Seven-Minute Majors: Find out what SFU students like about their majors (part one)

Undeclared? Here’s what your fellow students have to say

Image courtesy of Youth Change

By: Tessa Earnshaw, Michelle Gomez (Staff Writer), Amneet Mann (News Editor), Gabrielle McLaren (Features Editor) and Nathaniel Tok


This major is going to help you become the nerd you always knew you could be.

If you’re anything like me, you have zero tech background as you consider joining engineering. Contrary to common perceptions of engineering students, you don’t need an intimate relationship with your operating system to do well in engineering. You just need to be open-minded towards experiencing the beauty of math, and before you know it, you’ll be saying things like “beauty of math” and building filters and coding instruction sets of your own.

The best professor I’ve had during this degree is hands-down Brenda Davison. Brenda is actually a math professor, but after taking four courses with her, I think she qualifies for this category. Brenda is clear, reassuring, and unrelentingly curious about the subject. Her knack for explaining equations in a way that makes them relevant turned me from a person merely ambivalent about math to someone who now has a deep appreciation for the subject.

The best classes I’ve had in engineering are the ones that make you stop and reflect on the fact that, wow, you actually are doing it — you are building the circuit, solving the equations, and doing whatever other tech-y thing you never imagined you’d be good at doing. For me, these classes have been ENSC 220 and ENSC 320 (Electric Circuits I and II), MACM 316 (Numerical Analysis), and ENSC 225 (Microelectronics I). These are classes that push you to use your classroom knowledge — the seemingly never-ending math, physics, and circuits courses — to design and build your own circuits and evaluate numerical techniques to reach meaningful conclusions about robustness and efficiency.

If you can put up with the trial-and-error and frequent googling that comes along with the learning process in this degree, then maybe engineering is for you too. – AM



If you love reading, writing, and critical thinking, then you should consider majoring in English. You get to read the best literature ever written, have interesting discussions with others who actually appreciate it, and analyze it for both your enjoyment and your assignments. You also learn about multiple other subjects such as history, politics, religion, and geography in the context of what you read, leaving you with a better understanding of the text and the world around you.

The English department consists of some of the best professors at SFU; they are all extremely passionate about their fields of study and are always willing to help students. I have loved every professor I have had, but some of my favourites include Paul Budra, Jon Smith, Peter Cramer, and David Coley. My favourite classes so far have been ENGL 385 (Across Time, Across Space), because of its wide variety of fascinating literature and history, and ENGL 311 (Early Shakespeare, because what English major doesn’t love Shakespeare?)

SFU’s English program is truly remarkable; it has fantastic, helpful professors, interesting classes that you actually want to attend, and passionate students who will quickly become some of your best friends. Most importantly, English allows you to look at situations from many different perspectives and improve both your writing and critical thinking, which are essential skills for any career. It prepares you for the future, regardless of your career path. – TE


Health Sciences

My department, or rather, faculty, is Health Sciences. For those who are unfamiliar with us, it’s the glass hallway at Blusson Hall you barely think about when you are dashing to and from the bus loop.

We are a weird mix of scholars. There are professors and researchers who specialize in almost anything you can think of: philosophy and ethics, policy and healthcare, geography and geological information systems, economics, microbiology, psychology, sociology . . . as long as it can be related to healthcare, we probably have someone who does it. This leaves students (or me at least) feeling a little lost, since although we study health and the human body, there are courses we can relate to in many departments.

Profs and classes are generally pretty good. I am biased, but my experience in health sciences classes often feels better compared to when I do classes outside my faculty. My favorite class so far is probably HSCI 305 (The Canadian Health System). The prof teaching our class kept things relevant and connected lecture topics to current news. Assignments were broken up so you didn’t hand in an entire term’s worth of work at once just before exams.

An interesting book I read in a health sciences course was The Big Necessity by Rose George. The prof insisted that we read something in the popular science book category rather than journal articles, to make it easier for students. The book was about problems and potential solutions on how to deal with human biological waste. I never really thought about this topic before, so it was eye-opening to see how such an important issue was often overlooked. Well, that’s my major in seven minutes or less. – NT



Confession time: I hated history in high school. I hated reciting lists of events, I hated the boring textbooks, and I hated memorizing all the damned dates. But because I liked museums, historical books, and movies set in the past, I took a history class in university and fell in love — hence why I’m currently pursuing a double major in world literature (read more on that next week) and history.

I liked how history, to me, felt like a series of stories. The history department helped me pick those stories apart and understand their details, the causalities precipitating them, and the complexities of how they got to us and why. Interesting characters, wildly different worlds, hilarious anecdotes, and complicated storylines all come up on a regular basis.

My critical thinking skills have always been pushed in history classes, where there are not only facts and undeniable realities, but also complicated sources, repercussions, motives, causalities to understand and discuss. My research skills have definitely been sharpened thanks to the nature of the work I’m assigned. Classes tend to be reading-intensive, but also very much discussion-based.

What I appreciate at SFU is that you need to take classes from a variety of course types (Europe, The Americas, Africa/Middle East/Asia, and Global/Comparative), which means you get a little bit of everything, and get pushed out of your comfort zone and into new interests. I had no idea when I started this degree that Indigenous history and environmental history would be so interesting to me. Professors whose classes I’ve actively planned my schedule around to take again include Dr. Joseph Taylor and Dr. Mary Ellen Kelm. – GM


International Studies

What attracted me to the international studies (IS) department was the broad range of topics that it covers, allowing each student to study specifically what they are interested in. There are three streams in IS: international security and conflict; comparative world politics, culture, and society; and international development, economic, and environmental issues.

Since IS is such an extensive program, having these streams allows students to narrow down their studies and focus on a specific interest area. Students in all of the streams have to take similar lower-division courses, which are usually overviews of a wide topic. As it is with most degrees, the upper-division courses vary and are more specific. In fact, IS upper-divisions get so weirdly specific that there really is something for everyone.

The most interesting lower-division courses are IS 209 (Latin America: The National Period), and IS 220 (The Wealth and Poverty of Nations). Keep in mind that many first- and second-year courses in IS involve a decent amount history in the curriculum, as it is very important to understand context and background when studying foreign countries.

For upper-divisions, you are able to choose courses from a list that includes other subjects, such as sociology and anthropology, political science, and history. The one downside for me was that all streams require at least one ECON course — it was all fun and games until I had my first macroeconomics midterm.

My favourite part about being in IS is that there is a sense of engagement and respect in classes when students partake in friendly debate. It is obvious that most IS students are passionate about what they study. -MG


Editor’s note: More Seven Minute Majors will be coming next week! Check online for our full selection, including some submissions not in print this week.