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From Nadia Dowshen's, "Urban Guerrilla," Fall '99 From Nadia Dowshen's, "Urban Guerrilla," Fall '99If you need a great conversation starter for a party or family gathering try telling someone that you are an Urban Studies major. When I offer this piece of information, I usually get responses like, "Oh, that's nice honey, but what are you going to do with that?", "I didn't know you wanted to be an architect" or just plain "what exactly is Urban Studies anyway?" Employers and graduate schools are looking for people who can think and communicate rather than a specific body of knowledge. And Urban Studies teaches students the most important skills needed to succeed in academia or the workforce: how to solve problems, communicate effectively through writing and speaking and gain some hands-on experience in their field of interest. These are these should be the goals of all educational institutions and these are certainly the skills that all human beings need to succeed in this increasingly complex and technological society. Equally important is the interdisciplinary nature of the Urban Studies program, allowing students to explore problems that affect cities from a variety of perspectives. Developing a broad framework for analyzing problems is important. Students who focus too closely lose the broad perspective and differing approaches to knowledge that other fields offer. Field work is also an important component of the program. In a two-credit semester-long internship, students work for 15 hours a week in a chosen city organization, corporation or institution. This allows majors to develop important connections and research interests and gives them experience that employers and graduates schools in that field will respect. And in the senior seminar all majors are required to write a thesis on a topic of their choosing involving primary research -- that is, interviewing, ethnography or analyzing previously collected data. After writing, revising and rewriting this substantial paper with the help of three professors and your peers, you orally present your project. This final product proves that you have learned something in your four years and gives you something to talk about in interviews for jobs or graduate schools. I honestly believe that my internship and senior thesis, in addition to being two of my most intellectually and personally rewarding experiences, played a large role in my getting into medical school. So here is my advice to underclassmen. Don't choose a major because you think it will lead to a particular career path. Plenty of English majors find jobs in investment baking and plenty of med school students were non-science majors. Don't choose a major because you think it will be hard or easy. Getting bad grades will not help you, but you need to be able to show grad schools and employers that you have challenged yourself. Pick a major that you are passionate about and where you have access to good professors. But in the end, it really doesn't matter what you major in as long as you learn how to think and communicate.

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