Students embrace alternative majors

Layla Abbas
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne’s 2017 to 2018 catalog offers at least 54 majors and 35 minors students can choose from.

But sophomore communication through art major Madii Duran did not find one that suited her passion. So she created her own.

Duran was an art history major with the goal of becoming a museum curator, but after realizing the limited job opportunities available to her after graduating, she took a different path.

“I am interested in almost every aspect of the arts from paintings, sculptures, music and studying art history,” Duran said.

Duran struggled to pick between a communications major and an art history major.

After choosing art history, she realized settling for just one of her passions was not what she wanted.

Duran said she had to figure out how to implement her interests from both the art history and communication fields in a way that presented a cohesive major.

“I started thinking about how my interests relate and it’s all through communication; art is the most universal language throughout all of time,” Duran said.

“During the prehistoric era, they communicated through their art, and if it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be able to understand them or even where we come from.”

Duran went to the academic office and received a packet to fill out to begin the process of creating an alternative major. After going through the entire catalog of available courses, she wrote down every class she thought would be beneficial to her communication through art major.

Duran then met with her academic advisor, Jon Leaver, to give him an argument for each class she chose and why it would be a good choice for her major.

“We came to a consensus after considering the upper level courses, lower level courses and planned my senior project,” Duran said.

“We both signed it and returned it back to the academic advising office to wait for approval.”
Duran said it only took a week for her alternative major to get approved and updated on her degree evaluation.

Alternative majors are for students with multiple interests and do not want to narrow their choices down, Duran said.

“In the time students are getting their bachelor’s, they’re still searching for what they may or may not like,” Duran said.

“Alternative majors broaden everything, so when you start working and having internships you can start to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life.”

Jon Leaver, Duran’s academic adviser and professor of art history, said few students take it upon themselves to devise their own major.

“A struggle with alternative majors is keeping the subject focused; anything is possible, but a danger is possibly fragmenting your major,” Leaver said.

Leaver has only dealt with advising students on an alternative major two to three times.

He said he encourages students who want to create their own major to have focus and think about how all of the pieces fit together.

“Many students do not have the will or self possession to bend the parameters of the system, they are happy with just existing in the confines of what is already established,” Leaver said.

“Madii had a clear vision and was not satisfied with just art history classes, so she devised her own, which is quite admirable.”

Courtney Clark, junior arts and education major, formulated her major to represent arts, education and art history with a minor in theatre arts.

“I want to build my own nonprofit organization to help bring the arts to children and students who might not have access to it otherwise in lower-income areas,” Clark said.

Clark added that the process to create her major was not difficult, it just required effort.

“It’s important to sculpt your academic experience to what you want it to be and by devising my major, I feel I have done that,” Clark said.

Gerard Lavatori, director of the liberal arts program, advises liberal arts students and help them develop a concentration suited to their interests.

The liberal arts major gives students the opportunity to design an individualized and interdisciplinary major centered on a focus, theme or issue area of the student’s choosing.

“There is a set curriculum of core classes students have to take, such as the advanced level of humanities, fine arts and social/natural sciences,” Lavatori said.

“The major has set parameters established, but students then create a concentration with classes of their own choosing.”

Students who build their own major are rare, but Leaver said he encourages students to do it as long as they have a clear goal.

“I would encourage any student considering a devised major to go for it,” Clark said.

“There’s no reason not to study what you actually want to study and students shouldn’t have to pick between their passions.”

Layla Abbas can be reached at

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