The School of Computing and Information building on Bellefield Avenue in Oakland.

“Sets You Apart”: New Majors Offer Competitive Job Opportunities

Before applying to college, Annabelle Cotton, a junior digital storytelling and interactive design student, found herself torn between studying computer engineering and studying English and media. She didn’t just want to study coding, but she didn’t want to just study humanities either.

“I found there was this major where I could do about half and half of that – still work with people, but still work in a STEM field that was really important to me,” Cotton said. a peer adviser at Pitt’s School of Computing and Information, said. “So when I found out that Pitt had this major, it solidified my decision to come to Pitt in general.”

Pitt has added several new majors since 2018 that give students the opportunity to pursue a wider range of careers after graduation. Majors such as Digital Storytelling and Interactive Design, Museum Studies, and Public and Professional Writing prepare students for a variety of positions in the competitive and ever-changing job market.

Cotton said the University began offering the DNID major in 2019 and requires students to take a combination of computer science and English composition courses. According to SCI Web page, the DNID major is offered jointly by the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and SCI, and teaches students how to construct interactive narrative systems through games, literature, virtual reality environments, and other media experiences in a variety of domains.

Maria D’Anniballe, undergraduate advisor and lecturer in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, said the University officially began offering the major in Museum Studies in the semester of Fall 2020. According to AHA Department web page, students in this program discover the histories and politics of museology and develop the critical and theoretical tools to confront the ethical complexities of collecting and preserving works of art, visual and material culture.

“[Museum studies] is flexible and interdisciplinary,” said D’Anniballe. “It allows students to consider a career that can have multiple paths.”

Dana Nowlin-Russell, director of the public and professional writing program, said the University began offering the public and professional writing major in 2018. According to the composition program webpage, major PPW enables students to engage in rigorous intellectual work that will deepen their engagement with writing as a form of social action and professional exchange that has consequences in the world.

“The PPW major is ideal for students heading into industries where writing is an essential component of the job,” Nowlin-Russell said. “The major is designed to help students develop skills to communicate in professional spaces and the public sphere.”

Cotton said the DNID major prepares students for future careers in areas such as game design, graphics, user experience, user interface, sales engineering and web design.

“Whether [students] I want to work in a STEM company and do more human interfaces and experiences, that’s what you would specialize in,” Cotton said.

D’Annibale said the Museum Studies major is ideal for students who wish to pursue careers in museums or other cultural institutions such as libraries, historic sites, national and federal heritage sites, organizations at nonprofit or community programs. She also said that students pursuing a degree in museum studies often have a double major in another field.

“It’s a major that also allows our students to connect their interests in art, art history, and art objects with other majors,” D’Anniballe said. “For example, we have a number of double majors who are students pursuing museum studies alongside other majors such as anthropology, communication, history, and art history.”

Nowlin-Russell said students can pursue a variety of careers after earning a PPW degree.

“From working at nonprofits, universities and public agencies to law firms, marketing and advertising companies, there’s so much you can do,” Nowlin-said Russell.

Cotton said that in the summer of 2021, she got a job as a sales engineer at ChartMogul, a software analytics company based in Berlin, Germany. She said she helped design advertisements for the company and worked on the website. She also said the company sent her to a conference in Silicon Valley for a week where she spoke with customers, gave demos and identified issues with customers that could be changed.

“It was about figuring out how to communicate how technology works to buyers who don’t have a tech degree, they’re just buyers for their business,” Cotton said.

According to Cotton, if someone is applying for a tech job, coding is a skill that almost all applicants have. She said that as society begins to move towards more personalized technology and AI, “being well-rounded” is the most important skill tech companies are looking for. She said the DNID major taught her coding, math, communication and creativity, giving her a wide range of skills.

“That’s what’s really going to set you apart, especially in today’s job market,” Cotton said. “That’s what’s going to make you special.”

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