Following your passion will lead to success


Isabelle Tavares

A content six-year-old Isabelle sat at the base of my kitchen floor, diligently scrubbing away at the dirt buildup from my brother’s muddy shoes. Before cleaning was a chore, I loved the satisfaction of seeing a shiny floor, and told my mother that I wanted to be a maid when I grew up. She quickly replied, “Oh no honey, you don’t want to do that.” Since then, I have mostly followed my family’s advice for major life choices.

My internal monologue has told me time and time again that if I find a career that aligns with my passion, I will succeed financially no matter what because of that passion. Thus, I enrolled in NMU’s environmental studies and sustainability major with a minor in journalism. Although I find studies to be extremely interesting and useful, the job projections for the social sciences are bleak in a STEM glorified academia world, as my family has told me. This brings me to the debate I’ve been grappling with recently: do what you love versus do what will make you financially secure. Expectations of success from myself and family have pushed me towards an environmental science degree instead of environmental studies. However important the hard sciences are, it is crucial to diversify your education, and this diversity is shown in NMU’s newest major, medicinal plant chemistry.

The new major is an eclectic blend of chemistry, biology and entrepreneurial tracks. Initially, I felt that the medicinal plant chemistry major would pigeonhole students into the emerging cannabis business. I thought that since the major was composed of rigorous science courses like chemistry and biology, those students were wasting their time by advertising the stigma of the “weed” major to future employers, and should pursue a traditional hard science degree instead. But, the trees spoke and the industry listened.

Recently, soda giant Coca- Cola mentioned in an email to Bloomberg publication that they are considering infusing their popular drinks with CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. Additionally, in a report from New Frontier Data in a Forbes magazine article, the legal cannabis industry will create more than a quarter million jobs by 2020. These groundbreaking statistics, along with the distances students travelled to study in this program, dismissed my skepticism of the controversial, interdisciplinary major.

Some upper level students uprooted themselves from former universities during their junior year to chase their dream across the state. Their passion motivated me to finally pull the trigger and make the switch to environmental science, although the new major would take a few more years and endless hours in the math tutoring lab. Regardless of what students study, a diverse education makes for a dynamic employee, as shown in the multifaceted courses required in the medicinal plant chemistry major.

Only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major, excluding pre-professional degrees such as doctors, professors and lawyers, as collected from a 2010 American Community Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Census. Although this statistic makes me question my decision to switch to science, the resounding message is that skills such as critical thinking, communication, time management and effective collaboration skills are valuable in all degrees.