Combining My Academic Passions into an SYE
“Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a senior with a double major in English and Math.” This is usually my opening line as a tour guide in the Admissions Office as I begin a one-on-one tour with a prospective student and their family around campus. Most people are usually surprised by my combination of majors—“English and Math? Wow, that’s unusual,” they often respond. I go on to tell them how when I first came to St. Lawrence, I thought I wanted to be a government major. While I enjoyed the first government class I took, I preferred my English course, ‘Growing Up Victorian,’ and even my Calculus course, both taught by excellent professors. Fast forward to the end of my sophomore year and I officially declared an English and mathematics double major.
During the spring semester of my junior year, I began planning which classes I wanted to take for my final year. I knew I wanted to tackle a Senior-Year Experience (SYE), St. Lawrence’s version of a capstone seminar or independent research project that encompasses the skills students have developed over the course of their undergraduate education. As a student with a double major, especially in two departments with little to no overlap, I struggled to decide if I wanted to complete an SYE with the Math Department, or if I wanted to complete one with the English Department. My math advisor, Dr. Schuckers, came to the rescue when he mentioned a project he had in mind. He wanted to know if I would help him complete it during my fall semester for my Math SYE. I jumped at the opportunity to work with him on this project because his idea would allow me to combine the skills I developed from both disciplines.
The goal of the project was to create a guideline for how to write a formal data analysis that also engages and entertains any audience. My advisor and I concluded through our research that the best way to accomplish this is by beginning the report with a creative story. The creative story can relate a specific example from your data that represents the results of your analysis or it can describe why you decided to conduct the analysis in the first place. By including these narratives at the beginning of the story, readers are more likely to engage immediately with your analysis. My English major prepared me to recognize the stylistic elements of a narrative that make it more readable and entertaining while my Math major prepared me to identify the technical elements of a data analysis that are necessary to include in the formal report.
It was a very rewarding experience to conduct research that encompassed both of my academic passions. I encourage all students who have interests in multiple academic departments to find a way to combine them, whether that be taking a course that covers a diverse collection of topics or conducting an independent research project that utilizes skills from different disciplines. I never imagined my journey here at St. Lawrence would include two majors, but with the help of SLU’s amazing faculty, I discovered my passion for English literature and Math and found the courage and support to pursue them.