Adding a minor to degree plan has major implications

GCU students are learning how valuable adding a minor can be, such as a business major minoring in athletic coaching. (Photo illustration by David Kadlubowski)

Story by Theresa Smith
Photos by Theresa Smith and David Kadlubowski

GCU News Bureau

The increase in people suffering from mental health disorders has motivated freshman Jordan Spriggs to make working with the mentally ill her life’s work. Spriggs, a counseling major at Grand Canyon University, was recently among a robust list of College of Humanities and Social Sciences students interested in adding a minor. The Las Vegas resident believes adding a minor in psychology will make her a more qualified counselor.

“I could not only understand how people work, but I can understand how the mind works, as well,’’ she said. “I think there is such a need in society for understanding mental illnesses and speaking to people about their struggles, not ignoring them and pretending there’s not a problem. There are problems, and I want to help people through their problems.’’

Student Jordan Spriggs confers with Andrea Sheehan, student services counselor, about adding a minor.

Using a minor to deep dive beyond a major is just one of several motivations for GCU students to declare a minor from among 41 program offerings. An example of the growing trend is the 46 percent increase in CHSS students adding minors from fall 2017 to fall 2018.

“I heard about minors before, but I didn’t know exactly what they were,’’ Spriggs said. “But once he (Dr. Sherman Elliott) brought it to the table, I thought maybe that is something I want to get involved with.’’

Elliott, Dean of CHSS, used his kickoff event to inform students about the benefits of adding a minor. In collaboration with his staff, including data cruncher Adam Eklund, CHSS Director of College Assessment, students can choose from 13 CHSS minors, including a trio recently rolled out: criminal justice, human services case management and mathematics.

“Within the past year, there has been a definite push by the University to promote minors to students because of the value of separating yourself from other students, not only at GCU, but at other institutions for employment opportunities,’’ Eklund said. “Students and their parents are chiming in that these programs are needed.’’

Eklund, who paired his major in retailing and consumer sciences at the University of Arizona with a minor in business administration prior to earning an MBA at Cleveland State, enjoys crafting major-minor combinations to help students expand their knowledge and skill set or develop a Plan B.

Targeting minors

“We like targeting our minors to other college’s majors,’’ he said. “For example, a student with a major from the Colangelo College of Business might have better balance if they pursue a minor in professional writing. ‘’

Adam Eklund

Indeed, the reading, researching, writing and speaking skills developed in CHSS majors and minors are often applicable to students in numerous colleges, including CCOB, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, the College of Education, the College of Fine Arts and Production and the College of Theology.   

Given the Christian Worldview across campus, psychology is predictably the most common minor.

“Our students have an innate belief in caring about people and wanting to understand why people behave the way they do,’’ Eklund said. “So, that’s why we added it, to show the humanities’ piece in a student’s background. Also, we really like to promote minors targeted toward specific career fields, such as social work or public administration. We know what they learn in those courses are skills employers seek.’’

Student surveys, feedback from the admissions office, and trends in the job market all help determine what programs are selected as minor offerings. After psychology, the most popular minors are: communication, followed by marketing, counseling, entrepreneurial studies, Spanish, business management, Christian studies, pre-law, sports management and Biblical studies.

In some cases, a minor reflects the divergent interests and intellectual curiosity of students.“We’re not robots; we have many things we’re interested in, in life,’’ Eklund said. “It is an opportunity, for lack of a better term, to “dabble” in other areas of interest. Students should reflect that in their college experience, and it increases their critical thinking skills and helps them effectively communicate with different parties.’’

Like peanut butter and jelly, Eklund explained that students involved in sports or medicine might be interested in the legal concerns of those areas, which is where the prelaw minor comes in.

“So many people have a passion for being a sports agent,’’ he said. “They get the business background with their major, but they need the legal background, too. It is the same with a future doctor needing a legal background.’’

Student service counselors, like Andrea Sheehan, meet with students to tally credit hours and forecast future semesters in course sequence. The earlier a student declares a minor, the easier it is to stay on course. Instead of taking a variety of electives, those courses can be targeted for a minor, ranging from 16 credit hours for hospitality management, for example, to 36 credit hours for pre-med. The average of 20-24 credit hours includes the 24 credit hour Spanish minor.

Minors list and the courses therein posted in CHSS office.

Benefits of a Spanish minor

“The Spanish minor is one we really want to promote, and students get interested and excited about it,’’ Eklund said. “Grammar is a major emphasis in our Spanish minor, and especially with Heritage speakers, grammar is the biggest issue. They know how to speak it, but when dealing in professional settings, grammar issues come along. So the Spanish minor is a win-win in two ways. No. 1, it helps strengthen writing skills in Spanish, and No. 2, for the student interested in studying abroad or expanding horizons, that program gives them the skills they need to be comfortable in a foreign setting in Spanish, whether it be studying abroad or mission trips.’’

