Psychology, English, government, and computer science: These are some of Wesleyan’s most popular majors. While Wesleyan prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach to learning, this mission is hindered by the fact that the University doesn’t offer minors for many of its most popular departments. Though many people argue that minors aren’t that beneficial in the grand scheme of post-undergraduate opportunities, I’m here to say that they actually may be more important than you think (or Wesleyan thinks) in forming the academic and personal identities of college students.
First and foremost, minors let you pick an academic interest that compliments your main field of study in a less demanding way. For example, I’m a prospective Psychology major with a minor in the College of Education Studies (Ed Studies). Having Ed Studies as my minor has let me see the ways in which our education system is deeply rooted in the capabilities of the human mind and behavior. Being able to have this as my minor allows me to pick up on the nuances within my major in a way I never expected. If Wesleyan offered more minors, I guarantee that students would open their eyes to new ideas or concepts within their major that they hadn’t thought about before.
Contrastingly, minors let you add an entirely different interest to your major, but still enable you to explore and enjoy a drastically different field of study. For example, you might be an English major, but also have a passion for mathematics that you want to nurture, but don’t have the capacity to fulfill the whole major. Additionally, pursuing a minor in an entirely unrelated field to your major may actually help you feel less burdened by the demands of your main field of study. In other words, minoring in a completely different subject may give you the opportunity to use an entirely different skill set than that of your major, which may then lead to you feeling less burnt out because your intellect is being used in two different ways.
In order to provide insight into why Wesleyan doesn’t offer minors in its most popular departments, I interviewed Psychology Chair Lisa Dierker. I asked her: Is there a specific reason as to why the Psychology department doesn’t offer a minor, and do you know if the department has ever considered offering a minor?
“Though psychology is very often the largest major on campus, we do not let that deter us from a deep commitment to supporting all students who would like to take our courses,” Dierker said. “As a non-major, students can take psychology courses or get practical experience through teaching apprenticeships and research…. For students who have plans to major in a discipline other than psychology, these options allow them to take full advantage of the open curriculum while developing abilities and points of view associated with our discipline. I hope that all Wesleyan students take charge of their learning and choose what they want rather than what others require. Personal and professional empowerment will follow. Viva la Open Curriculum!”
Perhaps this reasoning can be applied to the many other departments that don’t offer minors in their field. While I do find it important that students don’t let major or minor requirements limit their intellectual exploration, I do think there is something to say that within the required course-structure of a minor, one can still engage in their own academic curiosity.
While I know that the open curriculum allows students to not be confined by the restrictions of a minor, minors do allow students to be rewarded for their effort and work, and can even be an accomplishment that students can use in future career paths. All in all, Wesleyan should consider offering more minors, especially in its most popular departments, if it wants to stay true to its collaborative and interdisciplinary learning environment.
Zara Skolnik is a member of the class of 2026 and can be reached at email@example.com.