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Choosing a Major

Jamie Seney


April 10, 2019: An email from appears in my inbox with the subject line “Please Declare Your Major."

My major? My major? Sometimes the word gets tossed around so often I forget what it means. I hopped on Axess and submitted my major declaration request for Art Practice. Why Art Practice? Because it wasn’t Mechanical Engineering.

The road to deciding my major was long and cumbersome. I came into Stanford adamantly sure that I was a Mechanical Engineer with a particular interest in researching quantum mechanics. Yet, I had other unexpected passions step into the spotlight as I settled in. I was getting more involved in activism and advocacy on campus, leading me to the realization that my motivations for school were heavily people-focused. People are of the utmost importance to me, and I didn’t feel that the classes I was taking worked in conjunction with that motivation. This isn’t to say engineering is incapable of centering people in its various missions; rather, it just felt more natural to take classes that centered the ideas of community and personhood. So I made a switch to African & African American Studies. AAAS classes necessarily (re)imagine and (re)inform not just thought but methods of thinking as well.

By the time I was fully immersed in AAAS I ran into another problem: Painting I. Art had always been a passion of mine, but nothing I’d ever considered to pursue. When I took Painting I at the beginning of Sophomore year everything seemed to fall into place. I was happier to go to class, I was on top of my work, and was exploring my art in an entirely new medium. I got online and looked through the different art courses, looked into the major, and decided that yet another major change to Art Practice was the way to go.

All this to say that choosing a major is certainly no easy task. There are plenty of things to consider: seeking financial stability for myself and my family, choosing intellectually and emotionally fulfilling classes, 4-year plans, grad school, careers in the field, and so much more. These considerations have been (and still are) circulating in my mind when I enroll in courses each quarter, especially as a FLI student struggling to reconcile my hard-to-market passions with the need to take care of my family. Ultimately, I made the determination that if the passion is genuine, then the stability will follow. I’m speaking and acting it into existence, and the full investment of heart and mind into the major is already opening doors in art industries. Prioritizing my top considerations in choosing a major (in my case it was personal fulfillment and growth) was the most useful tool in committing to Art Practice. After that initial difficult step and with a little work the rest begins to fall into place.