Modified majors are a popular option for Dartmouth students. Intended to fit the needs of a student who has a definite interest in the major department, but whose interests cannot be fulfilled in one singular department, these majors exemplify what a liberal arts degree is all about.
Tyler Baum ’20 and Hunter Cohen ’20 are each a great example of how a modified major works perfectly for their career goals. Cohen knew he was interested in working at an engineering company but did not want to be an engineer as he was more interested in looking at the nuances of policy in different fields than solely developing a technical background. Baum was interested in the intersection of engineering and the business side of the manufacturing industry. Dartmouth gave each the perfect opportunity to develop the technical and analytical skill sets necessary for these careers with the Engineering and Public Policy major, a joint offering of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Thayer School of Engineering.
The major combines the technical aspects of engineering with additional areas essential for policymaking, including economics, ethics, and policy analysis. The modified major is intended both for engineers who want to influence public policy, and policymakers interested in gaining a working understanding of technology.
For Baum and Cohen, this major has been beneficial for experiences both inside and outside the classroom. When asked about classwork required of the major, both Baum and Cohen stressed that each class they took was new and exciting, and that none of the major courses were redundant. For each, the coursework has seamlessly fused together outside of the classroom, as the major program has given them the opportunity to develop their quantitative expertise and build a technical skill set while also always challenging them to think creatively and analytically.
Professor Ron Shaiko, Senior Fellow and the Associate Director for Curricular and Research Programs at The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, expanded upon this, saying, "When the dean of the Thayer School and I first conceived of this combined major, we had students like Tyler [Baum] and Hunter [Cohen] in mind. What started with a single student in the Class of 2011 has grown nicely to include several students in recent classes."
Baum also praised the fact that the public policy faction of the major is flexible, allowing students to choose a specific policy track and build a unique set of courses to best prepare them for their post-graduate lives. Baum has chosen to pursue the Economic Policy track, which he says has helped him develop a nuance understanding of the aspects important to a business’ success and taught him how to develop a prosperous business plan.
Cohen is pursuing the Environmental Policy track, which has allowed him to focus on urban and rural development and think critically about the ways countries develop and governments interact. He was able to put both aspects of the major into practice for his ENGS 21 course project. Cohen's group project focused on creating better backup batteries for parking meters in Hanover. The assignment required Cohen to utilize skills developed in his public policy classes, such as working with the municipality, while also implementing skills learned in his engineering classes. His team constructed a solution based on the testing of multiple batteries to determine real and possible causes of the short battery life. This solution proved so successful that he started the business, Meter Solutions Group, which has sold hundreds of batteries to date.
Click here for more information on the Engineering Sciences Major Modified with Public Policy.
Written by Anneliese Thomas ’19, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Communication.