Opinion — Missing majors at NMU

Why doesn’t Northern offer forestry, architecture, astronomy, or linguistics degree programs?
SNOWY CAMPUS — Though NMU has much to offer its students, mainly in its outdoor amenities, is the university missing some degree programs?
SNOWY CAMPUS — Though NMU has much to offer its students, mainly in its outdoor amenities, is the university missing some degree programs?
Megan Poe

NMU offers a variety of programs to suit every type of student. As a university with a student population of only around 7,000, Northern’s list of 120 majors is comparatively diverse. With the inclusion of several other essential majors that NMU is currently missing, the range of education its students would have access to compared to its size would be academically utopic. Offering degrees in forestry, astronomy, architecture, and linguistics might make NMU much more competitive against the other, larger state schools.

For example, despite being a technological university, Michigan Tech has its own specific forestry program. With nearly identical geography and resources, NMU, which has much more breadth in its programs should match this opportunity.

NMU boasts about its emphasis on sustainability and interdisciplinary environmental science programs but fails to deliver a large and relevant aspect of this field of study. Some of the existing faculty in the ecology department could be utilized for this concentration to limit NMU’s amount of new hires to accommodate.

If Northern had offered a forestry program, I would have majored in it. After my time at NMU, I didn’t want to transfer but I also didn’t want to choose a major I wasn’t passionate about just because I didn’t want to leave Marquette. The inclusion of what would be a very popular program would make sure students wouldn’t have to make this difficult decision.

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Another degree program NMU does not offer is a path in astronomy. While it could be argued that the cloudy winter months would detriment observatory practices of the night sky, this does not stop schools like Michigan State University and Central Michigan University from offering this degree.

NMU already offers several astronomy courses: AS 103, AS 104, and AS 493, as part of a developed physics department. A potentially more realistic option for a smaller school like Northern would be to offer astronomy or applied physics as a concentration in the physics department to limit the amount of resources required to fund and operate such a technologically dependent discipline.

A discipline that would require its own major, however, would be architecture. Architecture is not an obscure degree; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 123,700 jobs in architecture in 2022, with a median pay of $82,840.

The foundations of learning architecture; like design, engineering, and calculus, are already taught at NMU. While NMU would have to bring on a full architectural program teaching staff, the prevalence and importance of this degree makes one wonder why every university doesn’t automatically offer it. 

A legitimate concern for introducing these programs to NMU is that the funding should go towards pre-existing programs to make them better. Developing smaller departments that Northern has in the humanities and liberal arts, such as the philosophy department with only two full-time (and wonderful) professors, quality might outweigh quantity.

However, with the construction of the controversial Northern Enterprise Center, the plans for a gross development of individualized buildings indicate that Northern can afford multimillion-dollar unnecessary projects. NMU shows that it has no problem bolstering the funding and resources for already well-established and well-staffed programs like the business school or investing $28.6 million for the “Career Tech and Engineering Technology Facility project” to refurbish laboratory buildings, as reported by  NMU’s Financial Report 2021-2022.

Students might be more likely to choose a degree in a smaller program at Northern if the departments held a higher priority for it, so it’s not the popularity of the degree itself that is holding back the university’s choice in funding. The same can be said for programs that do not yet exist at NMU, and this does not need to apply to STEM programs specifically.

Adding a linguistics concentration or major to the literature and languages department would also encourage more students to attend NMU. A breadth of options would indicate a higher quality program more than the construction of a new building. 

NMU should be prioritizing opportunities for students above anything else, because when high school students are deciding where they want to go to college, they’re not choosing the school based on what year the labs were refurnished or how many faculty there are. They’re first and foremost choosing a school based on if they have their desired program at all.

Northern offers the luxury of small class sizes as compared to larger state schools, so if NMU offers most fundamental programs, why wouldn’t students choose to go here?

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