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Academic major only one of many factors in lifelong success, leaders say

| Judy Berthiaume

What do UW-Eau Claire’s leaders and successful graduates tell college-age students who have not yet found the right major or a specific career path?

There is more to lifelong success than picking a major early or earning a safe-bet degree.

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt and Gary Berg, a 1979 UW-Eau Claire graduate who is CEO and founder of the G.L. Berg Entertainment agency in Minneapolis, are quoted extensively in a USA Today Network story about college students who are undecided on their major.

"Employers want people who can think liberally — see both sides and listen, who know how to learn, are creative problem solvers, good communicators and have empathy and ethics," says Berg, who was honored in 2015 as a distinguished alumnus and was the university’s commencement speaker.

An English major in college who never took a business class, Berg now runs one of the largest talent agencies in the Midwest and teaches entrepreneurship.

"It happened because I left this institution prepared," he states in the story. "I had learned a set of tools that still serve me well today."

"I learned to read and listen critically; not to blindly accept things. I learned to speak and write thoughtfully. I learned to respect and seek out people who had other ideas. Because it's only by doing that, that we truly get smarter and move forward."

Schmidt states in the USA Today Network story — published in multiple newspapers and websites — that he encourages students to avoid delaying graduation by earning “too many majors,” a strategy some students use to hedge their bets when they enter the workforce.

"They may be better served thinking up leadership roles in clubs and organizations and being involved in all the other things that happen in a university," he said of his advice to students.

In the story, the chancellor stresses learning through internships, undergraduate research and studying abroad.

Read the full story, “College major undecided? You're not alone, and here's what to do about it,” in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Photo caption: Blugolds study organic chemistry during Winterim.