The task of picking a major as a freshman — deciding on one field to at least temporarily devote your life to — can be daunting.
But several graduating seniors managed to follow their diverging passions and majored in completely opposite fields. From surprising overlaps in their separate majors to little crossover in the Venn diagram of their interests, some seniors with unusual major combinations said they were glad they pursued alternative paths.
Senior Josh Sanchez, who entered GW as a computer science major, said his love of history inspired him to pursue an additional major in classical and ancient near eastern studies, the study of the languages, literatures and cultures of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
“It’s a really off pairing,” Sanchez said. “A lot of people don’t really think to pair them which is actually why I love it.”
Sanchez said he fell in love with the history of the ancient world in high school and was craving a way to continue learning about it in college, officially declaring his double major during his sophomore year. After some time studying both computer science and the classics separately, Sanchez said he found a way to integrate the two after a professor in his Roman art course showed the class a virtual reality reconstruction of an ancient Roman site.
“I realized that I don’t want to just be kind of isolated to one or the other,” Sanchez said. “I definitely want to do something that’s both.”
Sanchez said he discovered the emerging field of digital humanities, an academic field focusing on the application of newer technology in the analysis of traditional humanities disciplines, like the classics.
“Computer science allows me to modernize this field that a lot of people think is just some old white guys sitting at desks reading Latin,” Sanchez said.
For Sanchez’s senior capstone, he worked with the Textile Museum to digitize Coptic textiles, textiles made by a Christian ethnic group indigenous to Egypt, and said he looks forward to creating more public digital experiences.
Moving forward, Sanchez will attend the University of Chicago’s Graduate Program in Digital Studies to pursue a career in virtual tourism, hopefully creating virtual realities of famous ruins for people to tour. Sanchez said working in virtual tourism would allow him to help preserve ancient sites in the digital world and give the public the same love for the ancient world he has.
Sanchez said projects like these are particularly necessary to safeguarding pieces of history.
“If you were to be able to digitally preserve these places, you would have them for eternity,” Sanchez said.
Another option for Sanchez is to continue his schooling and enter the world of academia to teach digital humanities. He hopes to disrupt the stereotypical paths of computer science major to tech-company worker and classics major to history teacher.
“I want to show people that there is an intersection of these two, and you can do anything that you want,” he said.
Senior Miranda Lee, who is double majoring in theater and statistics, said an admissions event where a faculty member shared anecdotes about how business students with interesting additional majors were more likely to be hired inspired her to pursue the unusual pairing.
She said she knew she was going to pursue theater after high school but she wanted a second major to round her out. After taking an Advanced Placement statistics course in high school, she realized she wanted her second major to be statistics because of the emphasis on analysis in the course.
“With statistics, it helps you understand the world around you and why we make the decisions that we make,” Lee said. “There is this sense of understanding that comes from it.”
At first, Lee said she didn’t think the two majors would have much overlap because functionally they are independent fields, focusing on data versus performing.
“I didn’t need to make them overlap, necessarily, and it made it better for not burning out from taking all the same kinds of classes all of the time,” she said.
But since starting college, she found a way to merge them together by completing projects in statistics that complement her background and interest in theater. In one statistics group project she redesigned the Oscars voting system and in another class she analyzed Broadway weekly gross profits.
“There are so many interesting ways to apply statistics,” Lee said. “That’s been my favorite part of it.”
Lee performed in theater before GW but took a step outside of her comfort zone after taking a variety of technical classes and becoming the business manager for Forbidden Planet Productions, a campus theater group. Lee was responsible for organizing and securing funding to purchase props, costumes and concessions for the performances, which required her to apply the intersection of her unconventional majors.
She said she used pattern recognition skills from her statistics background to predict the needs of each production based on variables, like how other theaters typically stage the show.
“Having an understanding of how patterns and probabilities work allows me to think more deliberately about where I’m putting money and what I’m offering directors when they are talking about their shows,” Lee said.
Going forward, Lee will be working for the Olney Theatre Center in Maryland for their stage management apprenticeship program.
Senior Ethan Kahwaty, a business administration and political science major with a concentration in marketing and a minor in theater, said he wasn’t sure of what he wanted to do as a career and so he stumbled into his two majors.
Kahwaty entered GW as a business major in part because he figured it was the most applicable option to a variety of careers and thought that after watching the sitcom “The Office” he’d enjoy working in a corporate environment.
“Back in high school, I used to say ‘People who major in business, major in business because they don’t know what they want to do,’ which isn’t always true,” he said. “However, for me, it was true.”
Kahwaty said he took as creative an approach he could by adding a concentration in marketing to his business administration degree. Initially he assumed marketing would be all about constructing slogans and making snappy commercials, but he quickly realized there is more to the field like understanding consumer psychology.
“I have found there’s a niche within marketing that I really enjoyed,” Kahwaty said. “Especially the advanced advertising communication class I took last semester which was a lot of us pitching things and analyzing deals.”
Kahwaty similarly said his “tipping point” for studying political science was watching “The West Wing” for the fourth time during his senior year of high school because he enjoyed debating and learning about politics during his AP government course.
Kahwaty said though his majors don’t have an enormous amount of crossover, he has still been able to use his hard-earned research skills from political science to succeed in business administration courses.
“Political science requires a lot of reading and research and that has been helpful for analyzing scripts in theater and also for the marketing research side of marketing,” Kahwaty said.