Do We Learn New Topics Or Explore Pre-Existing Ones?

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


Chances are we may have learned a little bit of math in school, but we never got the opportunity to learn more complicated levels of arithmetic such as trigonometry; especially because some of us took career paths that did not involve a lot of math. Or we may have come across quotations and references of William Shakespeare in the films we watch or the books we read before actually discovering which plays they come from. If that is the case, then there are definitely subjects within subjects when it comes to education.

In my attempt to map out an educational/career path, I have decided to diversify my academic credentials by pursuing a second Master’s Degree in a field that contains a focus on the STEM field. The issue is that I would need to completely readjust my way of processing information in order to pass the GRE test (which is an examination required for anyone pursuing a Master’s Degree, though I am pursuing a graduate field that did not require it) as well as actually succeed and even enjoy the courses. That would mean that I would have to take advantage of the tutoring services in my university as much as I can.

Though would I really need to completely readjust my way of processing math when I already took all of my math requirement courses in community college? Because it is not like I DO NOT know what a Roth IRA or geometric shapes are, but I do have a problem with disassembling these equations and finding out the results. Therefore, this means that I have a problem with problem-solving–when the issue involves mathematics.

There is the linguistic issue that can come about when it comes to my predicament, which is that I do not simply LEARN but EXPLORE. Instead of using a word most associated with the process of accumulation, I would have to use a word that has value in terms of finding or uncovering things that were hinted at and already conceptualized in my mind.

In other words, I investigate further what makes equations and the structure what they really are not to draw my own conclusion but to discover what that conclusion already is. Normally, we usually think of knowledge as empirical, in other words as only drawing conclusions based on evidence, also known as “a posteriori.” However, I will say that in my case, it is more about the “a priori” argument, which is that the truth can be found without the need of any proof. This theory applies to mathematics since the overall structure is already present all around you without the need for belief.

Since the truth is already present within the objects themselves (such as the “a priori” statement: 2+2=4; “Red is a color;” and “If today is Tuesday then it is not Thursday”), it would mean that I would have to shift from my way of thinking as a Liberal Arts major, where I have always had to conjure up my own conclusion or my own opinion with references to my claims. It would mean that I would have to go beyond simple memorization of the equations and about actually applying them in any way possible.

However, because I am more specifically interested in the sciences, it would involve the same types of “a posteriori” type of thinking that would have been needed as a liberal arts major, particularly since the Scientific Method is involved which is heavily reliant on evidence and developing hypotheses.. Since I would need to take the GRE and employ math skills to my natural science education, would I need to employ both “a priori” and “a posteriori” ways of justification into my education?

I think that the issue is really multifaceted and one that I would have to answer while pursuing this diversified field. I have decided to attempt to pursue an M.S. in order to uncover deeper truths that rest within this world around us, as well as to bring a sense of relevance to the scientific field that was generally considered boring. Namely making science relevant to me and perhaps to anyone else interested. It wouldn’t simply involve learning about the field but learning more in-depth about it.

You May Not Like Your Major

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


This definitely happened to me when I was pursuing an Associates in Arts in Digital Animation & 3D Design in Brookdale Community College. There were moments when I was just halfway complete with my degree when I asked myself “What am I even doing here?” This started happening because as I was actually doing the coursework, I found that I did not like it. There might be a chance that you will not like the coursework you do in your major, so it is important to keep that in mind.

I could only make the change to a different major because I figured that I would not like this career in video game design, especially since I already had different interests such as the story-telling side of this field that outweighed everything else. I was willing to study the inner workings, such as software like Maya, if it meant exploring the story-telling side; however, that started to wane. Another component to that change was the reality that the games that inspired me to pursue this field were no longer interesting to me and I stopped playing them. What to take from this is that the very sources of your inspiration for pursuing your major might no longer interest you and would not last you.

So I decided to pursue a semester as a Programming major. As it turned out, it did not stimulate me. In fact, it was really difficult and I could remember already feeling sick near the end of the semester. The stress of completing all of my assignments and studying to pass the tests took its toll on me and made me so violently ill, I ultimately decided to change my major once the next semester started.

I figured that becoming a Programming major would sustain me since Programming is one of the highest paid professions. However, the world is an unpredictable place and there is not always a guarantee that you will make a lot of money that sustains you simply because of the major you chose. This was especially true with famous YouTuber Matthew Santoro who was originally an accounting major. Your major might not give you long-term happiness or even job security. Making money should only be one other reason to pursue your major.

A point was made in the Roadtrip Nation book titled “Roadmap,” where if you are working a job you do not like, you spend eight hours a day, five days a week, and 52 weeks a year, therefore you are merely spending 90,000 hours of an entire year working for a job you do not want. So you should take into consideration the amount of time you would put into your major because you do not want that time to feel wasted, for it is just as important as the money that is involved, which is (of course) where we have the phrase “Time is money.”

I ultimately decided to become a History major, because I was fascinated by how people function at a historical level. Not only that but there were famous authors such as Steven Erikson and Greg Keyes who have studied history and other related liberal arts fields. I figured that I wanted to go down the same path they did, considering how literature and history were the only fields that occupied my mind while I was a Digital Animation & 3D Design major and a Programming major.

