The most daunting aspect of a Gallatin degree is not so much in its construction, but explaining why you built it. Because, let’s be honest: no one has any idea what an Individualized Degree means in the real world, and you will be explaining it for the rest of your life, regardless of your career goals. When I was freshly pledged to the Gallatino community, explaining my concentration was a point of pride. As the years went on, it became a point of exhaustion. It got to a point where I began to shroud it sarcasm:
Shortly after being introduced to someone, they’d ask, “What’s your major?”
To which I slowly inhaled and exhaled a quick, “oh, well, I go to NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. So, basically rainbows and unicorns!”
We would have a good laugh, and I assuaged the pressure of my peers’ inquisitive [and judgmental] minds on mine for another night.
I was selling myself short.
What most liberal arts majors do not realize is how fascinating it is to others when you tell the story of how you not only took a path less traveled, but in actuality, also fashioned a shiv out of your sharpened mind to forge your very own road in the midst of an intellectual jungle. Designing a personalized degree gives you a well-earned air of confidence that comes with the maturity and discipline to hone one’s creativity and independence as well as the ability to apply these skills to many fields and work with people who have come from different backgrounds and approaches to the workforce.
How does explaining this degree play out in the real world? While working in an office for fashion editorial stylist, the eponymous founder introduces herself to me and asked what I am studying at university. It was like the first day of classes all over again. However, this time I was not in the comfort of a classroom in Greenwich Village when needing to explain my concentration. Instead, I was alone with a fabulous, powerful woman in her office, in the middle of Chelsea, and she was sincerely interested in what I had to say. Not because I was another cookie-cutter intern that brought her and her assistants coffee at 7:30 in morning, but because she saw the potential in my individuality.
As a Gallatino, my interdisciplinary background helped to set me apart from other candidates and forged relationships with my superiors in the work force. As I mentioned, people are fascinated about new perspectives, especially people who have been in the game for quite some time. And chances are, they will be the people that interview you. The truly innovated, the people who take risks and decide their own fates, they are the people that welcome fresh faces with intriguing minds, not shun differences. And those are the people with whom I forged great connections.
Benjamin IJ Mintzer graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study January, 2013. Entitling his rationale, Aesthetics, Semiology and the Universal, Benjamin studied how the invention of meaning obfuscates the understanding of reality through an imagined privilege of Providence. He is currently pursuing a career in academia and the arts.
Photo: Courtesy of Three Headed Photography, 2013.