Choosing a major is one of the hardest decisions to make in college. That is why Whitman is introducing a new program on campus, starting in the Fall of 2019, designed to help prospective students or undeclared students decide what major to declare. The new position being installed is a “Department Liaison,” which is a position held by students who are recommended by a department chair to represent their major department on campus. For example, I was recommended by Dana Burgess, the department chair of Classics, to represent his department through this program; so, as a Department Liaison, I will be a student to whom others may be directed if their interest lies in Classics or anything related to it.
The basic idea behind the installment of Department Liaisons is one that aims to bridge the gap between students and the departments they are interested in but wish to learn more about. The role of the Department Liaison includes answering questions about their major, directing students to relevant resources, laying out the credit plan, and talking openly about their opinions–both good and bad–about their department. The goal is that the interaction between a student and a Department Liaison will be as honest as it needs to be in order that the student may obtain all the necessary information about what it means to declare a certain major on this campus. Because this is student-to-student advising, conversations do not need to be limited to surface level facts about being a certain major, but can include the drawbacks and challenges that may need to be faced. There’s no sugar coating here; honesty is the only dish being served at this table.
Whether it’s an intense hour long planning session of a student’s 4 year course plan, or just a light conversation over a couple lattes, interactions between Department Liaisons and students will increase communication and understanding of the many wonderful departments here at Whitman. Declaring a major (or multiple!) is not as scary as everyone thinks, and now can be made even less so because of the growing resources Whitman provides for making this exciting decision.