Sydney O’Rourke, a freshman majoring in counseling, is considering a Spanish minor so  she can communicate with a broader spectrum of clients.

Her other potential pairing is behavioral sciences.

“I might be able to diagnose someone sooner if I were to go deeper into that field or I could learn how to help someone out with more than just the counseling background,’’ she said. “Because if they are more behavioral than mindset, it will be easier for me to know what to say and how to act without complications.’’

O’Rourke hopes to work in the juvenile justice system.

“I feel like a lot of those kids who stay in that path don’t have someone, so I want to be that person -- their support system so they know there is something different than the path they are going down,’’ she said. “Hopefully, they will take the right path and change their life for the better. They are at such a young age everything can change.’’

A college readiness class made the San Francisco resident aware of the possibility of adding minor.

Sydney O'Rourke and Jordan Spriggs discuss adding to their counseling majors.

“But I never really knew how important it was to get it and how to get it,’’ she said. “He (Dr. Elliott) helped me understand that. It will set you apart when applying for a job.’’

Payton Horne, a transfer from Moorpark (California) College, is a junior psychology major who plans to become a police officer. He took a few criminal justice classes in junior college but was advised by a cold-case homicide detective to choose a broader major, since he would learn the essentials of criminal justice in the police academy. As a Plan B to law enforcement, the Honors College student was guided by his inquiring mind.

Payton Horne checks his planning folder prior to meeting with a student services counselor.

“I love the way the brain works,’’ he said. “I wonder why people act certain ways in certain situations.  For example, why would a person act one way in the face of a police officer and not in the face of someone else? I think it would help me a lot in the field if I understand how the brain works and if I understand where people are coming from in terms of their backgrounds and experiences.’’

In Denise Krupp’s view, students planning a career in law enforcement would benefit from counseling classes that emphasize substance abuse and addiction and mental health issues. In her experience -- 30 years as an addiction counselor  -- a high percentage of law enforcement interaction is increasingly with people who are under the influence or suffering from mental illness.

Krupp also recommends psychology majors adding counseling minors, behavioral science majors adding the human services case management minor and counseling majors tacking on a minor in social work.

The increase in students adding minors has changed the composition of her classes, from only students majoring in counseling with an emphasis on addiction, chemical dependency and substance abuse, to a mixture. Those classes can include: Foundations of Addiction and Substance Use Disorders, Psychopharmacology in Treatment of Addiction and Substance Use Disorders, Relapse Prevention in the Treatment of Addiction and Substance Use Disorder, and Domestic Violence, Child, Elder Abuse -- Families with Addiction and Substance Use Disorders.

“These academic programs do a really good job of dealing with the whole person,’’ she said, noting the addition of several majors from COT who seek a better understanding of addiction for potential careers in worship ministry.

“Where do people who are struggling often go first?’’ she asked. “To their church.’’

Addiction crisis

Denise Krupp

Krupp is painfully aware of the increase in substance abuse and addiction.

“Literally, we’re in an epidemic right now in terms of overdose deaths,’’ she said in an interview with GCU Today on Sept. 18.

Two days later, the numbers bore her out. On Sept. 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) reported that the most recent statistical year for cause of death, 2016, saw 63,632 Americans die from a drug overdose, an increase of 21.5 percent from 2015. The numbers are based on a CDCP analysis of 31 states and Washington, D.C.  

Fortunately, an increasing number of GCU students are preparing to help people battle addiction, or mental illness in Spriggs’ case, and scores of others readying for a variety of careers by adding minors to their course of study.

Minors offered at GCU, credit hours required in fall 2018:

College of Science, Engineering and Technology:

Athletic Coaching (24)

DB-driven Web-based Applications (16)

e-Business Applications Development (16)

Enterprise Applications Development (16)

Pre-med (36)

College of Theology:

Philosophy (16/41)

Christian Studies (16/120)

Worship Arts (20/54)

Biblical Studies (20/75)

Colangelo College of Business:

Accounting (20)

Business Administration (32)

Business Analytics (24; new Fall 2018)

Business Management (20)

Entrepreneurial Studies (16)

Financial Economics (24)

General Business (20)

Hospitality Management (16)

Marketing (20)

Military Service ROTC Army (27) Air Force (36)

Sports Management (20)

College of Fine Arts and Production:

Dance (19)

Digital Design (24)

Digital Film (20)

Music-Instrumental (24)

 Music-Piano (24)

 Music-Vocal (24)

 Theatre (24)

College of Humanities and Social Sciences:

Behavioral Sciences (20)

Communication (16)

Counseling (16)

Criminal Justice (16; new Fall 2018)

Human Services Case Management (16; new Fall 2018)

Literature (16)

Mathematics (20) (new; Fall 2018)

Prelaw (16)

Professional Writing (16)

Psychology (20)

Public Administration (16)

Social Work (16)

Spanish (24)

Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].


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