Meta-majors: what is this even about?

Last spring a group of cross campus faculty met regularly and developed a draft of seven different meta-majors. Meta-majors are groupings of programs to help students simplify the complex choice of what to study to gain the skills they need for the career they want. At the All-Instruction and Students Services meeting during Opening Week we shared this first draft of the meta-major groupings and asked for feedback. The wordle below captures the themes which emerged from your comments:


The first thing I noticed while reading people’s comments was that it was not clear to many what a meta-major is and how it is different than our current divisions. Let’s consider this from a student perspective.

A brand new student comes to EvCC. They encounter the “Wall of Curriculum Guides” and are asked to pick a program. That’s terrifying. There are over 100 curriculum guides to choose from. Psychology research tells us that when the number of choices is that large and overwhelming people either turn away or they use something arbitrary to decide (eg, “that’s what my cousin is majoring in so I’ll major in it, too”).

Consider the same scenario from the student’s perspective, only now, instead of the “Wall of curriculum guides” there are six pathways (meta-major groupings) to choose from.  This is a much simpler choiceThe pathways are consciously organized by general student interests: STEM for those that say “I want to do something technical”, Arts and Humanities for those that say “I want to do something creative”, Health Sciences for those with an interest in the many areas of medicine, Social Sciences & Human Services for those that say “I want to help people”, etc. These are meant to be big broad buckets based on general interests instead of the narrow ones we have now (eg, “do you want to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education or Education?”).

There are some great things that can happen with meta-majors. For example, we could offer meta-major specific College 101 courses. If they’re interested in Health Science, that College 101 class might go into what all the different career choices are within Health Sciences, many of which the student may not have heard. The student can get advising from an advisor within that meta-major who knows all of those programs very well, getting them started on the right courses in their first quarter, not their third.

If we offer an “Exploratory” meta-major option, the truly Undecided students could be funneled into a College 101 course that is connected to an HDEV course to do more extensive career exploration. The idea behind an “Exploratory” meta-major would be to have students start there and transition to a different one within one to two quarters. The goal is to get the student to the path they want to be on faster, earning credits that will count towards their degree while they narrow down career choices.

These meta-major buckets should be designed with STUDENTS and their career goals in mind, not academic traditions or our own opinions about where we think our disciplines should be or with whom we like to work. The idea here is that we collect up all of the similar programs into a group so that students who only have a vague general sense at first can immediately start to funnel into the places they can start working on achieving their goals. This way a future graphic designer can start in ART 110 during their first quarter instead of realizing it later and making their whole degree plan longer. I think Engineering is a great field for helping people, but most of the students who come here saying they want to help people are generally more interested in Social Sciences and Human Services than Engineering (which I’m a little sad about). So I don’t expect Engineering to get cross-listed with Social Sciences.

Meta-majors will not necessarily disrupt divisions. But they might require some people to cross train in advising and they will need cross division conversation to help meet the needs of our students effectively. For example, someone who says they’re pre-med would likely choose Health Sciences. Traditionally, pre-meds have always been STEM students so in this case we would want to make sure Health Science advisors and College 101 faculty were able to advise the pre-med student accurately, which means regular conversation between biology, chemistry, and allied health faculty about the full spectrum of career options available to students in the field of healthcare and the coursework needed to get the necessary degree or certificate.

There were some great comments made during the All Instruction and Student Services meeting that will prompt good conversations moving forward. There are a lot of programs that don’t fit neatly into one bucket (eg, Fire Science) that would benefit from being crosslisted in more than one meta-major so that students who have a particular career goal in mind end up able to take the classes they need for the job they want.

With this understanding of meta-majors in mind, I’d love to hear more of your comments about this topic. Here is a link to the current draft of the meta-majors. Ask yourself this: If a student wants to go into career X or to earn a degree in field Z, what meta-major might they pick? Give your general thoughts, specific thoughts, and ideas you have about how we can use meta-majors to help students get where they want to go without spending extra money on classes that don’t fit their end goals.  I’ll send an announcement out next week calling for volunteers for the meta-majors subcommittee. If you are passionate about this please join that committee!

One thought on “Meta-majors: what is this even about?”

  1. “These meta-major buckets should be designed with STUDENTS and their career goals in mind”–yes! Helping students think about their ultimate career goals and reverse engineering the most direct, most appropriate educational path is the core of the Pathways model. I think students will really benefit from programs grouped together by related career field rather than our traditional ideas of prof/tech or transfer, divisions, etc.

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