Hampton U. Liberal Arts majors aspire to educate

By Jasmine Berry

Popular wisdom has it that, “Those who can, do and those who can’t teach.”

But in speaking with Liberal Arts students regarding their post-graduation plans, it seems that those who can do, and those who can teach as well.

With the U.S. economy still recovering from the 2008-2009 recession and a job market that has college grads more anxious than ever, students are finding themselves at a crossroads when it comes to their futures.

Despite the bleak employment conditions, and conventional wisdom that says employable students must major in specialized fields, many students at Hampton University’s School of Liberal Arts continue to study what they are passionate about in hopes that one day they can educate kids much like themselves on the very subjects that interest them so much.

The School of Liberal Arts offers Bachelor of Arts [B.A.] degrees in English Arts, sociology, international studies, psychology, political science, history and fine and performing arts.

According to the university’s website, the school is the largest on campus. One in four HU students are Liberal Arts majors, the largest departments being psychology, political science and English.

Leighton Roye, a senior history major from Danbury, Conn. and Hampton University’s reigning “Mr. Pirate,” plans to teach high school history after he graduates in May through the Teach For America program.

“I just felt like as a black man I should give back to my community,” he says. “I thought teaching would be the best way for me to do that because that’s something that I enjoy doing.”

Roye says he looks forward to teaching American History, his favorite subject, so he can enlighten his students on the contributions of African-Americans to the growth of this nation.

Junior music major Madeline Keller of Dallas also aspires to teach, as a vocal coach. The mezzo-soprano sang in her church and school choir through middle and high school and sings in the university’s choir.

“I love music and I have a passion for teaching others about music,” she says. “A lot of people forget it is a foundational element in one’s upbringing. I want to help preserve music.”

Keller says she prefers teaching to performing because of the stability of the profession: “You’re on a regular stint, it’s more consistent,” in regards to teaching. After graduating in 2012, Keller plans to get her Masters degree in vocal performance.

Another aspiring HU educator is Jeremiah Carter, a sophomore English major from Houston.  He says English is his favorite subject due to its rich history: “Studying English gives us a big background on culture. A lot of what we study in English is just a translation of other cultures. It really gives me a lot of insight on other people.”

Carter has already mapped out his career within the education field. “I want to teach for the first five to seven years of my career,” he says. “I plan on getting my Masters here and working on my doctorate while I’m teaching. Then I want to go into administration and the legal side of education. I also plan on starting a program to introduce the idea of college to elementary students in inner-city and lower-income areas.”

Marvin Western, Ph.D., assistant professor of music, hopes to dispel the negative stigma often attached to teachers of the arts. “Sometimes people have a feeling that teaching is a fall-back occupation, but it’s not,” he says.

He cites the passion for his craft as his motivation for entering the field of education.

“Being a musician was the only thing I was interested in.”

Jennifer Randall, Ph.D., an English professor new to HU’s School of Liberal Arts, agrees that love of your subject is a good motivation for becoming an educator. However, she understands that many students may be motivated to teach the arts in lieu of performing them based on the stability teaching can offer.

“The cards are definitely stacked against us English majors,” she says. Randall says luckily she has aspired to teach since she was a child, however for those that have no desire to teach, it can be a “scramble around” and many English majors end up doing something they really don’t want to do.

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications