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Course Reaches Out to Undecided Students

Date: April 3, 2002
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photo By: Dottie Stover
Archive: Campus News

At 17, Amy Harris is younger than a typical college freshman. She's not unusual, however, in wondering about her future and what she should select for a major.

Barbara Bucey, left

The McMicken College of Arts and Sciences is offering a course this spring that is designed to help her and the many other freshmen in A&S decide on a major. It's not uncommon to be uncertain about your "dream" career or field. During winter quarter 2002, there were 706 "undecideds" enrolled in A&S, with nearly half of them freshmen.

The course, "Discovering Arts and Sciences," is a two-credit course that allows students to meet with A&S faculty and successful alumni from a variety of disciplines. The lead teacher is Barbara Bucey, senior academic adviser in the A&S Advising Center, but more than 15 A&S faculty help teach three sections. The college plans to offer the course each spring as part of an overhaul in its approach to the first-year experience (FYE).

Harris enrolled in the course after two quarters at UC. She finished high school in Mt. Healthy in three years and wants to become a doctor. She is considering sociology and psychology for a major or maybe anthropology.

"We hope to let freshmen see that liberal arts does have a lot of possibilities. We tend to look at it in a one-dimensional way, but many different majors can lead to all kinds of different careers. This is not meant to be a replacement for Career Navigator or other career development programs," Bucey points out.

"This is the right thing to do for our students, most importantly," said Bucey. "It's likely to help them make more informed decisions earlier in their college careers. It will also probably help with recruitment and retention. There is a lot of research out there showing that meeting faculty is a key piece to college success, and here they will meet a lot of faculty."

"We want to let students discover their own strengths and interests. It's going to be a journey of self discovery and learning about what the majors have to offer," says Gisela Escoe, A&S associate dean for undergraduate affairs and the chair of the A&S committee that revamped the college's FYE approach.

In addition to the Discovering A&S course, there are four areas that are part of the college's new First-Year Experience initiative:

  • Freshman Seminars to be piloted in fall quarter 2002. The college will start with 20 seminars and in future years hopes to reach nearly 100 percent of its first-year students. These three-credit hour small-enrollment courses are designed to engage students immediately in the intellectual life of the college. They also also intended to help new college students become successful university-level scholars.
  • College Success Skills courses, which have been used in recent years, will be expanded. The two-credit hour course is designed for freshmen. It will focus on vital skills such as time management, research skills, approaches to studying and the use of technology for effective learning. This course is team taught by librarians and A&S advisers and is coordinated by Nicole Grant in the McMicken Undergraduate Affairs Office.
  • Learning Communities, which began as an experiment in 1996 have been expanded across the university. A learning community is an approach that enrolls a small group of students into a cluster of two or more linked courses. The course curriculum intends to give students a sense of community.
  • Change in Advising Strategy. The college advising center has become "more intrusive" by requiring first-year students to meet with advisers prior to registering for winter quarter. "We used to see about 25 percent of the students by trying to encourage them to come in. Now we see over 90 percent by blocking their winter quarter registration until they meet with an adviser," said Escoe.

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