Taking the Road Less Traveled: How to Create Your Own Major 101

by The Cowl Editor on March 4, 2021


Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

by Kyle Burgess ’21

News Co-Editor

It is often said that college is a time for self-discovery and self-expression. Here at Providence College, students are actively encouraged to take classes that they find fascinating and to join clubs and organizations that pique their interests. Students may even elect to create their own clubs to share their unique passions if they so choose, with organizations such as chess club and FriarsFor______ being some of the latest successful additions to extracurricular activities on campus.

But what about students who wish to apply the same creativity to designing their own major? Is there hope that their efforts can meet the same success as these new clubs? In the case of Eliana DaCunha ’22, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Originally from Fairhaven, MA, DaCunha first became familiar with Friartown through several of her high school peers who attended the College and encouraged her to apply. She also realized that her application to the school would be considered for the Roddy Scholarship, a merit scholarship that covers the tuition, room, and board for a first-year student aspiring to enter the medical profession like herself.

DaCunha explains that it has long been her dream to become a physician. “My mom is a primary care physician and my dad is a chiropractic physician, so I’ve been surrounded by the healthcare profession my entire life,” she said. “They’ve never pushed me to enter the medical field, but they’ve definitely inspired me to. Hearing about all the people they’ve helped in our local community always makes me so proud of them.

Arriving at PC as a biology major, DaCunha began thinking of ways to combine her passions for medicine and world issues, creating a distinct individualized global health major to supplement her biology major. She was encouraged after learning that former PC men’s basketball point guard Kyron Cartwright ’18 had taken a similar path during his time at PC, creating an individualized sports media major. 

I was so happy to learn that PC had this kind of individualized major program because I believe allowing students to take charge of their own educational path is so important,” DaCunha stated. “I’ve always wanted to learn more about global health, but because this field is so broad, I knew I would need to take courses in health policy, global studies, sociology, and political science to truly acquire a better knowledge of it.

With the assistance of academic advisors, such as Dr. Tuba Agartan and Dr. Deborah Levine of the health policy and management department and director of academic advising Peter Palumbo, DaCunha’s proposal received the green light from Father Mark Nowel, O.P., assistant to the provost and associate professor of biology. 

However, DaCunha admitted that the process for approval was not as seamless as it sounds because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because everyone was transitioning to online learning, it was often very difficult to get in touch with the professors; the approval of my major was, of course, not urgent in the context of COVID, but because it was not approved, I couldn’t pre-register for classes. However, by the summer, I was able to finally acquire all the signatures I needed to forward my proposal to Fr. Nowel’s Committee on Studies and by the fall, my major was approved. I’m really glad I stuck with it.”

When asked for any advice she could share with PC students potentially looking to create their own majors, DaCunha reiterated that patience is a virtue during this lengthy process. “It requires a lot of time and effort, but having a major tailored to your specific wants and needs is so worth it.” She also recommended that students looking to pursue their own individualized majors should reach out to Palumbo for guidance in creating a major of their design.

Featured Friar: Julia Lorkiewicz ’20

by The Cowl Editor on February 13, 2020


Lorkiewicz has kept herself involved in her four years in Friartown. Photo courtesy of Julia Lorkiewicz ’20.

by Kyle Burgess ’21

News Co-Editor

 Before setting foot on campus move-in day, the typical incoming Providence College freshmen bury themselves in a landslide of questions. “Did I pack enough Vineyard Vines apparel?,” to “Will I get along with my roommates?” and, for some, “Did I really pick the right major for the career I want to have?”

Some students, like Julia Lorkiewicz ’20, eventually find that the major they had declared upon entering PC is not all that they had envisioned it to be. Panic begins to creep in at the prospect of having to go through the process of picking a major all over again, coupled with fears of how this change will impact career choices after graduation.

“I came in declared as a science major, specifically focusing in chemistry,” Lorkiewicz explained, “but I also came into college with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. About two weeks into school, I decided that it was not for me. I felt lost, confused, and very uncertain regarding what was ahead of me.”

Lorkiewicz felt at a loss as to what would come next. “At first, I felt disappointed in myself for not finding something right off the bat that I loved, and I spent a lot of time comparing  myself to my science classmates who loved what they were doing when I did not feel the same way.”

