Andrus: Are you undecided? Kathleen Timmons should be your best friend

John Andrus

The lyrics from that old spoken-word “song” by Baz Luhrmann, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” is just as true now as it ever was. But of all the advice dispensed by Luhrmann in that song:

  • “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh never mind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.”
  • “Don’t worry about the future … the real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind”
  • “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.”

I think the most relevant part to us as college students is the following:

  • Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life: the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Life, on average, is really long. Most of us will live at least another 60-plus years. Furthermore, according to the United States Department of Labor, the average baby boomer held 11 different jobs from ages 18 to 44. That’s a lot of change and indecision in our collective past, which will surely continue in our collective future. Since so many of us are going to be frequently changing jobs, it only makes sense to lay a foundation that will apply to all, or at least most, of our foreseeable future decisions. That’s where Kathleen Timmons comes into play.

Timmons is the academic adviser for the Bachelor of Liberal Studies major at Iowa State. The Bachelor of Liberal Studies was a major devised and implemented by all three major universities in Iowa: Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa. The program is virtually identical at all three.

The BLS major was originally designed to offer people who otherwise couldn’t finish their degree an opportunity to receive a four-year degree even with an eclectic mix of previous classes. I believe it’s just as good, if not a better choice, for a generally undecided traditional student. According to Timmons, the largest percentage of students in the BLS program are traditional Ames-based students, which is an entirely different demographic than was envisioned by the Board of Regents.

Timmons said to me, “Some students in the program don’t have a specific focus on what they want to do, but they know that they want a degree. Others have a strong focus for what they want to do, and know that the field that they want to enter doesn’t require a specific degree, as long as it’s a bachelor’s degree.” If you’re in this situation, it seems to me like a no-brainer.

Not only does the BLS major allow you to take basically whatever classes you enjoy (ELECTIVES!), but it allows you to choose three areas of focus. When I graduate in December, I will have a Bachelor of Liberal Studies with an emphasis in HRI management (one of my “focus” areas was professional fields) and a minor in political science. You can’t tell me that that will look worse to an employer than a BS/BA in psychology or communications. There are a multitude of majors on campus that are not built for a career, but are instead a starting point for more schooling. So if more schooling is in your future, it also just makes logical sense to not force yourself into a corner, where there are fewer options later.

Timmons also mentioned that many of the current students in the BLS program have teaching in their future. While you must major in elementary education in order to teach grade school, the BLS major is perfect for teaching secondary education. You will still by taking all of the required courses for teaching high school, but you can focus on three different areas, which could actually make you more appealing to a potential employer.

Let’s face it: A bachelor’s degree is something we all have to have in 2011. It’s like a high school diploma in the 1950s. Many more people are now going to grad school to separate themselves from their peers, so what you studied as an undergraduate is even less important, since you can always choose your specialization in grad school. I myself am still deciding between a master’s in counseling and a MBA, and with my Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree, I was able to take the classes that I found interesting and applied to what I thought I would want to spend the rest of my life doing.

So if you want to enjoy your time at Iowa State, but as of right now are undecided on a particular major, call up Kathleen at the LAS advising office and set up an appointment. No need to thank me. (Donations accepted.)