December 16, 2022 | CULTURE | By Alexandra Akinchina | Illustration by Emmaline Hawley

Welcome to the final edition of CC Alumni Advice! In this last edition, you’ll hear from three more alumni about their experiences choosing a major at CC.

Ravi Donepudi ’14 majored in mathematics. He always liked science and math and came to CC thinking that he would “do a 3-2 program in engineering and mathematics.”

But what made him change his mind?

He stated, “I took a couple of math classes and loved the department so much it seemed silly to not spend as much time as possible with them, so I didn’t bother with the engineering anymore.”

He later added jokingly, “I took Geometry (MA300) with Stefan Erickson as a freshman and got destroyed in that class and immediately decided that math was the field for me and declared a major.”

He felt majoring in mathematics was and still is the best decision ever. “I was able to explore mathematics much more deeply than I would otherwise have been able to.”

His advice to CC students? To make sure you enjoy what you study. “Breadth is important but you’ve gotta dig deep too in your field of study, and this is going to be torture if you don’t like what you’re doing.”

Currently, he is a quantitative strategist at Goldman Sachs in the debt capital markets space.

Hollis Schmidt ’18 majored in English – creative writing. She chose her major because of the professors she had met in her classes. But English was not her first choice.

“Originally, I was an Environmental Science major because I was influenced by others who were in my ear about job opportunity in that space post-graduation,” said Schmidt. “I switched majors late in the game and spent the rest of my time studying in Armstrong, but I was so much happier.”

She encourages CC students “to listen to how you feel in different classes,” even though it is also important to think about what field you want to go into post-graduation.

Currently, she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and works in an inpatient psychiatric hospital.

Keith Weber ’12 majored in international political economy and Russian and Eurasian studies. He states that he “came into CC extremely interested in Russia, the history of the Cold War, Soviet history, etc.” Back during that time, he mentioned, “even despite serious differences, US-Russian relations were optimistic and hopeful, and I wanted to be a part of a new generation who conceived of bilateral relations differently.”

However, he felt he was not cut out for Russian his freshman year. “I really struggled with the language, which did not come naturally to me, as it did to some of my other classmates.” He loved the literature and the films, but “after my freshman year, I told my parents I wanted to quit and study something else.” His parents urged him to give it another try.

“My attitude changed when I took a block in Ukraine in 2011 during the summer with Professors John Gould and Alexei Pavlenko in Crimea, then part of Ukraine, pre-Russian annexation,” he said. “The experience was life changing in so many ways. It was the first time I could actually use the language in a real-life setting, and learning there itself could not be matched.”

Even though the language did not come easy to him, he kept up his Russian studies after graduation and felt more comfortable with it over time.

His advice for CC students? “If you like something, keep doing it. Even if it does not come naturally. Even if you want to quit at first,” he said. “If your passion is there and you are truly interested in exploring the topic further, keep going. Push yourself… Nothing in life worth having comes easy, and it may take 3-4 years for it to properly ‘click’ for you, to feel you have reached a critical point.”

He added, “But you don’t need to be the best at something to love it, and your love for it will result in dividends later on, if you apply yourself.”

Currently, Weber works for the U.S. Department of State, working with foreign partners on threat reduction issues. He ends his story with a reflection on his current job and past studies.

“The job affords me the opportunity to feel I make a real impact, travel the world, work with partners all across the world, etc.,” he said. “I can truly say I would not be where I am now, if I did not persist in my Russian and Eurasian studies major, despite tremendous struggle at the time.”

Through all of my interviews with alumni, it was clear to me that each person had a unique perspective and experience in college. Each person struggles, in some way, with their decision, their major, and their career path. But through my conversations, I have learned the importance of listening to how you feel, pushing through struggle, and remaining authentic. Only then can we align ourselves with our purpose – even if that changes over time.

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