• Explore Their Path

    Use this blog to learn about students, faculty, staff, and alumni in your majors of interest. Find Your Major Tribe!

  • Explore Stories By Major

Alessandra Maisielou Rivera, Medicinal Synthetic Chemistry Major and Catholic Studies Minor

Alessandra RiveraName: Alessandra Maisielou Rivera

Major(s), Minor(s), Program(s): Major: Medicinal Synthetic Chemistry, Minor: Catholic Studies, Program: St. Ignatius Institute

Previous Major (s), Minor(s), Program(s): Previous Major: Psychology, Previous Minor: Neuroscience

What attracted you to your initial major(s) and minor(s)?:

I originally wanted to major in neuroscience or cognitive sciences going into college, but USF did not offer those as a major so I settled for what was similar. I had always been fascinated with the brain and wanted to study more about it and psychology had the most similar output. I also thought if I can’t major in neuroscience, might as well minor in it and major in something else.

What inspired you to change programs?:

My first semester of college, I was taking 2 psychology classes, general chemistry, and theology. I was doing really well in my classes, but I wasn’t feeling challenged enough or was learning the material I hoped to learn in psychology. I became more fascinated with my chemistry and theology class more than my major classes. I talked to a couple different departments, but what really stood out to me was chemistry. I talked to my professor and told him about my situation, met the faculty and talked to students within the major and knew it was the right fit for me.

I was also doing well in general chemistry and had always been more of a math and science person, so I bit the bullet and switched majors. I was really attracted to the logical thinking of chemistry. It’s like a puzzle. All the pieces are given to you, and it’s your task to piece them altogether to create the bigger picture.

What do you like best about your current major(s) and minor(s)?:

I like how challenging my major can be. It really gets me thinking and pushes me to think outside of the box and stay curious. I like to think that chemistry is the mid ground between physics and biology. There’s physical chemistry, there’s biochemistry, there’s medicinal chemistry, etc. being able to see all these different subjects come together within the frame work of chemistry is amazing!

What I like about minoring in Catholic Studies is that it helps me balance between my science classes and humanities classes. I had always been involved with the youth ministry growing up and being able to learn more about it and how it pertains to different fields has been really intriguing. I feel like the contrast between my major and minor really allows me to express both of my passions rather than having to settle for one or the other.

What is most challenging about your current major(s) and minor(s)?:

The most challenging part about Chemistry is trying to balance between my academic and social life. My classes can get very taxing at times and requires a lot of studying outside of classroom instruction. If I fall behind in one of the topics, it gets really difficult to catch up so I’m constantly hitting the books and going to office hours. However, at the same time, I am a social butterfly and love going out with friends and exploring the city. Sometimes, I find it difficult when I have to decided whether to be a good student and stay in to study or go out and catch up with friends at Wing Wednesday.

What sort of internship and career opportunities have you explored?:

I interned at the SF Medical Examiner’s Office in the Toxicology Department and I interned for the Diocese of Oakland with their Cultural Ministries. I’m also a volunteer with UCSF’s Corpus Clinic as a clinical coordinator and pre-med volunteer.

I have also explored opportunities in the biotech industry by participating in the Trek Tours through Career Services where I got to tour and visit Genentech and Gilead.

What sort of extracurricular activities have your participated in?:

I am currently involved with our USF Club Rock Climbing Team, Hui’O Hawaii, GO Team, University Ambassadors, Corpus Clinic, American Chemical Society, University Ministry, and St. Ignatius Parish.

What resources helped you with your exploration journey?:

I talk with my major advisor a lot and found it really helpful to talk to my other professors during office hours and get to know them and build a network. I’ve also utilized Career Services and have also found it helpful to talk to upperclassman about their experiences and ask them about tips, advice, and opportunities they would recommend.

What advice do you have for students exploring majors?

