Unbeaten Paths: Lesser Known Fields of Study

Unbeaten Paths: Lesser Known Fields of Study

Barnard’s most popular majors--History, Political Science, and Biology, to name a few--get a lot of attention, and rightfully so. They’re strong and rigorous programs, with talented faculty, incredible resources, and passionate students. But Barnard has over 50 different majors and programs, and the slightly more obscure ones are just as exciting. These departments might be a bit more niche, or just plain harder to find on Barnard’s website, but they’re perfect for some people--like me!--and one of those people might just be you. I’ve rounded up five of Barnard’s lesser known areas of study, with explanations about what they are, why they’re interesting, and what someone studying them might go on to do with them.

SCIENCE, POLICY, & ETHICS

What is it?

For anyone interested in the principles of scientific research, Barnard offers a minor in Science, Policy, & Ethics. Self-described as a study of the intersection between the three, this minor is perfect for STEM students interested in policy, policy-oriented students interested in science, or anyone curious about the relationship between technological advancement and societal morality. If you’ve ever had a late-night existential crisis about the moral cost of the growth of science and technology, this might be worth consideration.

What can you do with it?

If you’re a budding scientist, particularly one concerned with doing research, moral considerations taken from this field of study could be influential on how you go about your future career. If you’re interested in policy or government work, you’ll have a better understanding of the ethics between scientific policy issues. And if you’re neither, but care about morality and technology, then congratulations: you’ll learn something.

Learn more here.


AMERICAN STUDIES

What is it?

American Studies is an interdisciplinary field concerned with studying the cultural, ideological, geographical and historical contexts that make up the United States. This isn’t exactly an unheard major at Barnard—it’s actually pretty popular—but it’s a relatively uncommon major among colleges. Plus, it’s really cool. Students in the major largely get to structure the program according to their own interests. Each individual chooses a concentration from a list of thirteen possibilities (with the ability to petition for another), with options such as Race and Ethnicity, Food, and Natural and Built Environment, and takes five classes within that concentration. Interdisciplinary majors such as American Studies are fun because there’s so much variety. There isn’t any stifling rigidity here--with so many options for concentrations, and ability to use classes in various other departments towards completing them, an American Studies major is bound to be anything but boring.

What can you do with it?

The interdisciplinary nature of American Studies means that graduates will be strong candidates for jobs in a variety of fields. Career paths such as journalism, government work, and public relations are only a few of many viable options.

Learn more here.

ARCHAEOLOGY

What is it?

Admittedly, I’m biased, but come on. Anyone who says that archaeology doesn’t sound cool is lying. Archaeology, my chosen major, isn’t just about finding artifacts. As a track within Anthropology, it also involves anthropological and archaeological theory and the history of the fields. Five of the eleven required classes are electives, allowing you to tailor the major to your specific interests within the field. These classes are great, but what really makes the program is the field component. This past summer, Barnard began offering official summer field courses. I spent a month roughing it in a gorgeous part of New Mexico, learning skills that I used for actual archaeology. The ability to get hands-on experience has been one of the most valuable aspects of college so far, and solidified how much I love what I study.

What can you do with it?

If you prefer fieldwork, careers in archaeology or conservation might be for you. Positions that let you get your hands dirty exist in museums, higher education, the government, and heritage agencies, among others. If you don’t want to spend a significant part of your career living out of a tent (which, okay, sounds fun to me, but isn’t for everyone), jobs involving museums or archival work, for example, are also totally viable options. There’s a lot to find out there, so get digging!

Learn more here.


ANCIENT STUDIES

What is it?

Like American Studies, this is an interdisciplinary major. This one focuses on the Ancient World through a wide variety of disciplines. The major is associated with the Classics department, but where Classics focuses on Greek and Latin texts, Ancient Studies allows for a broader field of study. This is true geographically--for example, most of the classes I’ve taken in this department have concerned Ancient Egypt--and departmentally. As an interdisciplinary program, a wide range of classes is accepted. In fact, a major requirement is to take relevant classes in three departments. Ancient Studies is also particularly exciting because of how easy studying abroad for it is. The combination of a long list of pre-approved programs, in relevant locations such as Italy, Greece, and Egypt, and a supportive faculty that actively encourages it makes going abroad a breeze.

What can you do with it?

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Archaeology and Ancient Studies are two closely-related areas of study. With this in mind, an Ancient Studies degree can easily be applied to many of the same careers as Archaeology. Museum and archival work stand out in particular. In addition, the level of research skills cultivated throughout the degree prepare graduates for other research-oriented fields.

Learn more here.

ETHNOMUSICOLOGY

What is it?

Ethnomusicology, the study of the culture and social aspects of music and its makers, began as a special major at Barnard, but was converted into a pre-approved track within the Music major back in 2009. This program focuses more on the anthropology of music than on actually performing, which can be ideal for students who are passionate about learning about music but less keen on performing it. As an added bonus, Barnard undergraduates pursuing this field get access to the resources of Columbia’s renowned graduate program. An interest in music and in people come together here in a really unique and interesting major.

What can you do with it?

Again, this major is good for students interested in music, but don’t want to be the ones on the stage. Students who want to pursue music management, publishing, or anything else behind-the-scenes in the music industry might find this major valuable. Students who are more interested in the anthropological research side of the program might also go on to pursue research positions.

Learn more here.

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Celebrating Women in Film at the Athena Film Festival

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