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STEM students share their thoughts on stereotypes of themselves, other majors

September 29, 2022
Illustration by Madison Echlin
Illustration by Madison Echlin

Out of the over 200 majors at Michigan State University, STEM programs are often seen as the most work-intensive of the bunch.

Human biology sophomore Anthony Mulhem said he finds himself spending five to six hours on homework a night. This is actually lower than average, he said, as his classes are still taking time to gear up for the semester.

“At the peak, it's more like seven to eight because there's just a lot more work to do,” Mulhem said. “Personally, for me, I need to really go over the material often, just so I can either memorize it or understand it really well."

Environmental engineering senior Joshua “JJ” Ringling said that while he was taking 17 or 18 credits of online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, his workload looked similar. 

Ringling said he thinks many STEM majors tend to be arrogant and cocky, and that a lot of them believe they are better than students with other majors – particularly business.

"There definitely are comments here and there about 'Business isn't a real major, you're just here to party,'" Ringling said. "I tried to tend (to stay) away from that kind of behavior, personally. I mean, not to sound all high and mighty, but I would say the sentiment certainly is there amongst STEM majors.”

Political science-pre-law senior Brian Hough, who minors in data analytics, said there is a notable difference between his political science classes for his major and his STEM classes for his minor. While he said STEM classes are harder, there is also a difference in the attitudes of the students.

“It's a breeding ground for God complexes for sure,” Hough said. “You've gathered a bunch of the people who have been deemed the smartest in their class for the past 10 or so years, and then you've told them all that they're about the same and they should compete with each other.”

Neuroscience and psychology junior Avi Bloch said another experience unique to STEM majors is people assuming your intelligence when you tell them about your program.

"People think automatically that I'm doing the hardest thing possible. Which simply that's not necessarily true," Bloch said. "There are some people (in neuroscience) who act a little bit more like they have more on their plate than they do. Or if not necessarily more on their plate, but they act as if they have the hardest job that the school could give them."

While they aren’t the only ones at MSU that have entire buildings or sections of campus devoted to their major's classes, Bloch said STEM majors do tend to be “cliquey” and he finds himself spending more time with people in his classes. 

He said a reason for this is that the classes are difficult and group-based, making it the perfect environment for cliques to form.

“It's not made for a crossover,” Bloch said. “It's made for a specific major within different parts of campus. So, there’s not honestly a chance for anybody to interact if they're not in a club or some other thing on campus.”

Ringling said while his roommates all have different majors than him, he sometimes wishes he had branched out and met more people outside of his program. He said it is good to meet people with different perspectives. 

Mulhem agrees with this, saying whenever he meets someone outside of his major, he is eager to learn about their interests.

“Someone who's doing an art major, or someone who's a communication major or a ComArts major, I find that so interesting, because I've never lived a life like that,” Mulhem said. “I've never had an interest in such things, and maybe they can expand my interests as well.”

Bloch said while there will always be differences in the way people view majors at MSU, they shouldn’t think of them as more or less difficult than each other. He said people shouldn’t see neuroscience or other studies as something more difficult than other things, just as something that interests him personally.

“There's definitely differences between all the majors and how they're perceived,” Bloch said. “I think there's a lot of people who underestimate majors and there's a lot of people who overestimate majors. And that's just because what we're interested in is different.”

This story was featured in our STEM edition. Read the full issue here.

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