Don’t be afraid to do something for the sake of curiosity. You start to understand what your passions and interests are the more you get involved with different clubs and activities, talk to different people, and take different classes. You don’t need to get everything right the first time around, it’s ok to switch majors. Just keep exploring, utilize all your resources, and build a strong network of individuals who can help you find your way.

Giovanna Echivarre-Morelli, Music Major and STEM Minor

Profile Shot of Giovanna Echivarre-MorelliName: Giovanna Echivarre-Morelli

Major(s), Minor(s), Program(s): Performing Arts and Social Justice (Music), Dual-Degree Education, STEM Education minor

Previous Major (s), Minor(s), Program(s): Data Science, Music minor

What attracted you to your initial major(s) and minor(s)?:

When applying to USF, I wanted to go into a scientific field and learn how to code. I thought there would not be many women of color in the program, so I wanted a challenge and to prove to myself and others that people like me can belong. However, music has always been a part of my life. Though I did not see myself majoring in it, I wanted to still nurture my curiosity for it. Music intertwines through who I am and what brings me joy. I thought this major and this minor were a perfect fit for me.

What inspired you to change programs?:

My first semester was tough. I knew I was competent enough to code, but it wasn’t bringing me joy. When taking music classes I felt at home: I was excelling, curious, and felt -good- about new classes, even when they were challenging. I was putting more of a priority towards my minor than my major.

My second semester I also decided to enroll, on a whim, to a course called Introduction to Teaching. In this quaint, once a week course, I was learning pedagogy, self-care, and I was surrounded by like-minded people. I was excelling; I was having fun; I realized I could see myself as a teacher.

With the help of talking to new advisors (I walked right into the school of Education and set up a meeting with an advisor) and also talking to my professors, I was feeling more and more confident about switching my major. At this point I wasn’t to attached to a Data Science degree, even though I took half the Math courses required for it.

Of course the biggest thing holding me back was myself. I had doubts: Would my parents still support me? Would I graduate on time? Would my professional salary when I graduate provide a living wage?

I decided I knew what I was doing. And I had support from my friends, family, and staff at USF. Overall, I know it was my own decision to change majors and career paths, but I am so thankful from the support from my community.

What do you like best about your current major(s) and minor(s)?:

I like that I feel confident about my career path. I know I am getting the best help, and great advice from my professors, advisors, and peers.

I love PASJ because it has made a more engaged and humble person.

I love Dual-Degree because I can directly apply what I learn in PASJ to become a better teacher.

I love that my STEM minor allows me to take math and science classes so I can continue to discover and explore.

What is most challenging about your current major(s) and minor(s)?:

Time management is a big challenge. As I am double-majoring, I am usually stacked at 18 units every semester! However, I think I’m learning the hang of it.

Being in PASJ I want to be in every musical, every play, every ensemble. There’s not enough hours in the day, and many ensembles are 2 credits, of which I have no empty ones to offer.

What sort of internship and career opportunities have you explored?:

I have worked as a para-professional at a local private school. I had the chance last year to work with a special-needs student and lean about special-ed learning in the field.

I was also able to observe a local kindergarten class.

There are also so many opportunities to work in theater and music in the bay area, especially in SF, but I have yet to find enough time to commit to those internships.

What sort of extracurricular activities have your participated in?:

I have been involved in USF’s classical choir ensemble (UCCE) for 3 semesters. Creating a good relationship with the director helped me realize that singing was important to me.

I have performed with The College Players for 2 semesters, which is the student-led theater group on campus. There’s a lot of history behind this group and the community it fosters is inclusive and wonderful.

I have been involved with Chamber Ensembles for a semester which allowed me to focus on my instrumental musicianship skills. I plan on continuing this semester as in the class, we have different virtuositic groups that feature 3-6 people performing classical pieces.

I am joining USF Voices this semester to try something new.

I am joining the Liturgical Choir to pray and re-examine my Catholic faith.

All of these groups have introduced me to awesome people that support me and are a part of my daily life.

