophy is something that interests you, he suggests trying out History of Ancient Philosophy or Intro to Logic classes.

As he puts it, “I enjoy learning and the art of learning.”

Although philosophy is a required course for some students on campus, Sirleaf finds what he learns to be essential in learning about the world.

“Knowledge is so diverse and multiple,” he said. “I feel that studying philosophy makes learning about other things easier as well as helping me to grasp the world around me. It has definitely been worthwhile so far.”

Holly Gallant (CAS ’16) discovered the Editorial Institute during her senior year of studying at BU.

“I actually found out about it after talking to my English advisor about my career goals and he immediately suggested looking into it,” she said.

An English major, Gallant was able to find classes that pertained to her specific interest, rather than settling for the more common courses that students use to get credits. Although the Editorial Institute technically only offers degrees to graduate students, undergraduates are more than welcome to take the classes as well.

“Looking outside my major, but in related areas, helped me become more familiar with what marketable skills I have developed in college,” Gallant said of branching out and studying something a bit less traditional. “Basically I feel like I am better prepared for the job market because I have spent time developing my skill set.”

While not everyone has the time, interest or motivation to major in something slightly unconventional, there are plenty of opportunities to take individual classes if any particular subject piques your interest. In order to get core requirements done (in some cases, if a little bit of digging and research is done) some unique classes can be found that will check off those requirements for you. And after all, studying something new and lesser known can add a little flavor to your schedule.

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