In the light of data provided by the Office of Institutional Research, the University of Georgia opened the Exploratory Center in August 2016. The Center is staffed by professional academic advisors who advise all students who are unspecified, are in an intended major (e.g., intended business or intended journalism etc.) or need to transition from one major to another. Currently, 13 advisors are employed in the Exploratory Center. Additionally, the Career Center holds walk-in hours, and advisors are partnering with both Career Center and Student Affairs on programming opportunities.
In addition, the Office of the Vice President for Instruction is working to create meta-majors, tracks or pathways that cluster a number of academic majors with common or related content that are aligned with potential academic and career goals. Such tracks, when completed, will ease students into selecting the appropriate major by providing broad pathways that they can narrow down, based on their interests, knowledge, skills, abilities and career goals. We anticipate that the meta-major tracks will be available for the 2017 cohort.
In FY 2016, the Office of Institutional Research at the University of Georgia conducted an exhaustive study of the academic pathways our students take from enrollment to graduation. In evaluating student data for more than 4,310 first-time freshmen who graduated in spring semester 2014, we observed that only 32% of these students graduated with the same major in which they started and about 38% changed their majors at least once, with 19% switching majors twice and about 6% changing majors three times or more. These kinds of changes in major can result in more student debt, extraneous credits and a longer time to graduation. It is apparent that a large number of our students may benefit from advice specifically tailored to help them better navigate the myriad choices of majors available to them.
And there are myriad choices. As of Fall 2016, we offer 146 undergraduate majors, 45 undergraduate certificate programs, and 91 minors and several programs provide pathways for students to earn simultaneously an undergraduate and Master’s degree.
Within the first week of business, the Exploratory Center helped nearly 600 students. We expect to see even more growth by the end of this academic year and anticipate increasing the number of advisors assigned to the Center.
Advisors and students are being introduced to the meta-major tracks this fall in the Discovery Showcase (previously known as the Majors Fair). At the Discovery Showcase majors, minors and certificates will be clustered according to our working meta-major groupings. In addition, we will integrate the meta-majors with our First year Odyssey, Learning Communities, Exploratory Center, Experiential Learning, Service Learning, and Leadership and Service Student Organizations to bring all of these resources and opportunities together in a thoughtful, intentional way to create the fabric of each meta-major. In this way, resources and opportunities that already exist will be strategically deployed to undergird the meta-majors.
Because of the Exploratory Center, we expect to see a decrease in the number of students changing their major this year. Success for meta-major tracks will be measured by rates in the numbers and timing of selecting and changing a major, time to degree, direct observation and evidence such as student focus groups and exit interviews. We will track this data for reporting next year.