“ ... So, what’s your major?”

That's probably the second question you ask when you meet someone new, right after, "What’s your name?"

Once you’re out of college-land, this harmless question will grow up to be, “So ... what do you do?” And how will you answer this question? Why, with your job of course! Which, hopefully, will sound very similar to how you answered the previous inquiry in college.

At least, that’s what we are led to believe. Our world is changing. The workplace that our parents and grandparents graduated into is no more. Company structure once dominated how people worked — you take care of the company with long years of loyalty and the company takes care of you with salaried benefits. Today that old system has crumbled. As jobs moved overseas, companies are no longer the hallowed bread-winners of entire towns but the economy floundered and jobs were cut. Rochester without Kodak is a grave example of this phenomena.

Technology has changed how we find employment and also what kind of employment is most sought after. The loss of our blue-collar jobs and the rise of our smartphones have ushered in a new era of what social scientist Richard Florida, has called "the creative class" – theartists, engineers, programmers, researchers and designers. Creative thought, problem solving and communication skills are most important in today's workforce; it’s what keeps automation from taking all of our jobs away.

How did you decide what you wanted to be? And why is that so hard to answer, anyway? It might be because you’re only allowed one answer — and usually a one-word answer at that. However, none of us have only one interest, talent or skill. You most likely won’t spend your entire adult life working one job either. You won’t have one career; you’ll have several. The only way to prepare you for this prismatic career path is to capitalize on all of your aptitudes. People who have multiple skills can do more in the workplace and are generally more valuable in the workplace.

As colleges and universities realize this, more options have become available. You can double major. You can have a minor. You can even double minor. At some institutions, you can go so far as to create your own major. RIT itself has such a program, through the School of Individualized Study.  

SOIS allows students to create a program for themselves that has a professional core and also a lot of general education courses. But while it's a good option for some, SOIS’ program does not provide as much freedom as one might think. These classes must be specific to your personalized degree — you can’t just take whatever suits your fancy.

One option you may not know about is that you can actually design your own immersion at RIT, termed a "specialty immersion", however, there must be sound reasoning to the structure of your immersion. This option allows students to personalize their course of study to more closely reflect their interest and goals. It may not be as nice as a self-made minor, but you’ll still have the knowledge and skills regardless of what a piece of paper says. Considering the outrageous tuition we pay to study here, it's pretty ridiculous to be unable to fully study what you really want to in an individualized study program.

The freedom to solder all of our talents together in our studies is key. Many ancient philosophers and explorers who first formed the course of histories, founders of modern movements, inventions that changed our world and other great advancements for humankind were works of polymaths. The intersection of ideas is where invention happens. But RIT's strict, specific courses of study prevent this from happening, unless you really like taking over 18 credits and not sleeping.

This very semester, RIT made it onto the U.S. News and World Reports list of top 100 universities in the country. As students, we are the movers and shakers of the world. We have the skills to impact what we see needs to be changed. We have that ability and thus also the responsibility to do so. But we need to allow people the flexibility to enrich all pieces of themselves in order to reach that full potential.

Think about how you would like to answer the question, "What do you do?" I wish people would answer it with many things — "go to the gym," "spend time with family" or "volunteer for change."  Our lives are made up of how we express and act upon the many pieces of ourselves. We aren’t one thing. We aren’t a one-word answer. We aren’t a career and we aren’t a major. This isn’t the only time you have to learn and grow. If your major isn’t the perfect fit for all facets of yourself, don’t sweat it; we are all more complex than a title on a degree. RIT must reflect this by further developing the flexibility of study in order to foster the next generation of thinkers and doers.