Web Exclusive: Students switch majors because of class experiences


Micah Walker

Some students like Thomas Derry, left, Fazia Adams, center, and Austin Smith say they changed their majors because of impactful experiences with single classes or professors.

Micah Walker, Reporter

Even after multiple semesters studying what they thought was their favorite subject, some AACC students said they changed their majors because a single professor or class had a profound impact on them.

Four students who switched majors told Campus Current their stories.

‘That class made me fully commit’

Second-year psychology student Austin Smith said he remembers the specific moment he knew he wanted to get into psychology. 

It was when professor Erin Kolarik, who taught a psychology course he was required to take as part of his nursing program, shared that psychology helped her overcome personal struggles.

“She convinced me to switch over to psychology [from nursing],” Smith said. “Now I am fully committed to being a psychology major. I really enjoy it. That class made me fully commit.”

This wasn’t the first time Smith changed his major. He started in nursing because that is his mother’s field. Then he switched to economics.

Nursing, Smith said, felt more intimate and “close to home.” But he said he said he chose it without exploring other options.

“I am interested in helping people with what I do as a career, but instead of physically as a nurse, I think I’d be better mentally as a psychologist,” Smith said.

“The [psychology] class was so well taught,” Smith said. “[Kolarik] was such a good professor; her energy was great. She was talking about her life experiences with psychology … I really feel like I can resonate with that. … I want to be able to recognize my mistakes. … I feel like psychology could both help me take control of my life more and also help other people recognize that.”

‘This is it’

Thomas Derry, a fifth-year plant science student, chose pre-med as his major because he thought his parents would like it.

It turned out that he was more interested in plants.

He realized this when he had to take a required science class and he took a plant taxonomy course taught by professor Susan Lamont. 

He switched his major to plant science immediately.

“That’s really what drove me towards, ‘I like plants a lot,’” Derry said. “Professor Lamont is so cool and makes learning interesting. She knows all the facts about all the plants. … She’s so smart. For me personally, the class was cool. … It influenced me … and I was like, ‘This is it.’”

“I guess I felt kind of forced to choose something like [pre-med] at first,” Derry said. “But ever since I took that class, I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than being some type of botanist.”

‘Fell in love with journalism’

First-year communication student Megan Cunningham said she always loved the thought of teaching or of becoming an engineer.

Then she joined the student newspaper and “fell in love with journalism.”

“I originally joined as a photographer and then Professor Sharon O’Malley … said, ‘You want to maybe try writing a story?’ Cunningham recalled. “The very first story I wrote was a ‘Letter From an Editor.’ …I was like, ‘I enjoy writing. I enjoy this. I enjoy doing the photography.’

She had never considered majoring in communications, Cunningham said.

“When I was applying to colleges, I kind of felt pressured to” decide on a major,’ Cunningham said. “That was definitely something where I was like ‘OK, ’I need to know what I want to do now. Once I’m in I can’t change this.'”

Still, Cunningham, who became photo editor for the newspaper, hasn’t ruled out another major switch. 

“I would love to just say, ‘No, I wouldn’t change my major again;’ but I am a very indecisive person,” Cunningham said. “I am scared that I am going to get bored… but what I’m doing now I love it and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

‘I can’t be stuck here’

Fazia Adams, a third-year chemistry student, started her college journey as an engineering major at AACC.

But after seeing how much more engaged her classmates were with the subject matter, she realized the program wasn’t for her.

“I was taking a pneumatics class,” Adam said. “I remember just being in that class this one day. We had a lab, and everyone knew what they were doing, and I could not figure out what I was supposed to do. I realized this major is not for me anymore.”

Adams added:  “I can’t be stuck here. I felt really suppressed, and drained, and burned out; and I changed my major like two days later. I wasn’t that interested; I just wanted a field that made decent money.”

Still, she said chemistry isn’t her passion. 

“My dream is to be a painter,” she said. “I love painting and I love visual arts. If I had the capability, I would become an animator or, like, maybe a children’s book author or illustrator. … My brain is so happy when I paint.”

But art, she said, “I think I’m more focused on making money.”