2 Degrees of Learning; More College Students Taking Double major.(LIFE - SCHOOLS)

Article excerpt

Byline: Ann Geracimos, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Wisconsin native Alexandra Ratzlaff, 20, is a junior at George Washington University with a double major in archaeology and classics and a minor in anthropology. At first glance, the combination may not seem unusual because both her major fields study the science and culture of mankind, ancient and modern. It's certainly not unusual for a student to be a double, or dual, major, because even triple majors are not unknown on campuses these days. What is remarkable is her focus and ability to plan.

"It's all about making yourself marketable," she says. "You start thinking about this by the time you are a sophomore."

With two degrees - a bachelor of arts in archaeology and a bachelor of arts in the classics, both in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences - she says she will have a wider range of choices when applying to graduate school, whether in classics, art history, anthropology or archaeology. Eventually, she may go to law school. This summer she will take advantage of Washington's many research institutions by working in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History with the curator of Old World prehistory and archaeology.

"Most people are dual," she says of her acquaintances. "Just having a B.A. doesn't have the same meaning it did years ago. I live and work with undergrads and help them choose majors. They have to think in detail about what they want to do down the line. Today you have undergraduates majoring in East Asian studies and chemistry because it is all related -especially if you want to go into health and development work in Asia.

"Employers today," she is convinced, "want people with diverse backgrounds. They don't want to train you."

Fellow student Mitra Yegani, 20, of Alexandria, agrees. A dual major in international business and information systems who also works as an intern in the White House as part of GW's independent study program, she has one friend who is majoring in pre-med and religion and another who is majoring in Chinese and international affairs.

"I wanted to be able to have many tools in my hands to use in different areas," Miss Yegani says.

* * *

Students at area colleges are crossing all sorts of lines in pursuit of a well-rounded education and increasingly - at least at some institutions of higher learning - are using the dual major to further their chances in the job market.

Some students, such as Taiwanese native Shen-huan Luan, 22, a senior at American University, choose one field because of its emotional appeal and another for strictly practical reasons. Mr. Luan majors in both music and business "because my biggest goal in life is to be a concert pianist, but my parents have an import furniture business, and I have responsibility for that in the future." He plans to pursue graduate degrees in both management and business in successive years.

John Johnson, 21, who lives in Shaw, is president of the Student Government Association at the University of the District of Columbia and is working toward two degrees, one in theater arts and another in business.

"It's important to have some degree in an area where you can find a job," he says. Just as his grandfather worked as a carpenter while holding a government job, he says, "in [today's] world of technology, you also need more than one skill." Meanwhile, he plans to work this summer as a mentor in a nonprofit organization in Anacostia where he can apply both interests.

According to the American Council on Education, statistics aren't available at the national level on the number of American college students pursuing double majors. Two of the Washington area's largest universities report an increase, representing a significant trend upward.

George Washington University had 189 dual majors in 1997 and 467 registered this spring out of a student body of 8,600. …