In October’s Hamilton Headlines, we received 89 responses to the question: Did you come to Hamilton intending to major in one discipline only to end up majoring in something else, or did you change your major while at Hamilton? 74% indicated YES, while 26% said NO.

In addition, more than 60 alumni included comments, many of which are found below. We randomly selected five to receive a prize for participating. Congratulations to Diana Escorcia ’20, Richard Leisner ’67, Audrey Espey ’12, Ryan Luciano ’99, and Ken Mattsson ’87. (See our newest poll and participate for a chance to win.)


question markIf you came to Hamilton intending to major in one discipline only to end up majoring in something else, or if you changed your major while at Hamilton, what course or professor prompted you to make that switch? 


Environmental Economics & Professor [Peter] Cannavó.
— Evan Abelson ’16

Study of the novel.
— Lily Barnett ’23

Biology 101 — Too much memorization and blood for this pre-meddler!
— Robert Behnke ’55

While I didn’t change majors and came in wanting to be a biology major, every interaction and class with Professor Natalie Nannas reaffirmed my love of biology and why I remained a biology major.
— Acacia Bowden ’20

English 200 with Professor [George] Watson, who was visiting from Scotland. I’d never known the study of literature could be like that, and I suddenly wanted to be that kind of teacher! Inspiring! Fun! 30 years later and I’m still trying to live up to his example — and that of my other Hamilton profs, like Jean D’Costa, Ivan Marki, and Fred Wagner. Thank you, all!
— Jen Bradford ’89

Channing Richardson.
— J.C. Calder ’75

Professor Carl Rubino and Professor Shelley Haley.
— Kevin Coppola ’07

Stephen Bonta
— Keith Daniel ’69

I added a philosophy major after taking History of Modern Western Philosophy with Russell Marcus; it completely changed my life! His passion for teaching and learning inspired me to be much more curious about the world and communicate that curiosity in writing.
— Andi Dickmeyer ’19

Psychology and sociology were my original thoughts for a major, but I chose interdisciplinary environmental studies so I wasn't limited to one subject!
— Julie DiRoma ’10

Sociology's Social Class in America with Professor Gilbert.
— Diana Escorcia ’20

Hispanic Cinema with Profesora Edna Rodriguez-Plate. I decided to take a few Spanish classes freshman and sophomore year just to keep up my skills, but fell in love with the classes and department, and ended up double majoring in Hispanic studies and English and studying abroad in Madrid. Profesora Rodriguez-Plate's class inspired me to write my thesis on Hispanic Cinema.
— Audrey Espey ’12

Carol Rupprecht.
— Joseph Flynn ’83

Don Potter.
— Bob Fryklund ’80

Elizabeth Lee (Gender and Education).
— Steve Gross ’16

Scott MacDonald's History of Cinema.
— John Hadity ’83

Professor Mitchell Stevens' sociology courses.
— Shebra Edwards Hall ’01

Environmental Geology with Todd Rayne.
— Emma Hedley ’14

The Long 19th Century in Britain (with visiting professor Emily Rohrbach).
— Fiona Helmuth ’09

I came without plans for a major, and resisted the idea, but ended up carving out one encompassing French, English, and German literature of the Romantic era. Helpful profs?  [Ed] Barrett, [Robert] Browning, [Thomas] Colby. Also [Adrian] Jaffe and Ursula Colby (Kirkland).
— Stewart Herman ’70

Sociology. One course and I was hooked. Eventually majored in public policy.
— Matthew Hicks ’96

Intro to Psych with Professor [Doug] Weldon.
— Kristen Holderle ’00

Intro Film — Scott MacDonald; Japanese Film, Animation, and Literature — Kyoko Omori.
???????— Jason Le ’23

Jay Williams (or maybe Stanley Oglivy who gave me an D in Math 14).
— Peter Lotto ’75

Rick Decker and Stuart Hirshfield co-taught an intro to computer science course that resulted in me rethinking my mathematics major. In the end I opted to double major in computer science and mathematics. They actually also wrote the textbook that was used in the class, which was even more impressive.
— Ryan Luciano ’99

I always knew I wanted to major in government, but it was Professor [Rob] Martin’s Intro to Political Theory that set me on a path to focus on political theory and eventually write a thesis I never expected to!
— Maggie Luddy ’20

Perhaps a negative influence: I had a Regents science and engineering scholarship, which required one to major in one of those disciplines, so I entered intending to major in mathematics. While away sophomore year I doubled up on the course sequence and got a little ahead, so the department chair, Brewster Gere, really pressured me to enroll in a seminar in function theory.  All of the other men in the seminar subsequently got Ph.D.'s in math, so I was in over my head and recognized it. To further confirm the poor fit, Hamilton had introduced the comprehensive, all-or-nothing exam at the end of senior year, so the prospect of losing four years was too daunting. At that point I had several options for a substitute major, but since I'd received my only A at Hamilton in German, I chose modern languages. I've never regretted it.
— JGG Kahn, Sr. ’63

