Economy impacts student career choice

By Kevin Graham

Selecting a major in college can sometimes be a difficult task for students.

The state of the economy has combined with an ever-faster flow of information to make the future seem confusing and unclear for students. New phrases like ‘terror cell,’ ‘going green’ and ‘social media’ have students preparing for a job market unlike any before it.

However, it is possible that OU students could apply the experiences of past generations to reach a better future.

Author David George Ball explores this idea as part of his memoir, “A Marked Heart,” which details his personal transformation as a student at Yale after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak.

“Although my father was a Baptist minister, I had never before heard of a minister who was politically active, and even organized a boycott of segregated buses,” Ball said. “A few days after his visit, I changed my major to political science. My senior thesis was about integration of schools in the South.”

The issues have changed, but Ball feels students are as swayed by current events today as they were in his youth.

“Today students are concerned about a host of problems, including the environment, wasting natural resources, poverty and disease,” Ball explained. “Many of them focus on careers that can make a difference in the world, such as environmental science, engineering, medicine, political science and education.”

OU junior Carly Zacharias shared Ball’s sentiment.

“I chose my major as English because I’ve always wanted to teach and that is my favorite subject.”

Ball said that economic realities present a very real challenge.

“The problem of finding a job along with the burden of repaying loans drives many young people to pursue a safe career path,” Ball said.

Despite the advance of such services as Google and social media sites, Ball thinks students will continue to cultivate traditional sources of guidance. He sees today’s students are more likely to turn to their parents for advice, hoping their experience will prove beneficial.

Although the situation is difficult, Ball still believes students can affect change.

“Hopefully (students) will not abandon their idealism, but rather pursue the example of Dr. King with the Montgomery bus strike and try to change just that part of the world where they can make a difference.”