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

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

Image courtesy of Youth Change

By: Melanie Hiepler, Nicky Magas, Aaron Richardson (Humour Editor), Nicky Magas, Zach Siddiqui (Copy Editor), Henry Tran (Peak Associate), and Hillary Ta

Behavioural neurosciences

Behavioural neuroscience (BNS) is a unique combination of psychology and biomedical physiology courses. You learn about human physiology and anatomy at an advanced level, whilst developing the ability to communicate with others.

One of my favourite classes is PSYC 381, Behavioural Endocrinology, because prior to taking this course, I didn’t know that hormones played such an important role in your life. As it turns out, hormones regulate how much urine you secrete, how fast your heart beats, and even your immune system’s performance.

One of the benefits that I have gained from this major is lab experience; I got to work with mice over the summer and conduct some behavioural tests on them. It was cool being able to perform the experiments that I read about in my textbook — thanks Dr. Watson! (Read more about behavioural neurosciences online.)

One of the things that I dislike about this major is that some courses are only offered once a year, so if you miss one course, it can really delay your graduation date. For example, BPK 426, Functional Human Neuroanatomy, is only offered once a year and it’s a required course for BNS majors. Another thing that I dislike about BNS is that there aren’t too many “neuroscience” courses offered at SFU per se, which is a tad disappointing. – Henry T


When I first considered communication (which boils down to studying how people communicate with one another), I thought it sounded completely boring, but it turned out to be so much more accessible and engaging than predicted. Semiotics, media, culture, policy . . . all of these concepts, packed to the max, are things you’ll study in this major, but you’ll often be doing so in ways that connect directly to your day-to-day life.

Sometimes you’re looking at Marshall McLuhan and how his soul cried “THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE” out into the sad content-focused, form-ignorant universe. Other times you’re looking at an advertisement showcasing a couple going on vacation only to learn about the secret implications that they’re about to have an orgy with their dalmations in the basement of another family’s summer home. It really just depends.

Oh, and also? The communication professors are some of the best. It pays to be taught by people whose entire careers are based around the communication of information . . . I’ve also never had a communication course where I’ve found the course policies to be unreasonable. The learning environment is consistently optimal. Take it from me, you won’t regret checking out some of the classes from this subject. – Zach S


Environmental sciences

If you are looking for a science degree that allows you to explore a little bit of everything while learning about our world, environmental science (EVSC) sounds like the place for you!

The true beauty of this program is its variety. With four concentrations to choose from (applied biology, environmental earth systems, envirometrics, and water science), you have the flexibility to enter a stream that offers you your preferred mix of courses. In fact, there are only five designated environmental science (EVSC) courses for students in the program, which are unique opportunities for environmental science students to meet, collaborate, and problem-solve while drawing from their diverse course backgrounds.

Think that this program is just about trees or only for established environmentalists? Think again! The EVSC program is about understanding our world and its natural processes as they relate to each other and us. Whether you care about the availability of clean water and air, the future of sustainable cities, or the question of how to better communicate science to the public, you are bound to be exposed to plenty of interesting topics throughout your studies. (Read more about environmental sciences online!)

Finally, there are a host of potential careers paths that are available to graduates with our unique educational background. Co-op opportunities are a fantastic way to make connections and gain experience. On top of that, EVSC students are a friendly bunch, so if this program sounds like it may appeal to you, what could you possibly have to lose by giving it a try? – Hillary T


Cognitive science

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary study of the brain and the mind. Besides the core cognitive science classes, you take classes in psychology, philosophy, computer science, and linguistics. Each of these fields offers a unique and insightful perspective on how the brain works, and the fascinating different ways to think about it.

With cognitive science at SFU, you are free to design your own way through the program. You take the first introductory classes in all of the streams, and then focus on three streams in the higher level classes. It’s a flexible degree with fascinating content, with many streams to choose from depending on what you’re interested in: artificially intelligent machines, how humans and animals communicate meaning and information through language, human behaviour, the philosophical underpinnings of intelligence and consciousness . . . (Read more about cognitive science online.)

The cognitive science classes take all of these different perspectives and put them together into a coherent picture of the brain and the mind. It’s a degree that challenges you and makes you think at every turn. Because of how broad it is, you learn a wide variety of skills.

Whether you’re reading and writing philosophical essays, dissecting empirical papers, or working with problem sets of foreign languages to writing code, this degree helps you develop a wide variety of important skills from start to finish. – Aaron R



The thing that fascinates me the most about being a student of sociology is that everybody already has a decent understanding of how society operates. Coming together and challenging those built-in assumptions and biases (and even being made to recognize that we have them) is an eye opening experience.

What’s more, when an incorrect assumption is identified, uncovering why and how it formed historically, politically, culturally, et cetera really begins to show you how little we are the unique, free-thinking individuals we perceive ourselves to be. Becoming a student of sociology gives you the theoretical tools to understand not only how society affects you and vice versa, but how it pushes and pulls other people with experiences different from your own. It’s a world-expanding field of study, as we tend to get so wrapped up in our own lives and ways of living that we can easily forget that other people are affected by different socio-historical circumstances.

But by far the best thing about being a sociology major is that there is almost nothing you cannot study. If it has a social component at any level, it’s fair game. Sports, graffiti, video games, memes, medicine, you name it. Any personal interest can be transformed into an object of sociological study. This department even has a bunch of interesting courses that allow students to examine elements of pop culture. It’s hard not to be engaged in your studies when the things you’re studying are intrinsically fun. – Nicky M


World Literature

World literature (WL) is all about reading and cross-cultural connections. We read stuff of all peoples, all places, and all times: expect everything from ancient Persian and Chinese epics to 20th century Argentinian short stories and contemporary Japanese manga.

I love that world lit is interdisciplinary: depending on what you’re reading and how you’re analyzing it, there’s a lot of room for creativity and bringing in history, sociology, translation studies, gender studies, geography, and even biology. Literary analysis isn’t a pointless exercise in labelling metaphors and highlighting symbols, like we all did in high school English; it’s about asking questions of a text to puzzle out what makes that text tick in a particular culture.

Expect to write a lot in WL. Also expect to be challenged in your thinking. WL teaches me to think critically about my world, making me more self-aware and helping me question things I take for granted. Bonus: employers look for critical-thinking skills. (Don’t ever let anyone tell you that an Arts degree is a waste of time.)

As for the faculty: they’re great. WL is a small program, so you’re guaranteed small classes and profs will actually know your name. These profs have high expectations of their students, but they are committed to helping you meet those expectations. (Read more about world literature online.)

I strongly advise going to their office hours. WL 200 is the gateway to all upper-division classes, as this is where you’ll begin to learn some of the theoretical frameworks that will help you down the road. WL 300 builds off WL 200, so don’t take them at the same time! Finally, for the theatre-lovers among us, I highly recommend WL 320 with Dr. Mark Deggan – this class is about how literature overlaps with performance, so expect lots of theatre talk! – Melanie H