Guiding Students to Major Choices

Monday, August 15, 2016

On behalf of all the OVPI units and programs that support student and faculty success, welcome back! And a very special welcome to our new faculty, more than 100 or so of whom I met at orientation last week. We know you received a lot of new information, so if at any point you have questions, please feel free to get in touch with me or any of our units in the Office of the Vice President for Instruction. Today we mark an important milestone in our campus as we formally opened the Science Learning Center—a brand new facility for lower division science instruction. However, this is one of several things we are doing to help our students. Another major initiative this year is to update our academic advising model. The launch of the exploratory advising center, is one of the most critical and visible part of this change.

For the first time at University of Georgia, the Exploratory Center for academic advising provides students a central place to go for advising assistance for deciding on majors and career choices that are the best fit for them. This center opened with the first day of fall semester classes and is located on the first floor of the Tate Student Center. It houses 13 advisors specifically trained to help students with undecided majors or for those who wish to change their majors or explore new career paths. In addition, it will also have representatives from the Career Center, the Terry College of Business and the Grady College of Journalism. The center has already helped nearly 600 students who have seen an advisor since opening its doors. I am glad to see students making good use of this facility, and we plan to continue updating our academic advising to better help students.

The wide impact that this center will have can only be recognized with some insights into the broader context. Last year, the Office of Institutional Research helped us do 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. The vast majority, about 38%, changed their majors at least once while 19% switched majors twice, and about 6% of the students changed majors three times or more. Of the transfer students graduating in that cohort, about 61% graduated with their original intended major, but 21% changed their majors at least once, and about 7% switched their majors twice or more. This reveals that a very large number of our students may benefit from advice specifically tailored to help them better navigate the myriad choices of majors available at UGA.

Assuming the trends seen for the graduating class of Spring 2014 hold for each graduating cohort, it is possible that as many as 13,000 students at UGA may benefit from having an exploratory advising center to support their needs. The launch of this center, coupled with changes in advising in all colleges and schools, is designed to provide exactly this support for our students. These changes in advising wouldn’t be possible without close support of the faculty, department chairs and deans in each school and college. I greatly appreciate all your help and cooperation in getting this off the ground.

The Exploratory Center advisors, led by Jennifer Eberhart, assess students’ skills and aspirations and work with them to identify a major or career path that’s an ideal fit for them. These advisors will also be working with students to intend to ultimately seek admission to the high-demand colleges of business and journalism.

I’m looking forward to what this semester will bring and to seeing you around campus. Thanks for all you do to support our students. Please feel free to send me a note at ovpi@uga.edu if you have questions or input related to instruction at UGA.

Sincerely,

Rahul Shrivastav
Vice President for Instruction