University College Program Slated for Fall 2018 for Undeclared Students

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Published March 21, 2018
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The Montclarion
A group of prospective students and parents take a tour of campus led by tour guide Rebekah Madrid. Photo courtesy of Natalie Angulo

A new school called University College will be established starting next fall to assist the roughly 2,200 undeclared students at Montclair State University in figuring out their career paths and giving them an academic home.

According to the drafted proposal, University College was created to give undeclared students more sufficient academic mentoring since they are not officially assigned to a specific college. Additionally, students will gain the proper preparation and knowledge about a potential area of study and be advised on more beneficial classes to take based on their interests.

Freshman animation/illustration major Joy Spavlik said she thinks University College will be a great help to students.

“I know a girl who’s a sophomore and she still doesn’t know what she wants to do for next year,” Spavlik said. “And she’d probably totally benefit from that kind of program.”

Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Dr. James German along with Associate Vice President for Student Academic Services Allyson Straker-Banks conducted research and looked at other University College programs at other universities. The two tailored the program to the needs of Montclair State. German will serve as the dean of University College. His job will focus on developing and managing academic advising for undeclared students as well as the co-curricular programs that will be offered by the college.

“One of the things that we hope will happen is that this will help students gain a better connection earlier,” said Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dr. Karen Pennington. “It will help them find a place where they’re getting the engagement, getting the information about different majors, getting the exposure to different areas that will help them make better decisions about their major.”

When freshman Sam Keramedjian started at Montclair State in the fall, she was undeclared. Recently, Keramedjian officially declared a child advocacy major with a social work minor. She said she wished something like University College was in place while she was undeclared because it would have made it easier for her and others to figure out what she wanted to do.

Unlike students with majors, undeclared students are only assigned an adviser from the Center for Advising and Student Transitions (CAST). Declared students are given both a CAST adviser and a major adviser which allows them to get a more tailored advising experience.

One of the things about being an undeclared major that proved problematic for Keramedjian was the lack of guidance from her CAST adviser in the transition from high school to college and figuring out what she wanted to major in.

It was through Keramedjian’s wide array of general education courses scheduled for her, including a psychology class, that she was able to figure out what she wants to focus her studies in social work.

Keramedjian said that having University College would allow students to feel more comfortable going in as undeclared majors and figuring out their career path as they go.

“I think it would convince more students to not be so scared about picking a major at first,” Keramedjian said. “I felt really pressured to pick a major and then when I figured out I could go undecided, I still felt like I [was] doing something wrong because I [was] undecided.”

Starting in the fall, University College is expected to have a temporary home on the first floor of the Sprague Library. University College will then move into College Hall in preparation for the building reopening in 2020.

Additionally, the Discovery Program for undeclared students will be moved to the library to centralize the services offered to them.

“The goals of the college center on providing an academic home and academic services to undeclared students,” German said. “We hope that it guides students to majors that match their abilities, interests and aspirations as early as possible in their undergraduate careers.”

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