Bill Burd — stagecraft professor.
— Jill Karol ’95

Barbara Tewksbury — Geology & Human Events in North Africa/Middle East.
— Griffin Kearns ’20

Calculus. I was a freshman having some difficulties with the topic and more difficulties getting an appointment. I was walking across campus and ran into [Win] Tolles and [Sid] Wertimer. They ask me how it was going; so I told them. They suggested that I just stop by to visit the professor assuring me that he would be available. All across campus all the professors’ doors had been removed and all were available. I graduated as a romance language major; all the professors were more fun and accessible.
???????— William Martin Keller III ’66

Gary Wyckoff — switched from intended biology or chemistry to public policy, and it was the best decision!
— Jen Kleindienst ’09

My poor grades in Prof. [Pilwon] Kang's physics freshman year persuaded me that pre-med studies were not for me. Happily, I was better suited to the History Department with spectacular teachers, David Millar, David "Spoolie" Ellis, Ed Lee, and Edgar "Digger" Graves. I owe Prof. Kang a grateful "thanks."
???????— Richard Leisner ’67

Sue Ann Miller and Leland Cratty are the reasons I stuck with biology and chemistry!
???????— Mark Mancuso ’84

Doug Raybeck.
???????— Thad Mantaro ’87

Dan Chambliss.
— Rachel Manwill ’05

I was a first-generation college graduate, and I was going to be a math major, as it was considered "something you can get a job with," but I always had a fascination with languages, yet never had the opportunity to study them in high school. I found out that Hamilton was hiring a linguistics professor (Steven Caton) my junior year, so I cobbled together Hamilton's first linguistics self-designed major between English, German, philosophy, anthropology, and linguistics. I even had to miss a Choir Tour in England to complete a J-term course to make it happen!
— Ken Mattsson ’87

Professor [Gene] Tobin recruited me to be one of his inaugural American Studies majors. BEST decision I made at Hamilton.
— Lizzy Menges ’84

I came interested in both dance and religion. Prof. Jane Warner (Dance), Prof. David Miller (History), Prof. Ruth Rinard (History of Science), and Prof. Doug Raybeck (Anthropology) all affected my decision-making. Only at Kirkland at the time could I create my double major and do my senior project in both religion and dance. Profs. Warner and Miller "graded" my work. Back then religion was a Hamilton major, and dance was a Kirkland major. If you were a Hamilton student, you had to major in drama as you could not be a dance major until the schools merged. Many classes at Kirkland helped with my religious studies major such as History of Science (science and religion), history classes discussing CS Lewis, and classes in the Reformation and European Intellectual History as well as Jewish Studies classes at Kirkland. And then there were religion classes at Hamilton.
???????— Barbara Nixon K’76

Professor [Jesse] Weiner (Classics).
— Francesca Parson ’21

My advanced painting course with professor Katherine Kuharic.
— Juasline "Juju" Plasencia ’23

Independent study course in Hebrew.
???????— Tzipora Jaffe Reitman ’You 76

I was doing great in first year physics, which I planned to major in. But then Nixon bombed Cambodia, Kent State happened, and I was very political. So I opted to finish the second semester of physics by writing a (very bad) paper. In the fall I realized that I wasn't prepared for E&M and so didn't continue on the path. Probably the best thing that ever happened to the discipline of physics.
— Mark Richard ’73

Hadn't planned on minoring in geology, but Cindy Domack suggested I should with the classes I wanted to take.
???????— Jennifer Sandorf ’92

Tim Kelly.
— Aleem Siddiqui ’01

Sociology & Professor [Rhea] Datta.
— Dawun Smith ’22

Physics 190 with Professor [Kristen] Burson.
— Hudson Smith ’21

I took Introduction to American Studies with Professor Eugene Tobin and became the second student at Hamilton to graduate with a major in the discipline. Thirty years later, my daughter entered Hamilton believing that she would major in English and also switched to American Studies.
— Courtney Soling Smith ’86

I ended up with a double major — art (my intended major) and economics (unplanned). I have been doing cybersecurity for the last 20 years, and that didn't even exist when I was at Hamilton. (We learned PL1 programming with cards via the Cornell mainframe back then.)
— Tianne Strombeck ’81

Prof. Ed Lee, Asian History class. I was so inspired that I continued until I received my Ph.D. in Japanese history. I started out as a math major.
— Jeff Wagner ’70

Changed from geology to economics. Sid Wertimer was a great professor. Basic economics included accounting, where we learned that "debits are toward the window and credits are toward the door." He even wrote a nice recommendation letter for my successful application to the Wharton School.
— Chris Washburn ’63

Prof. Otto Liedke.
— Bill Wieting ’59

Channing Richardson and his International Relations (GOV 117) course.
— Drew Winner ’84


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