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Bowling 101? The Changing Face of College Majors

Whatever happened to plain ol’ communications? When I was a new college freshman back in the olden days of 1998, I regarded my roommate’s math major as highly unusual. I was flabbergasted not only by the fact that a person could actually major in mathematics, but also that anyone would choose to do so in the first place. Most people I knew were majoring in English, education, or political science, so it was not every day that I met someone with an unusual concentration. 

Perhaps the myopia that I developed by attending an urban East Coast university is to blame, but over the years I’ve always been surprised to learn about the offbeat programs that other colleges around the country are offering these days. Picking a college major is a decision that influences the rest of a person’s life, but current university catalogs list classes in hotel and restaurant management, meteorology, and even yoga. Of the many odd and exotic-sounding curricula out there, some of the weirder options just might train students for the jobs of the future, but others are nothing but educational and professional dead ends. 

The Useful
Turfgrass Science
It’s not just about choosing which fertilizer to put on your backyard; turfgrass management involves learning how to properly maintain and manage all types of outdoor grass areas—athletic fields and facilities, golf courses, and, yes, home lawns. Turfgrass specialists perform water and soil testing, guard against erosion, eradicate undesirable pests, and oversee all aspects of preventing botanical diseases spread in the grass. Being a groundskeeper at a golf course or university can be a lucrative position for someone who likes the outdoors and working with her hands. The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Turfgrass Science offers the oldest turf-maintenance program in the country; in addition to courses like Soils 101, students take classes in biology and chemistry. 

Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
At colleges like New York’s Colgate University, students combine topics in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy to learn about war and peace across the world. Understanding conflicts and how different nations negotiate and resolve disputes can be an invaluable learning experience for someone whose career plans include working for an international nonprofit or in the diplomacy or international-relations field. 

Homeland Security
It’s a true sign of the post-9/11 world that students can now major in thwarting terrorism. Students in Homeland Security programs like the one offered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University don’t just learn the finer points of searching luggage. Coursework includes learning about legal precedents in cases of terrorism, intelligence gathering, managing disaster zones and formulating disaster plans, and studying the psychological profiles of terrorists and suicide bombers. Graduates usually aspire to management positions within the Department of Homeland Security, but some also work in the private sector at consulting or security firms. 

Sustainability
If your goal is to work in just about any “green” job, a bachelor’s degree in sustainability is a great first step. At Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, students study the interaction of social, economic, and physical systems and learn how to reevaluate humans’ relationship with nature and our resources. Sustainability majors go on to design green buildings, build innovative packaging systems, and work in green marketing, and can find jobs in many environmentally based industries and nonprofits. 

The Useless
Family Resource Management Studies
If your college goal is simply to get your MRS degree, then this major may be for you. Programs such as the one at Ohio State University teach students basic nutrition, consumer studies, how to allocate a family budget, and other household skills. Sample classes include Parenting, Consumer Problems, and Family Development. Anyone with a graduate degree in the field can go on to be a home-economics or early-childhood teacher, but most stay-at-home moms do those things without a degree that cost $22,000 per year. 

Retail Floristry
People who really, really like flowers have found their calling. At Mission College in Santa Clara, California, students in the retail floristry program learn all the ins and outs of working in a flower shop. They take courses called Plant Identification and Intermediate Floral Design, plus electives like Holiday Flower Arranging, Ikebana/Oriental Style, and Advanced Silk Flowers. If your goal is to work the register at a flower shop, something tells me they’ll consider you even without the certificate. 

Bowling Industry Management
To make a career out of renting shoes and resetting pins, get your bachelor’s degree in bowling industry management, offered by Indiana’s Vincennes University. Students learn about cutting-edge bowling technologies, along with how to manage a pro shop and promote league development. The university features an eighteen-lane “learning laboratory” (read: bowling alley) for students to practice in. 

Adventure Education
Vermont has always been known to attract its share of outdoorsy types, but students at Green Mountain College can actually turn their interests in hiking, biking, camping, rafting, and other activities into a bachelor’s degree. Students in the adventure education program learn a variety of outdoor activities, as well as emergency medical training, survival skills, and the foundations of running an adventure-based business. They can become scuba divemasters or master kayakers by taking such courses as Essential of Paddling or Foundations of Adventure. Ideally, the degree prepares students to start their own business or work as a guide, but it wouldn’t be surprising if many graduates didn’t simply end up rock climbing around Europe for a few years after school. 

A college degree is what you make of it—sometimes premed majors end up working at Starbucks, and some journalism students end up running investment banks. Most people agree that no matter what major a person chooses for college, the life experience gained during those years is what’s really valuable. That’s my opinion, anyway, but then again, my degree is in theater.

Allison Ford

Allison is a writer and editor who specializes in beauty, style, entertainment, and pop culture. She was part of the editorial team at DivineCaroline (now More.com) for more than three years. She loves makeup, sparkly accessories, giraffes, brunch, Matt Damon, New York City, and ice cream.

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