New majors, minors see growth

Kristen Snyder

Like many other students, Louisville freshman Tyler Padgett came to college undecided on a major.

He had already narrowed down his options to finance and accounting, but attended Wednesday’s Majors and Minors Fair to get help with his decision.

“I wanted to get answers to clear up what I waned to do,” he said. “I’ve decided to go with finance.”

Padgett was one of more than 1,000 attendees at the fair in Garrett Conference Center on Wednesday.

The fair, which is hosted by the Academic Advising and Retention Center, is a “one-stop-shop” for students to get all their questions answered about the majors and minors WKU has to offer, AARC Director Kevin Thomas said.

“We know it works because a lot of people change their major afterwards or pick up a minor,” Thomas said. “Even if they don’t make that decision today, at least they come out better informed.”

Between 55 and 60 departments are represented at the fair, including majors and minors new to WKU in recent years, Thomas said.

Dozens of majors and minors have been approved by the Board of Regents in the past 10 years, including a major in popular culture studies, major in exercise science, a minor in outdoor leadership and a minor in sales.

Pop Culture

A program like Popular Culture Studies “sounds pretty different,” Director Anthony Harkins said.

The major began in the fall of 2009 with 12 students, and this year, it has 18 students – a 50 percent increase.

Harkins said he is pleased with the growth of the program and that it’s on track based on original expectations.

“Awareness is growing,” Harkins said. “It’s on the radar screen, even if students didn’t know exactly what it was. It is starting to make an impact.”

Exercise Science

Exercise Science is among the fastest-growing majors on campus, Program Coordinator Thomas Lyons said.

“It’s an excellent choice for people wanting to go into physical therapy and occupational therapy,” Lyons said.

When the major began in fall 2007, it had an estimated 225 students, Lyons said. This year, it has about 320 students – about a 42 percent increase since the program began.

“We have an upward trend in enrollment, and there’s no indication that is going to end soon,” Lyons said. “The growth and popularity has been tremendous. The rate of growth has been greater than anticipated.”

Outdoor Leadership

WKU has offered classes in outdoor leadership since 1992. But in 2006, the minor started a semester-long “immersion” cohort in which students exclusively take outdoor leadership courses during the spring semester, said Steve Spencer, an outdoor leadership program professor.

The department has put a 12-student cap on participation for the cohort because of safety, impact and standards set by affiliated associations, but Spencer said there is a lot of interest in the minor.

“It is a pretty cool class,” Spencer said. “A lot of the things we do are very neat, but you have to commit. The time with the cohort is more than most classes. People need to realize what they’re getting into to understand the commitment.”

The minor requires a fee above normal tuition for food, gear and membership in associations for trips. Spencer said the minor is compatible with many majors, especially ones with a possibility of an outdoor component in future jobs.

Right now, Spencer is content with the program.

“We’re right on in terms of numbers,” he said. “I’ve spoken with other universities, and they’re not having near the success we are.”


A program that has almost doubled its enrollment in the past few years is the sales minor, which was approved in 2007, according to Board of Regents archives.

About 56 students started in the minor in its first year, said Lukas Forbes, director of the Center for Professional Selling, which is associated with the minor.

There are 97 students in the minor now – about a 73 percent increase since it began.

“We put this minor in place because it would be an interdisciplinary minor,” Forbes said. “We have 18 different majors all across campus participating in this minor.”

Forbes said he expects that statistic would make the sales minor one of the most diverse minors on campus.

“Half of all college graduates will have a sales component to their job,” Forbes said. “It just makes a lot of sense to have (the minor) as complimentary to many different degrees.”