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Profile of Boni Zhang, FYES Alum and Custom Design Major

February 8, 2022

FYES peer mentor Boni Zhang

Hi, my name is Boni Zhang, and I am a third-year student with a custom-designed major with concentrations in software engineering, interactive digital media, interior design and entrepreneurship. I started in the First-Year Exploratory Studies Program because I wasn't sure what I wanted to major in.

I took most of the AP science classes during high school (chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, computer science). During my time in FYES, I explored majors in the College of Engineering and the College of Computing and Informatics because I knew I wanted to do something STEM-related. Then, I decided on majoring in Software Engineering (SE) after two terms of exploring because I felt rushed, not content, and tired of not having a major as well as because of pressure from Drexel's fast-paced quarter system. I regret not staying and exploring longer.

I chose SE because there is a business side (I want to open my own business later) that is added to the technology side. I preferred software engineering over computer science because it is more theory-based (which is what I don't like). For engineering, I was interested in mechanical engineering because I like to work with my hands and found out that they can double major and/or minor in different engineering disciplines since the requirements are like each other. After a few courses, though, it felt like engineering was not the right fit for me. I learned about another major called Business and Engineering through the FYES academic fairs, which would lead you to work as the middle person between the business and engineering side of a company, which seems like a lot of communication - not what I want. The classes are more business-based too, which wasn't what I was looking for.

After declaring my major in SE and starting to take classes in the spring term of the first year, I realized that there's not much creativity involved in it. Yes, people can argue that coding is creating and there is a creative side to it, but it is not the kind of creativity that I was looking for. So, I looked into an art minor under Westphal college, I ended up getting a minor in Interactive Digital Media (IDM) because it offers more classes than the other two minors (Graphic Design and Product Design).

In my sophomore year, I had my first co-op as a software engineer intern at a financial technology company. Throughout the year, I just felt like I couldn't continue and see myself doing the job in the future, so I looked into Custom-Design (CSDN), which I had heard in my freshman year but never really looked into it until I attended a club event and talked with a CSDN major student in my sophomore year. I met with the academic advisor and then I completed the application for CSDN while on the coop.

If a student has only two fields they are interested in, a major and minor would work out fine for them. But if they have more than two interests, a CSDN major would be the path for them to go towards. I would say that it is an advantage if you choose this major early because you will have more time to individualize your plan of study, so you wouldn't be cramming classes in your plan.

As part of the CSDN application process, you have to decide on three to four concentrations in fields of interest. Based on my interests, I chose software engineering, interactive digital media, interior design, and entrepreneurship as my concentration areas. By merging creativity with technology, I hope to become an area/space designer to make galleries or exhibits more interesting and appealing.

Students can be reluctant to design their major because they are concerned about having so many different concentrations, but it just allows you to dive deeper into multiple areas that you find interesting! And just because you aren't taking the standard path does not mean you won't be successful after college!