It’s not uncommon for some new students to have little idea about what they want to study in college. Others come already knowing their exact career path. And some think they know until a new class or experience piques their interest and turns them down a new academic path.
Nebraska Wesleyan University junior Addison Miller moved to college from Colorado Springs, Colo., with plans to play football and follow in his father’s footsteps by studying psychology and business.
But early in his first year Miller suffered a major injury that ended his football career.
"Since the tender age of four I have participated in sports," said Miller. "I cannot imagine life without it.”
He was determined to find a way to make sports part of his life again and he knew there was only one way — via his academics.
“When I stumbled upon sports and exercise psychology I was instantly intrigued,” he said.
But Nebraska Wesleyan does not offer degrees in sports and exercise psychology, and he considered transferring to a different college. When learning the news, Miller’s advisor quickly suggested he take advantage of one of NWU’s newest degrees: Integrative Studies.
The Integrative Studies major gives students the opportunity to design their own major using existing NWU curriculum.
"The program is a do-it-yourself major," said Justin Skirry, associate professor of philosophy and advisor to the Integrative Studies Program. "Students use their own goals and inspirations to bring it together. It's intended to fill needs students have that can't otherwise be fulfilled."
Miller began piecing together classes and experiences that would emphasize sports psychology. This required him to pull curriculum from three different academic areas and form an advising committee of faculty who would offer support and networks to help Miller succeed.
Gina Chambers, assistant professor of health and human performance, and a member of Miller’s advising committee, for example, put him in touch with a local psychologist with vast knowledge of sports psychology.
Once he learned more about his career interests and researched sports and exercise psychology programs at other universities, Miller built his own sports psychology program to present to his advising committee and eventually the university’s executive committee.
Designing a personalized major requires hard work and dedication from students, but for students who are willing to put in effort — much like Miller — it pays off, said Skirry.
"Addison was very passionate about the program," said Skirry. "A major factor is holding passion for the project, and it's all up to the student to work for the program. Addison had the drive and was on top of everything, making him successful."
And now Miller feels prepared for a successful academic path.
"Wesleyan is well known for equipping promising students with the knowledge, experience, and connections it takes to continue onto a successful career,” he said. “With the approval and support I have received from Nebraska Wesleyan, I hope to acquire everything that I need to graduate and be better prepared for the next step to becoming a certified sports and exercise psychologist."
Story by Quinn Hullett, Public Relations Intern