What resources helped you with your exploration journey?:

Going into CASA I think once, I was able to talk to an advisor and figure out the nitty-gritty of changing majors and what the process could be like.

Frequent CAPS visits allowed my to trust my therapist and tell them about my worries and new plans were.

And the “What-if” option on the Degree Evaluation allowed me to personally look at what classes I needed to take.

What advice do you have for students exploring majors?

You don’t have to be sure of yourself. It’s okay to change your mind multiple times. It’s a part of the college experience. It’s also okay to have an adult help you with your decision Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. People will be there for you.

Do what you feel passion about, not what you think will bring you the most success. If you succeed about what you are passionate about, you will be much happier as a student at USF.

Deborah Kang, Many Major Changes Led to Eventual Job as Career Counselor!

Profile Shot of Deborah KangName: Deborah Kang

Title: Career Counselor

Company / Department: USF Career Services Center

Major(s), Minor(s), Program(s):
Bachelor of Science in Public Policy with concentration in Public Governance, Minor in Urban Education; Master of Education in College Student Affairs Administration

Previous Major(s), Minor(s), Program(s):
Psychology, Graphic Design and Early Childhood Education

What attracted you to your initial major(s) and minor(s)?
I always knew I wanted to help people, but couldn’t decide on how to help people. I wanted to keep it broad so I chose Psychology, hoping to learn more about behavior and motivation.

What inspired you to change program(s)?
I was struggling through the readings and assignments in the INTRO to psych class, so I thought maybe I made a bad choice. Plus, I was really bored!

Reflecting on my artistic skills and background in performing arts, I concluded that a creative job would suit me best. Since there was (and still is) a big push for people building technical skills and working with computers, I convinced myself that graphic design would be the best fit. Then, I got scared of the freelancing world, so I bailed and went back to thinking about jobs dedicated to helping people.

During high school, I had worked at daycares and helped with young children at my church, so I quickly switched to Early Childhood Education. Emphasis on quickly. I barely did research and didn’t talk to any teachers, alumni or current students. A year into my program, I was assigned several observations and projects in the field. I realized that spending 8 hours with them, managing their behaviors, disciplining them, and keeping them focused on subjects that also bored me was not my cup of tea!

However, I was concerned about the teachers doing this really challenging work and how little they got paid. I finally switched over to Public Policy, hoping to learn more about the Education in the US and advocating for teachers in my community.

What did you like best about your major(s) and minor(s)?
Public policy was perfect for me! I was sitting in class with like-minded people: those who wanted to serve their communities, help people, and make big changes in the world. All the assignments and projects were based on real-world problems, which was great for a pragmatic person like myself. I also enjoyed writing professional memos because they challenged me to write concisely (we had a one-page limit).

My minor in Urban Education was great for staying connected to my interest in the education sector. Plus, it also helped me get internships in nonprofits that support K-12 students!

What was most challenging about your major(s) and minor(s)?
I think explaining my major to my mom was the most challenging aspect of my job. I speak Korean fluently, and my mom understands some English, but a). I couldn’t figure out how to say Public Policy without it sounding like I’m only interested in public service, and b). I didn’t choose a career path yet, so she was confused as to why I was getting this degree.

How did your major(s) and minor(s) prepare you for your career?
I’m a big picture thinker, so I pay attention to the policies on campus and how they may impact students on campus. I think it’s been helpful for me in my appointments with students to be aware of what their experiences are.

What resources helped you with your exploration journey?
Definitely our career center, my student organization and the guest speakers they invited, the leadership experience I had as a board member for a club, and the Internet! I used websites like Onetonline.org and 16personalities to figure out what to do with myself.

What advice do you have for students exploring majors?
Stay open-minded. You are going to meet new people, learn about new occupations, build new skills, and discover new interests! Don’t fear the changes and be open-minded to all the things that are coming your way. Also, go to the Career Services Center 🙂