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When the class of 2015 grad­uates on May 9, the assembled spec­tators will hear certain majors spoken aloud dozens of times. Last year, 35 stu­dents majored in English, 33 majored in eco­nomics, 29 in history, and 22 in mar­keting man­agement, according to the 2014 Graduate Placement Report.

But every once in a while, those who pursue truth in the smallest majors offered on campus will sneak in between piles of eco­nomics and English majors. Since 2010, this has meant majors such as com­pu­ta­tional math (four total grad­uates), Greek (eight), phi­losophy and religion (six), religion (13), and physics (15). And in that time, only one person has grad­uated with a European Studies degree.

In addition to physics, phi­losophy and religion, and religion, sport psy­chology and soci­ology are also in a rel­ative minority on campus. So what is life like this for stu­dents in these minor majors? Why did they choose their field of study? And what does their future hold? Despite studying in areas somewhat neglected here, these stu­dents are largely content with their majors.

Perhaps the smallest major on campus is also one of the newest: sport psy­chology, which grad­uated one student last year and will graduate another this year. According to Sports Studies Pro­fessor and Head Women’s Swim Coach Kurt Kirner, sport psy­chology mostly con­sists of psy­chology classes taken up the hill, the sports studies core, and just one sport psy­chology course to unify the major. “It’s a brand new major. It’s also a hybrid major,” Kirner said.

Yet other main­stays of campus have remained con­sis­tently small, such as physics. “There’ll never be many people at Hillsdale majoring in physics,” said senior physics major Amy Kerst. Kerst, whose major grad­uated four stu­dents last year and will graduate three this year, is aware of the size of the major in her aca­demic life.

“You def­i­nitely notice it. Partly because you basi­cally know everybody in the major, and you also know the pro­fessors very well.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, this, physics majors often succeed: All of last year’s grad­uates were accepted into and had to choose from mul­tiple physics‑, engi­neering- and science-based PhD pro­grams at elite uni­ver­sities. Kerst attributed this to the major’s career focus.

“Pro­fessors here are good at encour­aging stu­dents to get summer intern­ships at other uni­ver­sities because we don’t have the labs or resources that grad schools want,” she said. “That looks good on paper.”

The soci­ology major, which will graduate three stu­dents this year (a bit low; 4 – 6 is more typical), is also not on the radar of most incoming Hills­dalians. “A lot of people come here with other pri­or­ities,” Pro­fessor of Phi­losophy and Culture Peter Blum said. “We don’t have people coming here to major in soci­ology.” Senior soci­ology and religion double major Hannah Wiekart agreed. “I don’t know anybody who’s come to Hillsdale for a soci­ology major.”

The faculty size  —  only Blum and two part-time lec­turers teach soci­ology courses  —  also limits offerings, as does pre-existing prej­u­dices against soci­ology that hold it somehow prac­ti­cally defective, or polit­i­cally defective. “There’s the prej­udice that soci­ology is over­whelm­ingly polit­i­cally left-leaning,” Blum said. “But that hasn’t always been the case.”

Wiekart has noticed similar campus atti­tudes. “Some­times you do get com­ments. People talk down on it as a major,” she said. “At Hillsdale, you have the main majors, and the little ones get neglected.”

Blum iden­tified three methods stu­dents find the soci­ology major. “We attract some stu­dents who figure out it’s their interest area, some who take the core class, and some as non-majors attracted by class titles and sub­jects.”

The last of these was the case for Wiekart, who, upon fin­ishing her religion major early, entered into soci­ology with classes that intrigued her. Now, she’s glad she added the major.

“It chal­lenges the way we think about everyday inter­ac­tions,” she said. “You’re not just under­standing human nature philo­soph­i­cally, but trying to under­stand it prac­ti­cally.”

Like for physics, those asso­ciated with soci­ology accept pros and cons to the small major size.

“It’s both an advantage and a dis­ad­vantage,” Blum said. “Stu­dents don’t have quite as many people to discuss with, but it’s advantage not to have as many to deal with.” Wiekart echoed Blum’s assessment. “You do you really get to know the pro­fessors,” she said.

Like physics, soci­ology still manages to prepare stu­dents well for life after Hillsdale, though with less of a direct career focus. Soci­ology majors have gone onto grad school, social work, criminal justice related-fields (including enforcement: one major works at a police department in Wash­ington, D.C. tracking serial killers), law school, and business. To Blum, this wide variety proves sociology’s value.  “Stu­dents ask me, ‘what am I gonna do with a soci­ology major?’ and my answer is ‘any­thing you want,’” he said. “That’s what we’re sup­posed to be doing as a liberal arts college.”

The department of phi­losophy and religion, whose con­stituent majors count small sep­a­rately (in 2014: six for phi­losophy, six for phi­losophy and religion, and 3 for religion; in 2015: 5 religion, 2 phi­losophy and religion, and 7 for phi­losophy) but are under the same department, has expe­ri­ences similar to other small majors.

“Like physics and soci­ology, few stu­dents come to Hillsdale to major in phi­losophy,” Pro­fessor of Religion and Human­ities, Grewcock Chair Tom Burke said. “In fact, hardly anybody does. So few kids have any real phi­losophy class before they come here.” Most eventual majors get hooked from the Intro­duction to Phi­losophy course. Also like physics and soci­ology, phi­losophy and religion department majors are well-equipped for post-graduate life. This year, three phi­losophy grad­uates have been accepted into phi­losophy post-graduate pro­grams (with one accepted to pro­grams in phi­losophy and the­ology). Other stu­dents with the major go on to do “all sorts of things: business, teaching, graduate school, law school, min­istry, mission work — quite a variety,” Burke said. “In a sense, it’s like any other major. You can do any­thing you want with it. It’s not training for a job, it’s a liberal arts degree.

“What the major is is not nec­es­sarily indicative of what they’ll do in their career.”

Despite their rel­ative size on campus, these and other minor majors have impacted both campus and the lives of their holders in major ways. Above all, they prove yearly that there’s more to aca­demic life at Hillsdale than majoring in English or eco­nomics.

Not that there’s any­thing wrong with that.