Opposites Attract: Meadows Students Balance Contrasting Majors
Students are creating custom college experiences by enrolling in seemingly contrasting majors and minors in order to prepare themselves for their dream career post-graduation.
As the old saying goes, “opposites attract,” or at the very least can balance each other out, and that can be evidenced in the degree combinations that some Meadows students have tackled on their educational track. With the significant number of students enrolled in more than one major, many of them are balancing majors that, on the surface, may seem to completely contrast one another. In reality, however, these students have made calculated choices to blend their degrees in order to pursue their interests and work towards their dream career.
We spoke to four Meadows students enrolled in contrasting majors about their experience balancing the two, or more, degrees and what they hope to achieve following graduation.
ALEXA DERRYBERRY | FILM and PSYCHOLOGY
Alexa Derryberry combined her love for filmmaking and desire to help others through therapy into a unique double-major in Film and Psychology. Though the work involved for her majors vastly differs, with the psychology classes requiring the traditional workload of papers and tests while film classes involve more creative projects like making films and being on set, she has been able to manage both.
“I think that SMU makes double majoring very easy,” says Derryberry. “The classes required for my majors were straightforward and manageable, and I like that I got to major in both of the subjects that I find fascinating.”
One of the highlights in Derryberry’s college experience so far is a project in her Film Production II class in which she wrote, produced, directed and edited a short film from start to finish. On top of her commitment to both of her majors, Derryberry is also very active in the SMU community. Not only was she the president of the Cockrell-McIntosh dorm her sophomore year, she was also the marketing chair for the Chinese Student Association for three years where she was able to further yield her creativity promoting events for the organization.
Ultimately, her professional dream project would involve combining the knowledge she has learned from both of her majors to make a psychological thriller movie, creating characters whose mental illnesses are accurately depicted onscreen so audiences with similar diagnoses can truly relate to them.
ANNE HULME | DANCE and STATISTICAL SCIENCE
For as long as she can remember, Anne Hulme has dreamed of being a professional ballet dancer. She began dancing at the age of three and when it eventually came time to choose a college, she knew she wanted to audition for Meadows’ Division of Dance.
Hulme was accepted not only into the dance program but also to the prestigious President’s Scholars program, which is a four-year opportunity for some of the nation's most gifted students to bring their intellectual vitality, diverse talents and active involvement to enrich the SMU community. It wasn’t until after Hulme arrived on campus and began her educational track that she considered widening her academic pursuits.
“After taking an introductory statistics course, my professor encouraged me to consider enrolling in the statistical science major,” she says of the choice to add a second degree. Hulme eventually added a math minor to her resume as well.
Though the lack of overlap between her degree’s required courses is challenging, Hulme has enjoyed taking such a wide variety of classes and encountering students from so many different majors in the process. On top of balancing two majors and a minor, she is also involved in the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, holds down a job in the Meadows IT office and is the president of the Mustang Ballroom Dance Club.
“Before SMU I had not done ballroom dancing, but being able to learn it and compete at ballroom competitions around Texas has been such a unique opportunity,” she explains. “As part of my job in the Meadows IT office, I also participated in some preliminary LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) research for dance, and it was very fun to see how data analysis could be applied to dance movements.”
This experience showed Hulme that there are professional careers that could potentially combine her two degrees in dance and statistics. Eventually, she would love to integrate her knowledge of statistics with the world of dance in a role similar to that of a sports analyst. But first, Hulme hopes to achieve her longtime dream of dancing professionally with a ballet company after graduating next year.
SINAN BESKOK | THEATRE and MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
With a passion for physics and calculus combined with his enjoyment of theatre, Sinan Beskok graduated from high school knowing that he wanted to double major in Mechanical Engineering and Theatre. The hard part was finding a university that would allow him to do both.
“SMU was the only school that would not only allow, but encourage and support me in this pursuit,” explains Beskok, who has performed in Meadows’ productions of Lysistrata and Twelfth Night, the Musical as well as held a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in the Engineering Controls Lab. “The opportunity to genuinely study and pursue both of my passions is incredible.”
He plans to use the communication and interpersonal skills learned from his theatre major and his technical knowledge from mechanical engineering to secure a job in technical sales, engineering sales or field engineering – all professions that require an appreciable ability to communicate technical topics and problem solve through a lens of empathy for the customer. Regardless of what career track Beskok pursues, he intends to keep in touch with his creative side.
“I still plan on pursuing theatre after standard work hours,” he says. “I was fortunate in my most recent engineering internship to fulfill the whole workday while still rehearsing and performing in Lobby Hero at a local theater at night. Suffice to say, I know it’s possible!”
Beskok, who has spent his last few years at SMU excelling in his areas of study by receiving both the Rosenfield Playwrighting Award as well as the Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Award, will graduate in May 2024.
YUMI HASTINGS | PIANO and MATH
Demonstrated by her pursuit of a double major in piano and math, as well as minors in Japanese and history, Yumi Hastings clearly has a wide variety of interests. The ease with which SMU helps its students to balance multiple degrees has allowed her to explore her passion for both piano and math, without having to sacrifice one or the other. Though Hastings knew she wanted to be a professional pianist after just a couple of years, she wanted to keep her math degree as well.
With two majors and two minors, Hastings is no stranger to a packed schedule. Throughout her time at Meadows, she has had to learned how to appropriately balance her degrees, which has meant prioritizing her productivity and staying dedicated. One of Hasting’s most surprising consequences of combining vastly different subjects was how both the creative and academic experiences benefited each other.
“In my topology math class last semester I was able to connect the tonnetz, part of music theory, to a torus, which is the fancy word for a donut in topology,” explains Hastings, who was also able to recently research and perform a piano piece by a Native composer for her Indigenous History class. “These connections have been unexpected and makes me more excited about both subjects.”
One of her most exciting recent opportunities relating to her degree was interning for The Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition over this past summer. The Cliburn, which Hastings likens to “the Olympics of piano,” is one of the largest piano competitions in the world and the junior competition is held every four years on SMU's campus.
“As someone who grew up watching the Cliburn competition, helping run it administratively was very cool,” says Hastings. “I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into all the planning and the internal operations that allow such a large-scale competition to run smoothly.”
This peek behind the curtain of world-renowned piano competitions may have also provided Hastings a look into her future. After graduation, she intends to pursue a Master of Music degree in piano performance and ultimately a career as a pianist.