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PROFILE: With New Center's Help, Del Valle's Not Undecided Anymore

After working five years as a dental hygienist, Tanya Del Valle wanted to try something new. Exactly what, she was not sure...until she turned to UC's Center for Exploratory Studies.

Date: 9/8/2003 8:00:00 AM
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
UC ingot Next to choosing a spouse, picking a college major can be one of the most important decisions in life. It can surely be one of the most difficult, too, as Tanya Del Valle, 27, can attest.

Tanya Del Valle
Tanya Del Valle

It's really hard when you're 18 or 19 to know what you want to do with your life," says the Cincinnati resident. "You don't really have the background to make a decision."

Del Valle first came to University of Cincinnati as a student in Raymond Walters College, earning an associate's degree in dental hygiene. She worked for five years in that field, and realized it really wasn't what she wanted.

In fall 2001, she returned to UC to major in early childhood education, yet the UC Honors Scholar still had a nagging feeling she wasn't quite sure about it. According to national statistics, Del Valle is definitely not alone in her uncertainty - nationally, some 11 percent of college freshmen are undecided about a major and even more college students, about 60-75 percent, will change majors at least once during their time in college. At UC, in fact, if "undeclared" were a major, it would be the largest single program major. In fall 2002, just over 1,446 UC undergraduates were undeclared. The largest single major was marketing, with 606 students.

To help serve this significant portion of its student body, UC has opened a new Center for Exploratory Studies. The center works closely with the Career Development Center to help students assess their interests, values and abilities relating to possible careers. Then, the center helps students to pick a UC major that best suits them. Before opening the center, says director Tara Stopfel, UC researched other programs for undecided students around the country and decided to craft one of its own that really has no model elsewhere.

In addition to advising, the UC center offers Major Mentoring, which allows "exploring" students to meet with peers who can tell them what a major is really like. Alumni Shadowing, another center option, pairs undecided students with UC alumni working in the field.

The center has been asked to propose a program for the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) conference in fall 2004 about UC's new initiative.

For Del Valle, the Center for Exploratory Studies has been life-changing. "It helped to give me confidence in my choice. It turned out I was good at what I thought I would be - human resources, marketing or public relations."

Yet she was "very afraid of changing majors. I was afraid changing would make me go through another four years. I was really unsure," she says. But by talking to Center for Exploratory Studies advisers, she learned that she could graduate within two more years with a communication major.

Tanya Del Valle speaks with Genine Drozd, an Alumni Shadow.
Tanya Del Valle speaks with Genine Drozd, an Alumni Shadow.

The alumni shadowing also proved to be a great benefit to Del Valle. She was paired with Genine Drozd, a recent UC alum who works in public relations at Wordsworth Communications. "That was great," says Del Valle. "I learned a lot of things you can't learn in the classroom about working in the field."

Even better, the shadowing led to a paid internship opportunity for Del Valle. Drozd told her about an internship with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate. Del Valle now works 20 hours a weeks as Anderson’s intern . “It’s going to be fabulous. It involves advertising, public relations, news media, all sorts of areas I want to try. I’m very excited,” she said.

Now the returning UC student believes that the Center for Exploratory Studies would be a benefit to a lot of undecided undergrads. "It's probably one of the best things I've done at UC. I think it was a really excellent experience."

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