Letter to the editor: Minors are worth the effort

CLAS Dean Antczak responds to Lanthorn column

By Fred Antczak | 1/24/16 10:36pm

Dear Lanthorn editor,

I enjoyed Kelly Smith’s Jan. 21 article, “To minor or not to minor.” He gives good advice: “talk to your adviser. It’s their job to help in these situations.”

I want to emphasize that point, because you have a lot of advising resources at hand. There’s your faculty adviser for your major, of course; but if she or he isn’t fully familiar with the minor you’re considering, the faculty in that discipline would be happy to, and every college at Grand Valley State University has an advising center that can help you. CLAS’s Academic Advising Center, for example, can be found at C-1-140 MAK.

But as Kelly says, his situation as a music education major is his own; your mileage may vary, and this is why you need advice. A music ed major in effect has two majors: music education and education. Both majors are accredited by state and national organizations which have some of the most specific and extensive standards. To add a minor to those sorts of majors is likely to take another year. But many majors are not as credit-heavy as music/education. If you have a different major, and get the right advice, a minor won’t have to add a year to your studies—or even any time at all.

And if I was advising you about minors, I’d recommend steering clear of too narrow a notion of practicality. This risks overlooking the wide variety of ways that completing a minor can help you right now: it can structure your credits toward the 120 minimum you need for graduation. It can give you complementary skills and knowledge, thereby doing the completely practical work setting yourself apart from other candidates seeking the same positions.

And don’t kid yourself. No one can adequately anticipate, even five years out, whether “the information you’ll learn will come into play enough to be considered useful.” But having different ways of knowing, a broader repertoire to bring to the work you do—five years out, or thirty years out—and to the life you lead for the rest of your life—can bring real and lasting impact.

Moreover, a minor can bring new, fun and a different kind of joy to your studies right now. A new community of people, and a chance to explore, in this one irreplaceable moment in your life when you have the freedom to explore things you want to know.

Pick a minor because you enjoy it. Many students from a whole variety of majors choose minors which march to this different drummer--classics, languages, physics, philosophy, statistics, geography, linguistics. And yes, even if it doesn’t promise some immediately clear usefulness, they choose music, dance, art, film and theatre.

So DO consider a minor—not just one you imagine would be practical someday, but one you can love from now on—and then follow Kelly’s advice, and consult an adviser. You may have an easier path than you think.

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