Senior column: The comparative degree

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Samantha Thornfelt

“I realized that while I knew the many unique, fulfilling aspects of a liberal arts degree, most do not. Others had only heard the negative stigmas of the field.”

Since I was little, I knew whatever I was going to do would be something that would help others in my community. I thought that the only way to accomplish that was by pursuing a career in the medical field. From elementary school all the way through high school, I imagined myself in many different roles — a veterinarian, a nurse, sometimes even a doctor. When I would tell others about my career plan, they would always positively respond and ensure that I should continue to explore the STEM field.

While I knew that I could have some level of success as a STEM major, I never felt a strong passion for it. I did well in science classes and had always found an interest in learning about biological sciences, but I had always known that what I truly loved was writing.

After working on the high school paper for a year, I finally began to realize my love for journalism. I knew that not only was it a way for me to share my work with others, but it also gave me a unique ability of telling others’ stories, as well as informing my community. Halfway into my senior year, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the field for the rest of my life.

I decided to apply to the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT, and was later accepted. While I knew it was much different than my previous one, I was positive that a job in journalism was made for me. When I excitedly began to tell my friends and peers about my new career path, I was met with drastically different reactions. They no longer seemed excited, but confused. The congratulatory smiles on their faces now seemed strained, and for a while I couldn’t figure out why. I finally realized what they were thinking when a classmate’s blunt response caught me off guard.

“A liberal arts degree? Good luck making any money with that.”

My heart sank. I realized that while I knew the many unique, fulfilling aspects of a liberal arts degree, most do not. Others had only heard the negative stigmas of the field. That all liberal arts majors are nothing but hopeless dreamers and starving artists. That they can never be as successful as STEM majors. I soon became jealous of the many engineering and pre-med majors that sat in my classes. I had once received the same reaction that they had when discussing their future with others. They all received a pat on the back and a “You’ll do great,” whereas all I got was a confused smile and a condescending “Oh. Why that major?”

Rather than continue to belittle myself based off of my classmates’ reactions, I began to look at my mother’s career path. After receiving a B.A. in psychology, she decided to work for the state as a social worker. Every day, she worked with at risk children and families that were in need of various services. While it wasn’t a high paying occupation, her job satisfaction was immense, as she got to help those in need.

This is what I hope to one day accomplish with my own degree. While a job with a journalism degree may not be as lucrative as one with a medical degree, I know the work I will do will still be important. Whether I become a journalist or a member of a communications team, having the responsibility of informing my community will achieve my lifelong goal of wanting to help others.

Just because some in the STEM field may have higher pay than those with liberal arts degrees, it by no means makes them more successful. While a salary is an important aspect of one’s job, I find the most important aspect of success to be the fulfillment of working in what you’re passionate about. Everyone has chosen their path for a reason, so no one should belittle another’s choice based on their own definition of success. Any person can experience their own version of success, no matter the field.