Then when I transferred to Monmouth University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree, I changed my major one final time. I entered as an English major. The reason why I did not go in as a History major (though I did pursue an undergraduate minor in it), was because I was convinced of how multifaceted the English degree was at an English major seminar. I even highlighted those grievances commonly made against English majors, which is that “You’ll never find a real job in it.” This change could have only been made possible by the reality that I wanted a major that would encompass my everyday life, and as such, the English major provided incredibly helpful life skills, such as research and developing a well-informed opinion.

If you want to pursue a major that is sustainable to you, not just monetarily but creatively and emotionally, then it is ultimately your choice as to what field of study you should pursue. If you are just about to complete high school and look forward to tertiary education, then I would highly suggest making some serious decisions about what you should major in. You do not have all the time in the world, so it would be best that it be used wisely.

The Importance Of Interdisciplinary Studies In A Complex World

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.


For my Experiential Education requirement course, I had to take a course revolving around studying career paths, specifically from the Roadtrip Nation website and their book. The people behind it took a road-trip interviewing as many people as possible about their career paths, how they got to where they were, and what advice they have. What captivated me was the interview with film director Valerie Weiss, who produced films such as “The Light Beneath Their Feet” and “Losing Control.”

She is actually a scientist with a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. How she was able to apply her STEM experience to her film career was by applying the Scientific Method to every scene she cast. They were all considered part of hypotheses and if they failed to produce her desired results, they were revised.

Ever since I graduated with a B.A. in English, I wanted to challenge myself to explore an academic field that is not liberal arts related. Since I am a graduate student, I am given more independence beyond just a single course. More specifically I was just as interested in astronomy or biology alongside my liberal arts interests. I was hoping that by juxtaposing those fields into a unique educational path, I would brace for a job market where there is a lot of competition. I did not want to be superior in any way, rather I wanted to establish my own niche in an ever-changing world.

This would involve learning about two to three academic fields in order to provide a variety of answers to a single problem. What happens in interdisciplinary studies is that the student leads the faculty, despite it usually being the case that it is the other way around. What interdisciplinary studies show is that the student genuinely cares about the material being taught and is willing to shape his/her educational experience around his/her own academic interests. It is for this reason that Debra Humphreys, the vice president of policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, knows that employers look for self-direction as one of their most desirable skills.

To summarize interdisciplinary studies, Anne Feldman, who wrote the article “Why We Need To Put The Arts Into STEM Education,” concludes that:

“STEAM is people-centric, not subject-centric.”

If such an unusual academic field requires the self-direction of its students, then it would most definitely be the case that people-centric education may be an undervalued component, especially since the person pursuing this field would be driven to inquire further about his/her own field until it leads to other fields.

Graduated students with Interdisciplinary Studies degrees are also important in the workforce since they understand multiple perspectives. This results in more flexibly minded innovation, which would, therefore, result in productivity. Creativity is itself a state of mind that enables flexibility. It can focus on creating overlooked career paths, such as medical illustrators for science magazines. The mixture of Indigenous Studies and Programming would result in an app created by a Canadian programmer to detail the lands in the Americas and Australia as divisions of the tribes before colonization. This could lead the way to actually address any legal issues that may arise between an indigenous reservation and the local government. This complex view of the world was also used by famous brilliant people such as Leonardo da Vinci, who studied mathematics, engineering, and art.

It also creates an overlapping path that can incorporate both liberal arts and STEM, which can prevent entrenched controversies that can occur simply because the information, as well as the way it is presented, can be misunderstood by the other party. In the case of Dr. Myra Strober, a Stanford University professor, she personally witnessed a religious studies professor and an economist argue until the latter left the room. Allen Repko, the author of “Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory,” argued that interdisciplinary studies would also help the student confront his/her own biases and opinions. Interdisciplinary Studies is important in this way since it can unite people of different academic fields with the same objectives.

As such, this would enable unique problem-solving skills. In the case of Shama Rahman, who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience of Musical Creativity, she put the concept of memory under question by engaging in an experiment which enabled the test subject to obtain false memories by listening to music in their sleep. This is what, as she concluded, was what makes the connection between dreams and memories as opposed to memories being a strictly chronological log. This is what enabled her to use this work to research dementia. Indeed, this is what would uncover broad breakthroughs in any field of study.

Exploring interdisciplinary fields is what would help all the decline in STEM job placements. They would make subjects such as math and science no longer appear boring and would actually provide meaning for students to explore their creative interests through the STEM field. There are schools in Pennsylvania that understand this, which is why 12 school districts will spend $530,000 on STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math) programs. That budget will pay for a robotics lab, a motivation station, an outdoor discovery zone, and a virtual immersion lab. This is definitely what makes interdisciplinary studies a “smorgasbord of academic interests.”

It would definitely be worth it to be “not constrained by disciplinary borders” and having an “entrepreneurial spirit.” This field of study is one that is severely underestimated and one that employers are looking for. It can bring people together and solve complex problems. Rahman concluded her TED talk by asking anyone interested in pursuing interdisciplinary studies:

“What worlds do you connect and how?”

This is definitely a question I, as well as many other people, hope to answer.