Editor’s Note: This story was written by Jordan Modjeski.
Saint Mary’s University sports 76 majors in its undergraduate program, but Dr. Scott Sorvaag, a professor of education, is looking to increase this to 77 by adding a leadership major to the upcoming catalog. Sorvaag has been a key proponent so far in creating this new major at Saint Mary’s.
Sorvaag stated that the roots for a leadership major go back to the spring of 2018, when a group of Saint Mary’s faculty convened to put together a mini-grant for a leadership program. “We did some summer study on what would happen if we decided to go a little bit further. That led to, amongst other things, some continued work in this area to explore leadership as a major,” said Sorvaag.
This process does not come without obstacles, however, as Sorvaag stressed the difficulty of adding a new major when others are being removed due to lack of interest. Regarding the topic, Sorvaag said, “We’re trying to figure out both a respectful and responsible way to [add the major], but also not to forget that even as we change and some academic programs go away, we do have to make room not only for what students are asking for, but [also for] what students need to become who they are and to serve in the world after Saint Mary’s.”
In hopes of progressing this addition, Sorvaag, along with members of the entry-level Leadership Theory and Practice course, met with higher level faculty last April to express their passion for leadership and the possibility of a leadership major at the university. Students ranged from first-years to seniors, and, according to Sorvaag, they did not feel the pressure of this discussion.
Amongst these students were Jordan Keeley and Robbie Sobczak, a freshman and senior, respectively. Both Keeley and Sobczak expressed a similar passion for this leadership major, despite their differences of year and major.
Keeley, a biology pre-physical therapy major who is pursuing a minor in leadership, believes that a leadership major at Saint Mary’s will strengthen the community as a whole and help build future leaders. “We have the opportunity to drive a change in the world, an opportunity to be the change that is needed,” she said, regarding the impact she believes this major could have. “I think we can help create future leaders that are selfless and willing to sacrifice for others.”
Sobczak, a social studies education major, seconded Keeley’s passionate response, saying, “I think these leadership classes make you a better person.” Like Sorvaag, however, Sobczak understands the difficulty that creating a new major could create. Even so, he said, “When it comes to the steps to making this happen, yes, it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be worth it.”
Sorvaag, too, believes that this will have a lasting impact for anyone pursuing any kind of career. “I think it’s going to be a real value added to people regardless of their other major, because of the way we’ve thought about developing this as an enhancer to other majors.” He believes that the value of this major would enrich students in every field, setting them apart from the average applicant. “What if people who are going to go on to be physicians also studied leadership? What if people who went on to lead businesses also studied leadership? What if people who went on to teach also studied leadership?”
This new leadership major would carry the same first 18 credits as the current minor, as well as other courses determined by the communication department. According to Sorvaag, much of the timeline for this major is still up in the air. However, he hopes that this major will be a part of the next catalog, seeing as it aligns well with Saint Mary’s new strategic plan.