Westhem: Drop the “major” question, and get down to what matters

Sept. 15, 2014, 9:14 p.m.

Throughout New Student Orientation, you’ll hear the same two questions bouncing back and forth among the freshmen: “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?”

The major question is so boring and unrepresentative of a person, in most cases. It’s always the go-to question to start a conversation, but honestly, as a freshman, there’s no certainty as to what your major will be. If there were complete certainty, then I would be an English major, planning to go to law school to study constitutional law with the goal of fixing our government.

I happen to be an American Studies major, but even now that I’ve declared, knowing my major is not going to help you to get to know me. Truth be told, I’m majoring in the sports section of The Stanford Daily. But I had no idea that Stanford Athletics would define my time at Stanford during the week of NSO.

Since that first week at Stanford two years ago, I’ve learned that while the academics at Stanford and our specialties are important, they in no way define our time at this incredible university. Our time and experience here are defined by what we immerse ourselves in on campus.

For me, it’s sports. My prerequisite for all the schools that I applied to was that they had to have big-time sports programs. Why? Sure, I played basketball and was physically active in high school, but I honestly couldn’t explain to you why a big sports program was important to me. I didn’t even cover sports for my high school paper.

But after that first sports meeting at the Daily 101X training session, I knew why there was a nagging voice in the back of my mind whispering about athletics during application time.

My time on campus is dedicated towards covering the amazing sports programs we have and giving our athletes the recognition that they deserve. I’m the beat writer for the women’s basketball team, but what was probably more fun to cover last year was rowing — I learned a new sport that no one really knows about and gave our three rowing teams some credit.

And there are people on our campus working to bring us the amazing fan experience that goes along with all of our amazing sports programs.

Stanford Athletics does not just benefit the athletes on our campus. It works in part to ensure that all of us get to benefit from the tradition of excellence that comes with the sports on our campus. Think about the promotions that Athletics puts together to get students to go to men’s basketball games and the fact that as students, we can go to any game on campus for free. That’s not the case at other schools, by the way.

Because it’s football season, I can’t overlook the tailgate experience, which is arguably the best part of being a student at a school with a big-time football program. Kudos to the ASSU, Inter-Fraternity Council and Stanford Athletics for creating the Stanford student tailgates last year and continuing them this year, even for the games that happened before classes even started. That’s all for us, the students, so that we may be a part of the Stanford athletic community just as much as the athletes are.

I’ve made Stanford Athletics a huge part of my college experience, even though I’m not a varsity athlete, because Stanford gives you the opening to get your foot in any door. It’s just up to us to figure out how to fully get ourselves through that door.

I got through it by traveling with the women’s basketball team on every road trip of the season and postseason to broadcast their games for the KZSU campus radio station; by talking to and interviewing people who work in athletics and getting to know what they’re doing for the athletes, the University and the students; and by basically living at The Daily to ensure that I’m doing everything I can to represent Stanford sports and athletes to the extent that they deserve.

You wouldn’t have gotten any sense of my passion for Stanford sports by asking me what my major is. But you’ll get a look — albeit a long-winded one — into what drives me if you ask what I am involved in on campus. And that’s how you’ll find out that although I still want to go to law school, it’s to study contract law so that I can possibly represent athletes or work in sports administration.

So after this long bit of rambling, my advice to all the freshmen trying to get to know each other this week is to drop the ice-breaking question about a proposed major and instead ask each other what they’re most excited to get involved in on campus. I promise it will lead to a much more compelling conversation than discussing what your major is going to be.

And do yourself a favor and go to some home games this year. It doesn’t matter the sport — just realize that Stanford is much more that just an academic institution; it’s also a breeding ground for the most successful athletic program that exists. After we’ve won the Directors’ Cup 20 times in a row, I feel confident making that sweeping statement.

Even though she’s extremely excited to get back on campus, something will definitely be missing for Ashley Westhem, President of the Chiney Ogwumike Fan Club, now that Chiney’s a WNBA star. Suggest candidates for her new favorite student-athlete and show her the money, Jerry Maguire-style, at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu and tweet her at @ashwest16.

Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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