By Leticia Ceballos
In my junior year at UC Santa Barbara, I took an English class in which the professor instructed the class to break into pairs on the first day. She asked us to find out three facts about our partners: names, majors, and a “fun fact.” Then we had to introduce our partners to the class.
My partner stood up. “Her name is Leticia,” he said. “She is a twin. She is a history major who is going to be a teacher.”
To be fair, I did not inform my partner that I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child. But nor did I ever mention to him any desire to be a teacher.
I didn’t correct him. The subject was never raised again. But I could not shake an unsettling feeling that there are strong preconceived assumptions about certain majors.
As I reflect on this now, I wonder why people assume that studying history inevitably leads to being a teacher. If I had said I was in math, physics, or engineering, would he have come to the same conclusion? Several friends, family members, and coworkers have also made that assumption; my plans for law school always seems to surprise them.
While I strongly believe some of us are meant to teach the future leaders of our world, I know I am not one of those people. Having the privilege to learn history does not mean I am qualified to be a teacher, or that this is my only potential career path.
These reactions prompted me to research what other people have accomplished with their humanities degrees. It turns out that one’s major might not mean as much as you might think. According to figures provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 51 percent of students who enrolled in medical school in 2012 majored in biological sciences.
“That means the remaining medical school matriculates majored in humanities, math or statistics, physical sciences, social sciences or specialized health sciences,” wrote Edward Chang, a medical school admissions consultant, in U.S. News and World Report.
As well, Columbia Law School’s student profile for 2017 revealed that 7 percent of students admitted were history majors, with another 12 percent coming from other humanities majors. Maybe you knew these obscure facts. I sure did not — but I was relieved to find out that there are strong statistics to back my law school ambitions.
I wanted to prove, mostly to myself, that I could do more with my history-focused education than stay in the classroom. So, a few months ago, I googled “What can I do with a history degree?” and was routed to the UC Santa Barbara History Department website. I noticed immediately that teaching was not the first career listed. Instead it was “civil rights lawyer.” After reading the list of potential careers, I eagerly looked into specific alumni within the History Department and one notable local alumnus stood out: retired Judge Frank Ochoa. According to an article on the history department’s website, not only was he the youngest judge to be appointed to Santa Barbara’s Superior Court, he was also its “first Hispanic judge in the 21st Century.” I was inspired to learn about Ochoa’s success within the legal field, and also about his impact on our local history.
I can now say with great certainty that studying history has prepared me well for the next phase of my education. Though I used to feel disappointed when people assume I want to be a teacher solely because I am a history major, I now welcome this assumption. We must begin a dialogue about our preconceived notions regarding certain majors. It is those beliefs that limit us — not our curriculum choices that do so. That’s why I choose to no longer feel limited by what other people think about my education qualifications.
Leticia Ceballos is a Senior, studying History at UC Santa Barbara.