Monday, April 30

5:30 PM - Student Recital: Elyssa LeMay, voice and Class Voice Recital
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building 

Tuesday, May 1

10:45 AM - Voice Seminar
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building 

11:30 - 11:50 AM - Tuesday Reflection - Maggie Hayes & Emily Petersen
Ascension Chapel, Founders Hall, 2nd floor

4:30 - 5:30 PM - Ekklesia Study Group
Old Main 121

Wednesday, May 2

9:30 - 10:30 AM - Coffee and Conversation
Community Engagement Center, 1st floor, Sorensen Hall

12:00 - 12:50 PM - Faculty, Staff & Administrators' Bible Study
Bible Study for faculty, staff, and administrators
Bring your lunch and a Bible
Chicago Room, College Center

8:00 PM - Augustana Flute and Clarinet Choirs Concert
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building 

Thursday, May 3

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM - Faculty Senate Meeting
102 Hanson Hall of Science 

7:00 PM - World Hunger: Food, Water, and Energy Film Series "Guns, Germs, and Steel"
Evald Hall 

Friday, May 4

4:00 PM - Celebration of Scholarship
3:30 PM - Refreshments
Wilson Center 

7:30 PM - Bat Boy: The Musical
$14 public; $12 seniors and students
Potter Theatre, Bergendoff Hall    

8:00 PM - Augustana Jazz Ensemble Concert
Centennial Hall

Saturday, May 5

8:00 AM - Seniors Recital
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM - Garden Workshop
St. John's Lutheran Church Parish Hall, 4501 7th Avenue, Rock Island, IL

9:30 AM - 2:00 PM - Celebration of Learning
Hanson Hall of Science

11:30 AM - Student Honors Recognition
102 Hanson Hall of Science

2:00 PM - Student Recital: Gail Anderson and Marcus Hostetler, horn
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building

4:00 PM - Augustana Five Choirs Concert
Centennial Hall

7:30 PM - Bat Boy: The Musical
$14 public; $12 seniors and students
Potter Theatre, Bergendoff Hall    

Sunday, May 6

1:30 PM - Bat Boy: The Musical
$14 public; $12 seniors and students
Potter Theatre, Bergendoff Hall  

2:00 PM - Student Recital: Julie Speulda, piano
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building

4:00 - 5:00 PM - Travel Reads Book Discussion: Funny in Farsi
Evald Great Hall

4:00 - Student Recital: Kelly Maras and Taralynn Muscat, voice
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building 

Volume 9, Issue 31 - April 30, 2012

Delicious Ambiguity

One of the arguments raised repeatedly throughout the calendar discussion was the importance we place on multiple majors.  While there were numerous rationales in support of double majors, one of them was that increased access to gaining a double major reflects our commitment to a fundamental principle of liberal arts education and the emphasis we place on becoming more well-rounded intellectually, culturally, and personally.

Although this argument sounds wonderful, I heard less data to support the core claim that a double major was somehow preferable to a single major or a major and a minor.  This might well be so in terms of employability and flexibility in an uncertain job market.  But do students who double major make larger gains on the educational outcomes of a liberal arts education than those who do not double major?  Does earning a double major somehow produce greater broad-based learning gains?

I examined the Wabash National Study data from the 2006 cohort.  Furthermore, I restricted my analysis to students at the eleven small liberal arts colleges in that cohort. I didn't investigate whether certain combinations of majors were more advantageous than others primarily because I didn't hear anyone seriously advocate for one combination over another, although there seems to be a second claim floating around that truly interdisciplinary double majors are somehow better than intra-disciplinary double majors - an assertion we can test if this first analysis holds much water.

The table below shows nine educational and developmental outcomes of a liberal arts education and whether being a double major correlates with a larger gain between the first year and the fourth year. 


Double Major Had No Impact Double Major Status Han An Impact
Critical Thinking Intellectual Curiosity
Moral Reasoning Intercultural Maturity
Attitude Toward Literacy
Civic Engagement
Academic Motivation
Psychological Well Being

Based on these findings, it initially appears that double majoring provides some educational benefit, impacting two of the nine outcomes.  However, the size of the effect on intellectual curiosity and intercultural maturity is actually quite small.  Furthermore, in the two cases where an initial significant finding appears, the impact of being a double major vanishes once I introduce student experience such as diverse interaction (in the test of intercultural maturity) and integrative learning experiences (in the test of intellectual curiosity) into the equations.

Based on this evidence, it's hard to make the case that double majoring - by itself - is necessarily significantly beneficial in the context of learning outcomes.  Again, this doesn't mean that it couldn't be beneficial in the very important context of job acquisition.  But it appears that this cow's sacred status may require a bit more scrutiny before we summarily celebrate our embrace of the double major.

Make it a good day!