Music majors pursuing dual degrees form association for extra support

Ayla Gotkan, Reporter

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Five Northwestern upperclassmen founded this August an association that will provide an extra support system for music dual degree students.

The group, the Association for Music Dual Degree Students, held its first meeting Sunday.

Weinberg and Bienen fifth-year senior Janice Li, who spearheaded AMDD, said dual degree students face particular issues spanning from “fulfilling core requirements in both schools to the possibility of combining two passions into one career goal.”  

NU offers undergraduate students in the Bienen School of Music the opportunity to earn two degrees in five years by enrolling in a second school: the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science or the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

Li, a psychology and piano major, decided to conduct serious research on the experiences of dual degree students in January. Li won the Undergraduate Engagement Grant this summer with her preliminary research and proposal.

“I have interviewed students who have successfully navigated the program and those who dropped out of the program, as well as faculty, administrators and advisers who work directly with the dual degree students,” Li said. “The goal of the assessment project is to identify the issues DD students struggle (with) at different stages and come up with practical solutions to strengthen the effectiveness of the program in achieving higher college satisfaction ratings.”

Li’s desire to find practical solutions led her to form AMDD. During the summer, she contacted the four other upperclassmen who currently serve with her on the AMDD Board of Directors: Weinberg and Bienen junior Davis King, McCormick and Bienen senior Lee Fan, McCormick and Bienen senior Cameron Dennis and Weinberg and Bienen fifth-year senior Talar Khosdeghian.

Khosdeghian said the mission of AMDD is “to create a peer-supported network” that specifically addresses the needs of dual degree students. Of the board of directors, she said, “We’re here to share our personal experiences, insights and goals.”

Li has held ongoing discussions with dual degree students to assess their experiences and struggles. She said her conversations have revealed that, to succeed, “students must constantly reflect on their reasons for choosing the program, finishing the program and relating the program to their future plans.”

AMDD provides a forum in which dual degree students can do just that. McCormick and Bienen freshman Michael Hopkins is taking 5.5 credits this quarter; a full course load at NU is typically only four.

“It’s a lot of work, but … I like the balance,” Hopkins said. “I feel like I work best like that.”

Weinberg and Bienen senior Ian Hendrickson has been keeping up a similar pace for years and until now, he has not had the extra support of a group like AMDD.  Hendrickson said AMDD would have helped him during his dual degree experience at NU.

“It is during the first two or two-and-a half years that students tend to question why they are in the program and we see a high drop-out rate,” Hendrickson said. “I think this group will really help rally peer support and in doing so, help keep students within the program.”

Weinberg and Bienen freshman Kaileigh Riess agreed that a support system for dual degrees system is essential.

“Being a dual degree student can be overwhelming, but it’s great … to be surrounded by such incredible professors, advisors, and peers,” Riess said.

AMDD has not yet set any future meeting dates. Li said the association will wait to see how people participate in online discussions before making plans. So far, AMDD has a Facebook page, and Li said its website should become available before Winter Quarter.