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CES Guides Students in the Right Direction

McMicken's Center for Exploratory Studies receives national recognition for its program.

Date: 1/15/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Matt Cunningham
Phone: (513) 556-4190
Photos By: Melanie Cannon

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Up to 75 percent of college students change their majors at least once during their undergraduate education. University of Cincinnati students who face this often stressful situation can breathe a sigh of relief, though, thanks to a nationally recognized program for undecided students at the university.

The National Academic Advising Association selected UC’s Center for Exploratory Studies as one of three programs to highlight in a recent monograph, “Advising Special Populations” (Oct. 2007). According to CES director Tara Stopfel, the inclusion is a significant honor.

“There isn’t a ranking that’s ever done of academic advising programs,” she said, “so this is probably the best recognition we could have that we’re one of the best in the country.”

Stopfel said CES advisors work with more than 3,000 students a year. While some of those students enroll in one or more of the program’s courses, most students work one on one with advisors.

Carol Tonge Mack works with a student during an advising session.
CES Associate Academic Director Carol Tonge Mack works with a student during an advising session.

“If nobody’s really talked to them at length about what it is about that student that ties (his or her interests and goals) together…that’s what really makes the difference,” she said.

Some students may find the direction they are seeking after one or two advising meetings, Stopfel added, but some often take longer to find the right major. That ability to individualize the program is its greatest strength, she said.

“We’re not just referring students,” she said. “We’re making direct connections.”

Second-year organizational leadership major Alexis Williams said that CES advisor Yolanda Cooper helped her select a major based on a mix of assessments and one-on-one consultation, which led her to take a few classes in what would become her major.

“She was very helpful, and really cared about what major I chose to pursue,” said Williams. She added that Cooper has checked in with her this year to make sure that she’s still happy with her choice of major.

“It is very motivating to know I have people like that on my side, who care about my future,” added Williams.

Third-year criminal justice major Lideya Habte spent her first two years at UC working with CES to choose her major.

“Working with CES has helped me work towards graduation tremendously,” she said. “If it weren't for the help I received from CES, I'd probably still be undecided, unhappy with my major or even worse, nowhere near graduating.”

Stopfel said other schools have investigated CES’s methods and are using the program as a model for their advising programs, a move she considers a high compliment to her team.

For more information on the Center for Exploratory Studies, go to

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