Where Can a Multi-Field Major Take You? | St. Lawrence University

Where Can a Multi-Field Major Take You?

St. Lawrence students use their curiosities and passions to drive their academic adventures. While nearly half pursue more than one major, a handful of students create their own program of study, thanks to St. Lawrence’s multi-field major. Crafting a self-designed, interdisciplinary program of study is no easy task. But with the help of knowledgeable faculty members and academic advisors, students are inspired to create a unique educational experience that lets them tackle the topics and issues that mean the most to them.

See where St. Lawrence’s multi-field major has taken a few students and alumni.

Uncovering the World of Public Health

Katie Miller ’19
Psychology, Sociology, Performance and Communication Arts

Katie Miller ’19 came to St. Lawrence planning to pursue a medical career, and for a long time, thought the only way to do that was by becoming a doctor. While taking several science courses, she also took courses focused on communication and human behavior. Through this liberal arts experience and after talking with classmates and faculty members, she uncovered a related career path that more closely aligned with her strengths and interests: public health.

At the time, St. Lawrence’s public health minor had not been created, so Miller set out to design her own program, which combined psychology, sociology, and performance and communication arts. For her, these disciplines would prepare her to help other people, educate communities, and provide patients with every opportunity to improve their quality of life.

“Classes like ‘Medical Sociology’, ‘Health Psychology’ and ‘Rhetoric of Health and Medicine’ were the kinds of the courses that I felt would help me be successful in tackling communication issues within the industry,” Miller says.

After her multi-field major was approved, Miller set out to gain exposure to as many topics as she could, while also taking courses that would best prepare her for graduate school. As she created her schedule each semester, she found herself able to deeply explore topics that helped her uncover the public health work she wanted to pursue.

“In my research methods class and in a lot of my research-based courses, I focused on communication and healthcare delivery systems,” says Miller. “Diving into those topics is one of the reasons why I applied to take part in the Healthcare Delivery in a Developing Country course in Kenya the summer before my senior year, so I could learn more through hands-on work in the field there.”

The coursework during the Kenya summer program inspired Miller’s Senior-Year Experience research, ‘Traditional vs. Modern Childbirth Practices in Kenya and the United States,’ which was the culminating project that put her multi-field program experience in full focus.

“Building my own major forced me to step outside my comfort zone,” says Miller, who has been accepted to four graduate school programs. “The hands-on learning opportunities I had through the courses, projects, and extracurricular activities I took on gave me the confidence I needed to know I could pursue a master’s in public health.” 

Navigating Peace

Zoe Garry ’14
Chapel Seminarian at Princeton University Chapel
Government, History, Arabic Studies

Zoe Garry ’14 wanted to use her time as an undergraduate to study topics that gave her a deeper understanding of the Middle East.

“The Middle East is a really unique region in that politics, history, religion and language are so influential and are intertwining elements,” she explains. “In order to have a holistic education, it was imperative that I learn all of those.”

She quickly found the support she needed to pursue her array of interests through encouraging St. Lawrence faculty members. “[Associate Professor of History Howard] Eissenstat was very supportive and introduced me to the multi-field major,” Garry says. “When you’re a freshman and have a professor who is willing to invest that much in you, it emboldens you.”

While creating her own major, Garry built in several experiential learning opportunities: She studied off-campus in Jordan twice, completed multiple internships, and received a Mellon Grant to conduct research alongside Gisele El Khoury, director of St. Lawrence’s Language Resource Center, where they created an online database or curriculum that could be used for intro Arabic classes online throughout the U.S.

In addition to Eissenstat and El Khoury, Garry also collaborated with Associate Professor of Government Ronnie Olesker. “I’m not sure I would have pursued the multi-field major if I didn’t have their support,” praises Garry. “How much each of them and were willing to work for this dream I had was really the foundation of my success with the multi-field major.”  

For Garry, the dynamic nature of her major has empowered her career path thus far, which included working in foreign policy and teaching linguistics. Today, she serves as a Chapel Seminarian at the Princeton University Chapel, where she is pursuing biblical studies and pastoral care.

“Someone might hear [my career path] and say, ‘This girl can’t make up her mind. But I think the lesson that I learned from the multi-field major was to navigate through these different things and find connective threads,” she explains. ” Studying these different disciplines is actually more beneficial and makes me more dynamic as a scholar, as an academic, and as a pastor. I’m really thankful for that.”

Combining Logic and Creativity

Allison Chertack ’17
Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Curbell, Inc.
Environmental Studies, Art and Art History

Allison Chertack ’17 began taking art courses at St. Lawrence to develop her artistic skills and relieve stress. Though she already had her mind set on majoring in environmental studies, her advisor introduced her to the idea of combining her interests into a multi-field major so both programs of study could be a larger part of her educational path.

“Science fields deal mainly with facts, evidence, and structure, whereas art deals with subjective information, creativity, and open interpretations,” says Chertack. “Together, these disciplines prompted me to explore how art and environmental studies are intertwined, and I chose to focus on concepts of sustainability and consumption.”

Chertack was able to showcase the dynamic combination of her two topics through her final project during her senior year.

“My environmental studies research examined sustainable alternatives and solutions in order to consider whether they were improving the situation for the environment or simply shifting the issues elsewhere,” Chertack explained. “This aspect of my research focused on moving away from taking something at face value and looking past the superficial layers of information we are fed through the media, manufacturers, and people."

The art portion of her project focused on creating a sustainable line of home goods using pre-existing materials. “I took into account all aspects of waste, like energy consumption, chemicals used, and materials purchased, in order to make each good,” she says.  “I wanted to create aesthetically pleasing products that prompted viewers to question where their goods come from and what goes into making each one.”  

Currently building a career in sustainability through her work as an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Curbell, Inc., Chertack credits her creative major with helping to prepare her for the work ahead.

“Although it sounds very ‘pie in the sky’, I find myself able to see more perspectives than simply the most obvious one,” she explains. “That has greatly assisted me in forming a strong foundation for my career.”

Liz Castricone using a camera

Liz Castricone '17

Developing an Intersectional Lens

Liz Castricone ’17
Executive Assistant at Hummingbird Entertainment
MFA (Dramatic Writing) Candidate at New York University

Film and Representation Studies, English (Creative Writing), Gender and Sexuality Studies

While most students don’t name their multi-field major, Liz Castricone ’17 did: Film Promoting Social Justice.

“I strongly believe that film is the most powerful device that can be used to promote social justice,” she explains. “It reaches a large amount of people, all around the world, in a short amount of time. Viewers tend to approach film simply as a form of entertainment, which is not always the case, but this mindset makes it easier to expose a broad range of people to different issues.”

When creating her major, Castricone knew that she wanted to develop a major that gave her the tools to create more well-rounded films.

I realized film and creative writing weren’t enough to give me the comprehensive education on the medium that I was seeking,” says Castricone. “I wanted a portion of my major to focus on studying people and societies so I could create rich characters that felt real. Studying people is the best way to learn how to create stories with realistic characters and problems that the audience can connect with and mull over.”

Throughout her undergraduate career, Castricone had several internships and completed a film during her senior year that she wrote, edited, and directed, building an impressive resume to propel her into the work force.

“I truly believe my multi-field major had a big part of jumpstarting my career,” says Castricone, who also credits her interdisciplinary major with helping her get into New York University’s Dramatic Writing MFA program. “Since I was able to learn about so many parts of the film industry, my skillset was so versatile. In the film industry, there is always something new to learn, but I have a good basis of knowledge that has made it easier to adapt to whatever I come in contact with.”