SMU Undergraduate Researcher Dedeepya Chinnam is currently a member of the Academic Initiatives Research Team. Dedeepya is a sophomore studying Business Analytics and Supply Chain Management and Statistics, and plans to add Economics to her degree. On campus, she participates as a Caswell Leadership Coach with the Office of Student Experience, Secretary for both the Indian Student Association and Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), and Treasurer for Feminist Equality Movement and Hegi Career Development Ambassadors. She also founded the KPOP Club among many other accomplishments. Dedeepya joined the research team in November 2020.
The project, A Sequential Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study: Motivations of Undergraduate Students to Pursue Multiple Majors, aims to analyze why students choose to study multiple majors to aid the development of and understanding for curriculum committees, academic departments, and collegiate administrators.
The team comprised of six people: advisor Dr. Dustin Grabsch, Dr. Sheri Kunovich, Laura Bell, Hannah Webb, Ryan Leibowitz, and Dedeepya Chinnam. Dr. Grabsch led and designed the project, and Dr. Kunovich helped with data collection, organization, and secondary coding and qualitative analysis.
“Ryan, Hannah, and I were the undergraduate research assistants and have been responsible for initial secondary research and literature review,” Dedeepya said. “We have recently completely 37 interviews with Laura and Dustin. We are conducting qualitative coding using the thought unit coding for all the interviews which we will then assess to form categories and derive themes from established categories.”
The study consisted of qualitative and quantitative factors, which is why it’s called a mixed methods study. By collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative factors, the study provides a deeper dive into the motivations of students. The main qualitative component, student interviews, concluded March 14. The interviewees were selected through the random sampling of a roster of multiple-majoring students. Out of 200 emails sent out to those selected, 37 interviewed and completed a demographic survey. Quantitative data collection will be through a survey.
“We are still in the process of [analyzing the data] and have not determined the underlying common themes but there are some commonalities in terms of motivations, disadvantages, and advantages of multiple majoring that are already arising which we are excited to be looking into,” Dedeepya said.
After the initial round of interviews, the team held a second peer debrief session focused on discussing specific factors that led students to pursue multiple majors. These factors included the influence of family or friends, having an innate love of learning, or gaining new perspectives and ways of thinking through exposure to more of their peers.
“[The participants] think it is an important factor to consider especially at SMU since multiple majoring is a part of the culture at SMU,” Dedeepya said. “An interesting conversation that I had with a couple of students was about how their perception on this matter is influenced by the groups they are exposed to and think through the research they would be able to get a more informed idea on motivations and thought process of other students who decide to follow a similar path as them.”
The study found the concept of multiple majoring a huge part of perceived SMU culture. The results of the study should help to inform faculty and advisors about students’ academic decisions and aid the students in their educational goals.
“For example, when asked how many people in the student population might be multiple majoring at SMU most students thought realistically it would be 60-70% though they feel like it is 80% most times,” Dedeepya said. “This is different from the actual percentage of students pursuing multiple majors at SMU, but it shows the impact multiple majoring has on our community.”
Dedeepya says the team hopes to send the study for review and publication by the end of the Spring 2021 semester. She credits the team’s fast-paced work method and consistent, weekly check-ins for the efficiency of the project.
“One of our team members was talking about compared to how tiring this semester has been – be it the snow week, the lack of cohesiveness in class structuring due to that or the lack of spring break – the research has been a steady and consistent effort every week and it is super helpful since we know what to expect and put time aside for,” Dedeepya said.
According to Dedeepya, participating in this research – and student research in general – provides great opportunities to learn how to improve the student experience, provide learning experiences, and helps develop critical thinking and team collaboration.
“I think it makes me self-aware of points of growth and help me work from there through the reflection I get to do as I go through the research process,” Dedeepya said. “I also gain firsthand access and support to faculty and professors on campus from whom I can learn from greatly.”
Dedeepya wanted to join the team for a myriad of reasons, including making a visible, positive impact for her university community, participating in collaborative, purposeful projects, and to further develop learning skills that would aid in pursuing her future career.
“It was an avenue to explore research since I am considering going on to graduate school and becoming a professor,” Dedeepya said. “The experience I am gaining here has nothing but reinforced my interest in the field.”
Dedeepya participated in SMU Research Days this year. You can watch her presentation on the SMU Research Days 2021 website! Dedeepya says the group also plans to have the manuscript completed by the end of the semester, and will eventually present their information to the SMU Division of Student Affairs for professional development.
Want to learn more? Head to the RLSH research webpage to read more about our individual research projects.
A Sequential Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study: Motivations of Undergraduate Students to Pursue Multiple Majors (SMU IRB: H21-004-GRAD)
This project seeks to understand the motivations of undergraduate students to pursue multiple majors. Utilizing a sequential, exploratory mixed-methods design, in phase one we will interview students who are currently pursuing multiple majors to determine themes in their expressed motivations. Following the development of themes, we will issue a brief survey instrument to undergraduate students with multiple majors to determine the prevalence of each motivation theme within the student body. Findings will aid undergraduate general education curriculum committees, academic departments, and higher education institution administrators.
by Laura Bell, Sarah Venables