Pursuing Academic Interests Outside of Your Major

Author: Mabel T., ’23

Some students may pursue numerous academic interests by double majoring or even majoring in one area and minoring in another. However, the flexibility Rice has to offer allows students to pursue various academic interests without having to commit to a degree upfront. 


Rice sorts some courses into various distributions: Distribution I courses are in the humanities and arts, Distribution II courses are in the social sciences, and Distribution III courses are in the natural sciences and engineering departments. Each student is required to take at least 3 courses of at least 3 credit hours from each distribution during their time at Rice. This allows for students to engage in different disciplines outside their major area of study, as well as view knowledge from multiple perspectives. In my own experience, as a biochemistry major, I was able to take a business communications course, an economics course, and a medical anthropology course as Distribution II credits. These courses have allowed me to access areas of study outside of the natural sciences and question myself on subjects I have never considered, such as the role of culture in administering health care, the various obstacles entrepreneurs needed to face to start a business, and the effects of environment regulation on economic production. While I may not pursue economics, business, or anthropology in my future career, these experiences proved very valuable to me and increased my interest in biomedical ethics, business ethics, and cultural studies. 


However, in my experience this semester, I am still able to pursue other academic interests outside of courses that are required of me. I am currently taking a Sexuality, Women, and Gender Studies class called Asian American Feminisms that does not count toward distribution credits. I am taking this class purely because it interested me, as I wanted to understand more about the unique history and current affairs of Asian populations in the United States. The course will culminate in a digital project that will be shown at the Woodson Research Center in Fondren Library. This is a unique opportunity because although I am not a Sexuality, Women, and Gender Studies major, I am still able to immerse myself in this academic discipline and publish work that will be on public display. Evidently, it is possible for students to explore other academic disciplines without having to sacrifice time for coursework in their main area of study. No matter what you want to pursue as your primary area of study, you always have the flexibility and opportunity to explore your own diverse interests and possibly pick up a few more.