I was hanging out with a few of my friends last month after one of those infamous organic chemistry tests. They’re all science majors, and I’m always there if they need to unload some stress every two weeks after all their intensive exams.
“I might have flunked this test, I might just have to drop premed,” one of them said, “and then I might as well just pick an easy major like communication.”
“Oh… I forgot you were a communication major, sorry about that. Awkward.”
I was not upset with my friend. Honestly, the comment barely registered with me. I was used to it.
But I shouldn’t have to be.
It has to be said: There is a prevailing attitude at this university, and perhaps in many others, that studying science—particularly medicine—qualifies someone as smarter and as more hardworking than someone who pursues other subjects.
I do not base this critique in one off-handed comment I’ve heard, but many.
I’ve heard aspiring medical professionals say things like, “we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our classes” to “I wouldn’t even go to Newman if I weren’t premed.”
How am I, a communication and history major here at Newman, supposed to feel about these attitudes?
Did I not pick the right school? Am I not challenging myself enough? Is studying the arts and humanities really for people who “aren’t smart enough” to do anything else?
Believe it or not, I was considering the premed track the first semester of my freshmen year. I was in the biology lecture and lab for premed students. And no, I did not stop taking these classes because I wasn’t smart enough to do well in them; I stopped because I wanted to do something else. I was not passionate about the prospect of being a doctor or a scientist.
I was so stressed about finally declaring my major when it should have been easy. I knew near the beginning of the semester that history, writing, and public speaking were my true passions. In truth, I knew what I wanted my major to be for a long time before I was actually ready to declare it.
Because, speaking from the crux of my deepest insecurity, I wanted people to know I was smart.
I only became confident with my choice once I knew the belief that “all the smartest people are science majors” was completely wrong.
After talking with several others, I realized I was not the only one who felt undervalued because of my major.
One of the students I talked with said that people are always surprised to find out she goes to Newman and isn’t a pre-med or a nursing student.
As a student ambassador, when I give a campus tour, I always go into detail about the new science building, and rightly so, because it’s a great building that anyone of any major can benefit from using to study. However, whenever I find out the person I’m taking on a tour is not a science major, I struggle with talking points.
You click on our website, and the first thing you see it “Kansas’ Leader in Science.” Even before Bishop Gerber, Newman has stressed the dominance of its science program. We’ve always liked to flaunt our acceptance rate to medical schools, and now we have the state of the art facilities to back ourselves up.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but we also must acknowledge that Newman can be a great place for other majors as well. Some students really need to hear that.
We should continue to value our science programs, but without dismissing the importance of other disciplines.
There are students here who are not science majors, but who still work just as hard, if not harder than those who are. Those students who don’t necessarily have an exam every two weeks might be up late drowning in papers and assigned readings.
Those students need to know that their work is valued.
You don’t have to aspire to be a doctor to be considered intelligent, hardworking or successful.
Lest we forget, the president of this university herself a communication major.
To my fellow non-science majors: Don’t be discouraged like I was. Don’t let the notion that science students are taken more seriously let you down. If you ever feel dismissed because of your field of study, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your passion.
This story first appeared in the November 16, 2017 issue of The Vantage.