And What Are You Going To Do With That Degree?

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Claire Wilson, MA Student

July 02, 2019
I am lucky enough to work in a field where talking is my job. I talk to prospective university students, their parents, and their educators every day. Sometimes these are one-on-one conversations, and sometimes they are public speaking engagements to hundreds of people. All of it, talking and explaining.
Because I'm talking about the university experience, a lot of people - especially parents - ask me what I studied when I was in school. "Business?" Many assume, or perhaps something in Communication. When I let them know, "Actually, I did a joint major in History and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies," quite a few folks are surprised. Their surprise, I believe, comes from not seeing the direct link between studying humanities and social sciences with a fruitful career. Why is that?
For students considering post-secondary school, there can be a draw to studying in fields with a clear A to B. Studying accounting - be an accountant, study nursing - be a nurse. Study Gender, Sexuality and Women's studies, be a... GSWS-ist?
Growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver, many of my family's Christmases, Thanksgivings, and Easters were filled with aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins asking about how my university studies were going. And, without fail, I would be asked "and what are you going to do with that degree?" At the time, I struggled to answer. After all, I didn't know what I was going to do when I graduated. Looking back now, I know that most students don't know either, but I think Arts students, especially those in Humanities, are scrutinized with this question more than our peers in Engineering, Business, and Science.
What I wish I had known to say back then, and what I tell students, parents, and educators now when they ask about GSWS, is that there is so much more to post-secondary studies than career preparation, though that doesn't mean I was any less prepared for my life after graduation. Critical thinking, research, text and data analysis, project work, writing - these are all skills I first developed as a student in GSWS classes. And while all of these skills have certainly helped me in my career, they helped me even more in becoming a well-rounded person.
So to all of the current GSWS students, especially undergraduates, who get asked the "what are you going to do with that degree?" question, I say to you with the gift of hindsight that there is no correct answer. What I got out of my degree is different than what you'll get, or what any other student will get from their degree. 

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