However, while surfing PC’s online list of majors with her mother, Lorkiewicz came across Health Policy and Management (HPM) which piqued her interest. Following her mother’s advice, she enrolled in an introductory course for her second semester, and the rest was history.

“I can truly say this was the best decision I have ever made. My advisor, Dr. Hackey, has become my mentor, my advocate, and truly one of the best professors I have ever had,” Lorkiewicz added.

Life as an HPM major has offered her a wide array of interesting internships, giving her the opportunity to watch policies she reads about in the classroom in action. Lorkiewicz was able to sit in on medical licensing boards with the Rhode Island Department of Health during their discussions of the opioid crisis in Rhode Island, followed up with her work as a summer intern at a medical malpractice law firm, which fueled her growing desire to attend law school after graduating from PC.

Her most recent internship at Marsh & McLennan Agency located in Worcester, MA, however, is where everything clicked for Lorkiewicz. She was able to use her HPM experience while brokering and consulting with clients, and she is looking forward to working there full time come this June.

When asked to give advice for current students having second thoughts about their major or are still undeclared, Lorkiewicz insisted that they find a field that they are truly passionate about. 

“The transition of switching my major was one of the scariest, yet greatest decisions I have ever made. Nothing is ever permanent and there are always going to be people to help you find where your strengths lie. Reach out to professors you trust, advisors, the career center, family members, or anyone else you trust for advice. But in the end, it is your happiness that matters in whatever major and career field you choose.”

In addition to keeping herself busy with her impressive strand of internships, Lorkiewicz has still found the time to expand her social network at PC. 

She has been heavily involved in her four years in Friartown, serving as an Admissions Ambassador senior fellow and executive board member, two-time fall orientation leader, peer ministry leader, Lighthouse and Transformations retreat leader, and was recently inducted into the Dirigo Leadership Honor Society. 

In the little free time she has remaining, Lorkiewicz can be found cheering on the Friars at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, working out at Concannon Fitness Center, exploring downtown Providence for new restaurants to try, or buried in a Dunkin’ iced coffee with her best friends in Slavin.

Ultimately, however, Lorkiewicz credits the many professors and classmates who helped her to find her true calling as an HPM major during her transitionary freshman year and beyond as the foundation for her countless memorable experiences here at PC.

Be a Pioneer by Building Your Own Major: A Look into the Process of Making an Individualized Major

by The Cowl Editor on February 14, 2019


Students are given the freedom to create their own major based on pre-existing courses at PC.

by Kellie Johnson ’22

News Staff

At Providence College, students are privileged enough to receive a well-rounded education. The core curriculum is structured to give exposure to all different types of studies. From Development of Western Civilization courses to your natural science courses and so on, students are gifted with the ability to expand on their knowledge based on what they love. 

While PC offers an extensive amount of majors to choose from, some students choose to expand their education and work with Director of  Academic Advising Peter Palumbo to create an individualized major which is a unique and special opportunity.

In Harkins 213, students are able to drop by the office and pick up an information packet including all of the tools needed to create their own major. 

In this document, students are required to get signatures from various advisors who are able to contribute to the major they are trying to create. 

Students are expected to write a proposal, which includes their experience so far at PC, and why their current major is not the appropriate path for them. 

In order to create your own major, you need to identify what it is exactly you want to do with your future, and how you are going to get there. It is the student’s responsibility to meet with various academic advisors and professors on their own time in order to establish an academic plan.

In your academic plan, you have to identify your possible future goals and careers you could be interested in. Nobody will hold you accountable for these jobs, but in order to go through this process, students should show their passion and drive for their future endeavors.

Students then must map out the required courses for this major, and the credits earned from each course. For example, Corrie Traverse ’20 made her own communications major. She carefully chose courses that would be required for her to pursue this communications degree, such as marketing and English courses. She identified the specific courses she plans on taking within her four years, along with electives, and justified why each course would benefit her education.

The last step on this document is to decide the classes you want to take to fulfill your core curriculum at the college. 

Finally, students map out a general idea of the courses they intend to register for the rest of their years in college. This involves an organizational skill recommended for all students.

Various students on campus are working through this process to create minors as well. For example, a group of business students are working to create a psychology minor. Eventually, they hope to map out a curriculum that can be utilized school-wide for students with same interests as them.

Many students do not know about this opportunity to individualize their education. This  is a valuable tool at PC, and students are encouraged to take advantage of it and create an education personalized to their needs and interests.