By the numbers

Degrees awarded in fiscal year 2010

Dance: 7

Music education: 11

Distributive studies: 9

Italian: 7

Russian studies: 6

Source: CU Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis

B efore he even enrolls for the spring semester, University of Colorado junior Basil Fedun can already guess who will be in his classes next semester.

Fedun, a Russian Studies major, said there is a group of about 15 students who find themselves in the same classes together every semester, just one of the perks of obtaining a small major.

“There was one guy last semester who was in all six of my classes,” Fedun said. “It’s a really intimate, close community of students and faculty.”

Rima Salys, associate chair of Russian Studies, said there is an average of about 50 students working toward a Bachelor’s in Russian Studies at any given time — one of the smallest majors on a campus with more than 30,000 students.

Other small degree programs at CU include dance, music education, distributive studies and Italian — all mainly in the Arts and Humanities program. Each department was awarded between five and 10 bachelor’s degrees last year, according to CU’s office of Planning, Budget and Analysis website. Music Education had the most with 11 graduates in 2010.

Psychology, the most popular major at CU, awarded the most bachelor’s degrees last year with 525 graduates, according to the site. English, integrative physiology, communication and economics were next in line with nearly 250 graduates each.

In fiscal year 2010, only six CU students graduated with their bachelor’s in Russian studies, according to the website.

Creating close communities

“In a community that’s this small, obviously, (the students) become friends,” Salys said. “The way I know it is, in my classes, you come in and there’s this racket where they’re all talking to each other, they’re all chatting, instead of sitting there quietly.”

Fedun said small majors give students the “best of both worlds,” which creates a small community of students with similar interests, but also requires students to take core classes in large lecture halls — offering a larger campus-environment experience.

Getting to know the professors and classmates has both its advantages and disadvantages in small programs, Fedun said.

He said while his experience has been “nothing but positive” in Russian studies, having so few faculty dedicated to the department could pose a problem if a student clashes with one of the professors.

Fedun’s parents are from Ukraine and he took an interest in his an eastern European heritage from a young age. After visiting the country multiple times in high school, he began searching CU for a major that would elaborate on his family’s culture.

Fedun, currently a ROTC cadet at CU, said he is planning to be a U.S. military officer working as a liason with Russia after he graduates.

Loving the life

Dance freshman Rachel Stolzenberg has been dancing since third grade. She said a degree is the next step in achieving her life-long dreams.

“I realize dancing isn’t the most practical career but I love it and I’m going to try anyway,” Stolzenberg said.

Though she hasn’t declared a second major yet, Stolzenberg is considering psychology as a back up plan.

“Dance is a tough and short-lived career even if you do make it,” she said. “You can’t do much past your late 20s either way, so I realize I need to be realistic too.”

Stolzenberg said there aren’t many students majoring in dance, which provides students with personalized attention in classes. The bad news about being in a small program is that most students don’t appreciate the degree and the hard work that goes into it, Stolzenberg said.

Suzanne Magnanini, associate chair of undergraduate studies for French and Italian, said most students who major in Italian do so because they love the language and culture.

“Italian is taught in under 10 public schools in Colorado, so this is a language that most students discover at CU,” Magnanini said. “Students take it to fill a core requirement and end up falling in love with it.”

There are about 100 students majoring in French or Italian right now at CU.

Small departments fear cuts

Magnanini said while there are several advantages for students majoring in small departments, she fears the university will negatively judge the programs for being small.

“I’m concerned for us being in a budgetary crisis,” Magnanini said. “Ten graduates has been the line where departments will be cut or not. I worry that these numbers might be co-opted to attack small departments.”

Magnanini said while there were only seven Italian graduates and 21 French graduates last year, the departments also contribute to the university’s core requirements and account for many of the minors.

Best of both worlds

CU junior Whitney Miller is a percussion performance major in the School of Music, the smallest college on the CU-Boulder campus.

Miller said majoring in a program as small as music performance feels a little like high school again.

“It’s the closest you can get to high school while you’re in college,” Miller said.

Miller said she declared her major before arriving at CU as a freshmen. Her love of music made the decision easy, but after a few years she discovered that branching out with minors gave her a more cohesive college experience.

“I’m minoring in French and Italian,” Miller said. “Even though all of my programs are small I still feel like I’m getting both experiences with core classes and being part of three programs.”

Stolzenberg is now a member of one of CU’s dance teams, is participating in campus productions and rushed a sorority in hopes of getting the full college experience.

“Now I’m just exhausted,” Stolzenberg said. “But I think it will be worth it because I love everything I’m doing.”