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ESS?minor grows in popularity

Irena Zajickova | Sunday, August 30, 2009

Notre Dame’s Education, Schooling and Society (ESS) minor has only existed for eight years, but during that time, it has morphed from a small program of only twelve students to one of the most popular minors in the College of Arts and Letters.

Nancy McAdams, the program’s undergraduate advisor, said the massive growth in popularity is easy to explain – the minor’s subject matter is unique.

“I think it has filled a need on campus that was there that no one has recognized,” McAdams said. “Students want to learn about education. They come from good educational backgrounds, so that’s inspired them to learn about education. Also, a lot of them want to give back to the community, so ESS teaches them how to give back to the community in a very satisfying way.”

The ESS curriculum is comprised of a combination of traditional lecture classes and a senior-year research component, where students conduct studies at local schools targeting specific problems. McAdams said this research is a pivotal part of the minor because it shows students how they can help.

“It gives them the satisfaction of working on real problems, so they feel like they’re doing something authentic that will make a difference,” she said.

The minor has about 100 students every year. Although some students who minor in ESS decide not to go into education, those who plan to will benefit from the strong foundation it provides, according to junior Elizabeth Young.

“The ESS minor is kind of like the sociology of education as opposed to a teacher certification program,” she said. “I think it will give me a good background to work with Spanish-speaking children or get involved with ESL classes.”

Senior Tommy Walton said ESS complements his computer science major and has helped him develop a career path.

“I became an ESS minor because I am studying to be a videogame developer, and I was interested in researching the effectiveness of videogames as educational tools,” he said.

Another benefit of the ESS minor is the variety of electives offered, Young said.

“I think the ESS minor gives its students a lot of flexibility and freedom to pursue their individual education-related interests,” Young said. “Students can take anything from abnormal psychology to Mexican-American history to coaching youth sports and it all counts toward the minor.”

Whatever students’ reasons for minoring in ESS, McAdams said choosing to do so will help them in later life, especially if they decide to go into education and try to improve the education system.

“I wish I’d had this minor, I would’ve understood going right into the classroom what is the best way to approach education so that the students will be participating citizens later in their lives,” she said.