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Major Decision

Declaring a major is a really tough decision for many new students. Here's some advice from one UNLV professor who had a tough time making that choice herself.

People  |  Aug 19, 2014  |  By UNLV News Center

Janet S. Dufek, a professor of kinesiology, is among the speakers for this year’s UNLV Creates talks for new college students. The entire campus community is invited to attend the event 9-10:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Here, she shares her thoughts about choosing a major, a decision she had a hard time with herself.


What do you want to do when you grow up? Have you been asked that question before? Maybe by a parent, relative, or a friend. When you were a child, you may have answered by saying Bill Gates, Beyonc?, or Peyton Manning. But today, that question might be hard for you.

Well, guess what? The next chapter of your life-- the one you are beginning to write now as you become a UNLV Rebel -- will prepare you to answer that question. The coursework you take, the social circle in which you hang, even the free-time activities you choose to participate in (or not) will frame the answer to that question -- a question only you can answer.

So, where to begin? Choosing a major is a big step. Some of you may have already made that decision, at least for starters. Others of you still have to check off that box. It can be an elusive, moving target.

The best way to start is by figuring out your passion -- what gives you a strong feeling of excitement or enthusiasm.

Be honest with yourself. Dig really deep. What floats your boat? Revert back to those happy, wild, carefree childhood days. Who did you pretend to be when you played make-believe?

When I was a kid, I liked games, sports, being outside, moving; I liked playing. As I matured, my likes didn't change much. But how was I going to be able to pay my rent or keep food on the table by doing that? I did not find an easy answer to this question. I was certainly not skilled enough to become a professional athlete.

So, my next life-chapter: higher education. Like many of you, I was a first-generation college student in my family. There was little guidance, no road maps for success. So, it took me a while -- a "wrong turn" ended up only to be a detour. Finally in graduate school, I discovered that I could combine my enjoyment of sport, movement, and exercise with the study of how the human body moves (kinesiology) and principles of engineering and become...a biomechanist!

Today, I have the opportunity to play, almost every day at work as I do the fun things that a biomechanist does. I measure, study, and evaluate movement in various contexts; sometimes sport, sometimes rehabilitation, sometimes ergonomics. Ever-changing, often challenging, yet mostly fun...and I get paid to do this!

So, don't be afraid to identify your major by first finding your passion. That's the key to truly living your dreams. You may not have the vocal chops to be the next Beyonc?, but your Rebel experience can guide you to a great career designing her sets, marketing her concerts, or helping her body recover from a grueling multi-city tour.