Do Professors Influence College Majors?

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Filament.io 0 Flares ×
Professor and Student Ashford University

In fact, they just might. It was shown in a recent paper by Christopher Takacs, a graduate student in sociology at University of Chicago, and Daniel Chambliss, a professor of sociology at Hamilton College. The study tracked 100 college students who were interviewed about their original educational plans and then followed over the course of their education through graduation to find out if they pursued those plans.

The results, soon be a section of their new book, How College Works, provide a challenge to the standard thinking that students often follow income or passion, rather than their college experience. Essentially, the study finds that students who were welcomed into a field and encouraged to learn about something interesting were much more likely than those who were not or who were discouraged by cost or faculty.

Going one step further, the first professor a student has often had the largest impact, regardless of whether the student had already declared a major or not, in guiding their education. Takacs explained it this way, “Faculty can positively or negatively influence student taste for a field – some compelling teachers can get students engaged in fields that they previously disliked, while other, more uncharismatic faculty can alienate students from entire bodies of knowledge, sometimes permanently.”

This point is extremely important for universities to understand. If freshman level courses can determine how your students will graduate, it would make sense to ensure your best, most popular and engaging professors are teaching them instead of a teacher’s assistant or an inexperienced professor. Additionally, if it is the first course in sequential curriculum, a single professor could engage or disgust students before they are truly emerged in that path of study.

Now this idea does not mean that courses should be easy, overly relaxed, or completely rewritten. In fact, many believe a tough teacher can have a big impact on helping students reach their goals. What is important is that the study shows how small steps can make a big difference. Scheduling the right professor, ensuring the students stay engaged, or simply offering a helping hand during tough assignments can keep them positive and moving forward.

When I found out about this, it made perfect sense to me. I switched majors, twice, in my freshman year following courses I hated. It makes me wonder how many other students switched degrees because of a poor first professor. Probably more than I had originally expected.

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

Popular Posts

  • Top 7 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Your MBA If you’re a college graduate, returning to school for your Master of Business Administration (MBA) might not appeal to you. After all, you’ve already spent four years on your Bachelor’s degree. W. . . November 24, 2014
  • Best Courses to Become More Marketable Most universities are composed of typical colleges such as the College of Health Care Studies, Business, Education, and Liberal Arts. Within these colleges are various majors a student can choose, b. . . September 17, 2013
  • 5 Tips for Transferring Credits One of the best ways to accelerate your graduation day is to transfer credits. But many students find the transfer process very long and complicated. It doesn’t have to be so scary. Here are five ea. . . November 14, 2013
  • Explore Exciting Jobs in Healthcare You love to help people. You are interested in the science of the human body. And you believe in the value of a healthy lifestyle. If these traits describe you, then you ought to consider a career i. . . March 12, 2014
  • Business School Accreditation — What’s the Difference? When searching for a business school, you may notice that some business programs are accredited by different organizations with acronyms like AACSB, IACBE, and ACBSP. It’s easy to get lost in an alpha. . . May 23, 2014
  • Words of Advice for Graduates One of my favorite times of the year is commencement. I always enjoy seeing students walk across the stage to celebrate their achievement. When students get close to graduation, you can sense their en. . . March 10, 2014
  • 5 Great Education Documentaries The documentary is an underrated genre in the film industry, often described as one for those who are so “crazy” about a topic, they have to make a film about it. However, some of these “crazy” peop. . . July 12, 2013
  • Choose a Relevant Degree Business, English, Law – these are perennial subjects for degree programs, and they’ve stood the test of time. When students enroll in these programs, they already have some idea of what they’ll stu. . . February 5, 2014
  • The Five Toughest Interview Questions Job interviews are nerve wracking for just about anyone, whether you are a seasoned professional or a recent college graduate. The key to calming those nerves is preparation and practice. Prepare for . . . August 30, 2013
  • Advanced Degrees: Which Fields Provide the Highest Paying Jobs? Every spring it’s in the news: colleges are raising tuition. Higher tuition means students will be carrying a larger debt into the workforce, which cuts into their income. Choosing the right field o. . . September 9, 2013
  • Emotional Intelligence Research and Real World Application The definition of emotional intelligence is, “The ability to perceive, integrate, understand and reflectively manage one’s own feelings and other people’s feelings” (Salovey, […]August 26, 2015
  • Diversity Is More Than a Buzzword Having emerged as a central theme for society, business, and higher education, the word ‘diversity’ might invoke a picture of men and women […]July 1, 2015
  • LGBT Pride Month June is National LGBT Pride Month, a time to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. This month, we spoke with Richard […]June 12, 2015
  • National Mental Health Awareness Month May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when we recognize how mental health impacts our families, our communities, and ourselves. While […]May 12, 2015
  • Celebrate Earth Day Ashford University is proud to call San Diego home, and one of the ways that we give back to our community is by […]April 3, 2015
  • Discussing Intimate Partner Violence This month the Promoting Access and Wellness in Students (PAWS) feature is on an issue that has recently garnered national attention, intimate partner […]March 5, 2015
  • Ebola: An epidemiologist’s experience in Sierra Leone Most of us have seen the news and understand the devastation that has come from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But, one […]February 25, 2015
  • Unique Business Leaders When you think of a successful business owner, you might imagine a serious person who dresses professionally every day, but that doesn’t have […]February 12, 2015
  • Black History Month – Promoting Access and Wellness in Students February is Black History Month, and the monthly feature of Promoting Access and Wellness in Students (PAWS) is the video below that features […]February 10, 2015
  • New Year = New You The New Year marks a time of change, a time when we can make a fresh start, a time when we might step […]January 5, 2015
Tags: , , ,

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...