When Vincent Michel started out as a history major in 2018, he didn’t expect to be walking across the stage at commencement with four different majors behind him as he did a few weeks ago in Moby Arena.
“I’d like to say there was a masterplan for adding all these [majors], but really it all just happened, and I followed the old adage, ‘just follow your passion’,” Michel says.
It’s estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of students, graduate with two undergraduate majors – it’s an outlier group of total graduates but not uncommon. But where Michel finds himself as an outlier of the outlier group, is as a quadruple major in History, German (under Language, Literatures and Cultures LLC), International Studies, and Political Science.
“He’s determined to be a hard worker, and he values the value of learning, and his educational process is reflected in that,” Academic Success Coordinator (ASC), Kelly McGregor says, “I just find that Vincent, is pretty intellectual, and can find something interesting in everything. He is also a very gregarious, friendly, and open person.”
It’s true Michel hasn’t laid plans out for himself. He didn’t plan for this outcome as an undergraduate, and he doesn’t have a set plan as a post-graduate as of yet. What he does have is a voracious capacity for learning and challenging himself, which is what has allowed him to reach this impressive marker over the course of about five years, and will no doubt serve him well in whatever lies ahead for him, and the countless paths he has now carved out for himself.
But in pursuing four majors, Vincent was put in a position to come up short at commencement – he was short one diploma cover. After he walked alongside his fellow CLA graduates and received a single diploma cover like all his peers, he actually will need a second one to hold his two degrees since he graduated with two diplomas in what’s called a dual degree.
“A dual degree can reach 150 credits, which is in the ballpark of a year’s worth of extra coursework – 120 is what’s required for bachelor’s degrees,” McGregor says, “One hundred fifty is what’s needed for two bachelors, and you must have the two majors, and complete all programmatic requirements from the institution.”
For Michel, he met the requirements to earn a diploma in History and Political Science and a second diploma in German and International Studies in the European Studies concentration, after McGregor helped him navigate the programmatic requirements.
McGregor, one of the two ASCs (Academic Success Coordinators) for Michel, has been key in his student’s success, in both single and plural majors like Michel. Among McGregor’s 54 advisees who graduated this semester, 32 of them were plural majors that span beyond liberal arts, in majors like Biomedical Science, Equine Science, Business, Social Work, and Human Development and Family Studies, just to name a few.
Languages, Literature, and Cultures, and International Studies fall squarely into the purview of McGregor, who has been helping students at the University for over 10 years, helping students thread the needle between majors. Part of that guidance includes strategically overlapping naturally complimenting majors like International Studies and Political Science, the latter, along with History are within the scope of advising of Stephanie Nielsen, Michel’s other ASC.
For both Nielsen and McGregor, four things stand out for Michel’s near-unheard-of accomplishment; Michel’s passion for learning, a few additional semesters, finding course overlaps, and utilizing existing credit.
Being proactive of incoming credit from educational investments like advanced placement credit, dual enrollment credit, or transfer credit is something Nielsen considers essential for all incoming students whether their ambitions lie in single, double, or even reaching quadruple majors.
“It’s important to be aware of any credits that you might have from different sources,” says Nielsen, “So making sure that you have a record of any coursework that gives you a leg up upon entering and then working with your advisor from the get-go.”
Beyond helping students understand incoming credit so students can get ahead, ASCs like Nielsen and McGregor help students stay ahead in the class, get ahead of career goals, and help students understand academic, social, and wellness resources. On top of helping students manage their college academic experience and accomplishments, working with your ASCs leads to better academic outcomes for students in the completion of their degree.
Better outcomes, like Michel’s, who after keeping close to the advice of his father, was able to keep his course and major options open to his interests, after laying out credit requirements of majors Michel was interested in prior to his first year.
“When I was a freshman, my dad printed and laid out the credits required for four majors that I may be interested in and basically said ‘Vincent, here’s what you can do – if you don’t like the major or a class, you can go off into a different direction’,” Michel says.
From working with his father’s outline and map of majors, Vincent was constantly engaged with his education and able to add majors to continue to invest time in and study his interests. From there, he was better able to work and establish a relationship with his ASCs, like when McGregor helped him on the pathway from plural majors to multiple bachelor’s degrees.
“Kelly is a fun dude to hang around, and it’s fun because we have a lot of the same interests, and he really feels like someone looking out for us and helping us graduate,” Michel says, “He is super patient, he doesn’t seem to mind going over things a few times and answering all my questions, and he is always available.”
Starting in 2021, Michel was able to layer on majors so he can continue down paths that connect his interests, going back to when he added his first major on top of History in the Spring of 2021, German, something he pursued so he can better communicate and connect with his mother and other relatives from Germany, as well as his own heritage.
“I always knew I was a student of learning I suppose and I might be the one college guy who actually wants to be here in class. I also really like how much I was learning in terms of reading and writing; all things I know I will need in the future,” Michel says.
Next came adding Political Science as a major, sparked by Michel’s general interest in politics and how his history courses gave him a deeper understanding of politics. And lastly, adding a major in International Studies because it increased his understanding of German and Global Politics.
“I think he has definitely a curiosity for learning, and just an endless passion for learning,” McGregor says, “I feel like when we discussed overlapping or complementary majors, like International Studies and Political Science that really excited him – the idea of taking other courses that maybe weren’t in German but would also be relevant to use in German and vice versa.”
Michel chose arguably the four most complimentary programs offered in the College of Liberal Arts, his rare case as a quadruple major, though uncommon, shows a pathway for incoming students feeling stunted and limited to choosing one major or passion over the other, even in non-overlapping areas of study.
For example, of the 70 Spanish majors in this academic year alone, 43 of them have more than one major and include STEM (Science Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) majors like Chemistry, Biology, and Biomedical Science as well as the Behavioral Sciences.
But regardless of the language of study or concentration in International Studies, or a student’s second, third, or even fourth major, students who work with McGregor receive the benefit of his expertise, having worked with nearly 1,000 students in his advising career, he has a keen and in many cases an unmatched ability to guide students toward balancing two areas of study.
For those students who work with McGregor and are yet to, his biggest guidance for students deciding between majors is not to choose, but to trust your gut.
“Be an open book, let your ASC know that you have these various interest groups,” McGregor says, “I think a lot of students second guess their interests because of external societal pressures. It’s like if they can’t articulate a job, they pick a major where they can [articulate a job]. But trust your gut, follow your interests.”
That recipe for trusting your gut is something Michel has followed well, and no doubt it will keep doors open to him just like his father intended when he helped guide his major choices prior to his first year as an undergraduate.
But Michel sees his situation as a unique case, granted by some unique opportunities, something he recognizes by only giving students the advice of deciding what works best in their own situation.
“I am super cautious about giving advice, because what applies to me probably doesn’t apply to someone else,” Michel says “The one thing I would say is, I got super lucky that I was able to explore with different majors, and I didn’t have to contend with things like a job or other things that a lot of other students have to deal with. So, I just say do what works for you – you know yourself best.”