College makes major effort guiding undeclared students

class discussionStudents who come to Oswego without declaring a major are not alone. It could be considered the largest major at the college, with about 525 undeclared students starting the fall semester.

But this figure represents one of the college’s strengths in reputation, said Kathy Evans, associate dean of students and director of the Student Advisement Center in the Compass.

“For many years, Oswego has been a place that is attractive to undeclared students because of the options we offer,” Evans said. “People know we’re a comprehensive institution that can help you find your path in education and in life.”

To better serve this sizable group, Christy Huynh has joined the Student Advisement Center to coordinate new and existing programs. These include a series of workshops, targeted to undeclareds but open to any student, that allow them to explore their strengths, interests and talents. A two-credit major-exploration course, a one-credit strengths-exploration class and a special living and learning community are among the other tools now available for students examining their options.

“We acknowledge students shouldn’t just jump into a major for the sake of having a major, but we encourage students to be more intentional and proactive about their decision making,” Huynh said. “We work with them on self-identification while providing support and services.”

Two of the student navigators at the Compass are trained especially to work with undeclared students on self-assessment and creating resources, often high-tech. But a large focus is on empowering students to make their own decisions, and for the right reasons.

Student-athletes Amy Carey, Joe Hall and Chris Laganiere started as three of this fall’s more than 300 first-year undeclared majors. They found plenty of formal and informal avenues of support on campus.

“I have found the college supportive,” said Carey, who spent her first semester adjusting to classes, college life and playing field hockey. “I realized that I was making the right decision for me because I didn’t want to choose a major when I really was unsure what I was truly interested in.”

Hall and Laganiere, both men’s ice hockey players, are leaning toward wellness management. Hall said he is “about 95 percent sure” of his choice. “The more research I do about it, the more I get interested,” said the freshman from Schaumburg, Ill. “I got a lot of good information from my teammates.”

Laganiere started with General Education classes and consulted with teammates, teachers and Ryoko Sekiguchi, coordinator of the athletic department’s CHAMPS/Life Skills program. “I’m glad they let me take my time,” said Laganiere. “People were very supportive, and even sent information about attending a seminar for picking a major.”

Now a senior sociology major, Stephanie Wasley came to Oswego unsure of her direction. Advised to start with a variety of general education courses, she took Sociology 100 and the field clicked with her. “I didn’t even know what sociology was when I started,” said Wasley, who has since become a McNair Scholar. “I really liked the things we learned and that you could apply them to everyday life.”

She has gone from undecided freshman to deciding which graduate school to attend. “I’m going to get my master’s in sociology or criminology,” Wasley said. “But I’m in a program that gears toward Ph.D.s, so that’s definitely on my radar.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Finding strengths—SUNY Oswego first-year students, from left, Chelsea Hans, Christina Gagliardi and Amanda Champlin take part in a class discussion in a recent “Exploring Your Strengths” one-credit course for undeclared majors, run by the college’s Student Advisement Center. Around 525 students—more than 300 of them first-year students—started the fall semester as undeclared, which is an indication of Oswego’s reputation for having programs and people who help students find the right path.

(Posted: Oct 31, 2007)

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