Kenyon's most popular major? English, right? Not in 2014.
Move over, English. There’s a new alpha dog on campus. For the moment, at least. Last May, Kenyon awarded more degrees in economics than English—marking the first time since 1969 that English hasn’t been the College’s most popular major. (The last time economics was the most popular was in 1963.)
In 2014, sixty economics majors graduated, compared to fifty-six majors in English. The year before, seventy-three of the graduating seniors were English majors; thirty-five had majored in economics. Incidentally, English will likely move to the top again next year, based on the number of declared majors as recorded in the registrar’s office.
“It’s great that more people are majoring in economics. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that,” said Jesse Matz, chair of the English Department. “It isn’t anything for us to worry about.”
At Kenyon, economics has grown fairly consistently in popularity over the last ten years, with the number of majors rising from nineteen in 2004, to thirty-six in 2008, to sixty in 2014. Economics has been among the top-five majors since 2008. Nationally, the number of humanities degrees doubled from 1970 to 2011, while business degrees—not offered at Kenyon—increased threefold, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Jay Corrigan, associate professor of economics, said Kenyon’s experience might well reflect this nationwide trend—that “as college becomes more expensive, students might think, ‘Hey, I should major in something that I think is going to be more obviously pre-professional.’”
This was on the mind of Zach Arlia ‘14 when he majored in economics. “I always approached my education as a means to an end,” said Arlia, who now works as a client financial marketing associate at ZS Associates outside Chicago. “That end was securing a job after college.”
The proliferation of academic options at Kenyon might play a role in English’s smaller numbers. “Literary studies is almost a victim of its own success,” Matz said. “The more diverse it’s become, the more people have discovered that studying literature is something you can do outside the English department.” The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, as well as two other relatively new concentrations—Comparative World Literature and Latino/a Studies—all offer literature-intensive courses of study.
Of course, it’s possible to embrace both economics and English. Andie Anderson ‘14, who is pursuing a career in marketing and publishing, said the ability to double-major in economics and English allowed her to explore two sides of her personality. “That’s what draws people to liberal arts,” she said. She hopes Kenyon will “become more well-known for all sorts of things, instead of just for one subject.”