A look at liberal studies

Story by Emily Albrent, Chief Copy Editor

UW-Eau Claire has many majors and minors for students to choose from, but if none of those fit a student’s interests, they have an opportunity to create their own under the umbrella of liberal studies.
“You have an overarching theme, and then it is made up of three different sections and each section is part of an interdisciplinary combination of courses, but each section has it’s own different emphases. So it’s sort of that triangular idea that they are all supporting each other,” junior UW-Eau Claire sustainability communication major Alana Jenkins said.
Jenkins said many times students choose to be a liberal studies major if they do not feel like there is a specific major that will fit their needs or  when a student wants a major that is not offered at Eau Claire.
“It challenged me to really think about what I was doing, not that other majors don’t but for me personally I feel like I was just settling with other majors like I knew there was more I wanted to do outside of what those constraints were,” Jenkins said.
A liberal studies major is a way for students to accomplish a lot of their interests all in one major, said communication and journalism professor Ellen Mahaffy, who is an unofficial liberal studies major advisor.
“A lot of times we will have students who really want to do video or really want to do something that is more visually oriented and obviously in journalism we steer towards the writing end of things and sometimes that scares people … they find that they’re more attuned to wanting to do the visual end of things,” Mahaffy said.
It is also a great opportunity for students who know what they want to do but the university lacks a major that fits their needs, said senior Brenna Ehster, a multimedia-communication major.
“I felt like I was stuck in a box and I could only do certain things and I still love journalism,” Ehster said. “But I was kind of like ‘I want to do one step above that and just do my own thing,’ which is why I decided to create my own major.”
Mahaffy said that the liberal studies major allows students to be far more creative with the classes that they take.
“Students have a lot of diverse interests, and I think that also in terms of our society a lot of it does kind of link together,” Mahaffy said.

To help with creating and declaring a liberal studies major, students work closely with a faculty advisor.
These advisors help students through the process and make sure that they get all of the credits and classes they need to graduate on time.
Jenkins said that the hardest part of being a liberal studies major is having to explain to people what you are majoring in, and how you are going to make it a reality once school is over.
Jenkins is not worried about being unemployed, but she is concerned that she is not going to find the perfect job. Both Jenkins and Ehster said that life after graduation is something they think about, but it is not a major concern.
“I think everyone is a little nervous to graduate, but it’s just one of those things where you got to put yourself out there,” Ehster said. “I am so glad I did liberal studies, because I liked school before, but now I love it.”