Jill Robbins

Spanish and Portuguese professor Jill Robbins speaks on the issue of where certain majors will lead students after graduating in Benedict Hall on Wednesday.  She believes that liberal arts majors give students experience and insight that may be applied in many different fields.

Photo Credit: Claire Trammel | Daily Texan Staff

The number one regret of college graduates is not getting more work experience during school, while choosing the wrong major came in fourth place, according to a Pew research study.

When asked how they could have better prepared for their careers, 50 percent of graduates said they wished they would have gained more work experience, and 29 percent said they should have chosen a different major, according to the survey.

Spanish and Portuguese professor Jill Robbins said there’s a tendency to think some kinds of majors, such as engineering, have a pathway into immediate employment, and others, such as foreign languages, do not. But she said college is not vocational training.

“It’s scary because a lot of chatter that you hear is narrowly focused on a certain kind of work,” Robbins said. “You don’t want to be that kind of worker; you want to be a worker who can move around and do creative and intelligent things. So turn down the chatter.”

According to sociology professor Penny Green, sociology is one of the most versatile majors, but the challenge both advisers and professors face is how to help sociology students understand the marketable skills they have.

“The final exam [of my applied sociology class] involved searching for a job that they would like to do and then telling me, in the form of a cover letter, why they are uniquely qualified for that job, as well as constructing a resume to help them sell themselves to a potential employer,” Green said.

Robbins said, in addition to certain classes that help prepare students for work, the College of Liberal Arts also has a very strong career services program. Nancy Sutherland, the academic advising coordinator for the Department of History, said most internships and career opportunities for liberal arts students are coordinated through the counselors in Liberal Arts Career Services.

“[The counselors] let students from other colleges use the career services in liberal arts because it’s so excellent,” Robbins said.

Robbins said a liberal arts education offers students a richer intellectual life and a skill set that can help graduates connect and reach out to possible employers.

“The broader your education is, the more you know about different kinds of things; the richer your life is, the richer your possibilities of communicating with other people [are],” Robbins said. “And that opens up all kinds of opportunities for work.”

Seven new department chairs have been appointed in the College of Liberal Arts, UT’s largest college. Four are women, making one-third of the department chairs in the University female.

Kristen Brustad, Dan Dixon, Mary Neuberger, Jill Robbins, Christine Williams, James Pennebaker and Cory Juhl were appointed as the new chairs.

Department of Middle Eastern Studies Chair Kristen Brustad said there is still work to be done to achieve racial and gender equality.

“One-third of the chairs at the University are women,” Brustad said. “I think that it is excellent so many incredible women are being promoted. But we still have a long way to go with other minorities. We have made a lot of progress.”

Brustad said big changes are on the horizon in Middle Eastern studies. The department is consolidating its majors to offer one major in Middle Eastern languages and cultures, instead of several in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Turkish.

She said she feels honored that her colleagues are confident in her abilities.

“The support of the department means a lot to me, and I’m excited to be working with a really dynamic and excellent group of faculty,” Brustad said. “That’s what encouraged me to accept this position.”

Jill Robbins was named chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. All chairs receive a pay raise and two months of summer salary, but Robbins said pay was not a deciding factor in taking the position.

“I was driven by my belief in the mission of this department, in the strength of our faculty, students and staff, and in our future as the top department of Spanish and Portuguese in the country,” she said.

Robbins said she is already taking steps to improve the department by setting aside endowment funds for graduate student research, revising and updating the curriculum and expanding the faculty.

The department chair job requires more multitasking and availability to other members of the department, she said.

“Being chair is a heavy responsibility and takes a great deal of time. In addition to more paperwork, I will be spending more time with my colleagues, administrators, staff and students but in a different role,” said Pennebaker, the new chair of the Department of Psychology.

He said he feels honored to be chosen as the chair and is excited for the challenge.

The Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies chair Mary Neuberger said that this new position will require less teaching and more decision making.

“There is a lot of diplomacy involved between faculty, students and administration,” Neuberger said. “It’s more stressful.”

However, her experiences have taught her a lot about how the University is run.

Neuberger’s department is in danger of being cut, but she said she is optimistic in saying “leadership is necessary in a time of crisis.”

“It’s challenging, but I think in a good way,” she said. “We can step up and shine and make things work.”