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How Do Open Majors at PLNU Choose Their Area of Study?

Three percent of traditional undergraduate students at Point Loma Nazarene University, including 6% of first and second-year students, are enrolled as open majors, according to the PLNU’s Fall 2022 Data Point. However, the deadline for students to select a major is at the end of their second year. 

Troy Davidson, third-year media communication major, first entered PLNU as an open major. He did not originally commit to an area of study because it felt like a big commitment to make, especially coming out of high school where he did not have the same liberty in choosing classes. 

“I just wasn’t ready to make that commitment, and I also just knew I didn’t have to here at Point Loma, so why rush it? I’ll be mostly doing GEs anyways for the first couple years,” said Davidson.

During the spring semester of his second year, Davidson selected media communication as his major after taking an Introduction to Script Writing course the previous fall. Davidson originally took this course, taught by James Wicks, professor of film studies, to fulfill his writing general education requirement; however, it ultimately persuaded him to officially join the media communication department. 

Davidson said that deep down, he always thought he would choose film, but it did not feel like the most obvious choice, so he was not ready to commit. 

Additionally, Davidson’s previous academic advisor, Mark Mann, professor of theology, was also a useful resource. Mann helped Davidson choose his major by taking into account the things that Davidson likes and is passionate about, and getting him in contact with people from other departments to talk with. 

Rick Kennedy, professor of history, is an academic advisor to not only students in his department, but also to open majors. A new policy implemented at PLNU three years ago transitioned the academic advising process for open majors from having advisors unaffiliated with a department, to now being affiliated. Therefore, open majors are assigned to professors within a department even if they have no interest or background in that area of study. 

Kennedy said that he advises about 8 to 10 students from his own department each year, as well as an additional 3 to 5 open major students. For Kennedy, it is not so much about advising as it is about inviting open majors to a space where they can talk, have a conversation and help them make the choice for themselves.

He starts with more personal questions regarding their passions and what makes them happy, then he steers them toward the departments that most align with their interests.

For a faculty member to become an advisor to an open major, they must volunteer and are then assigned a small number of students to advise. This is typically done by professors in smaller departments, like the history department. 

Kennedy said that he prefers this new way of advising open majors. To Kennedy, it is important for open majors to find and experience a faculty presence, and become more connected into the system.

“We’re the ones who know the system the best and have done this the longest and have the most experience, and I think we can be the most helpful to them,” said Kennedy.

Written By: Maddy Tucker