Undeclared students breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week when the Toppel Career Center held its annual Majors Fair, an event designed to expose students to most of the areas of study that UM has to offer so that they can begin to plan for their academic future.
Alicia Rodriguez, associate director of career development, described the fair as an opportunity for students to speak with advisors, faculty and other students representing the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the School of Business, the School of Communication, the School of Nursing and the School of Education.
Representatives at the fair also emphasized that being unsure of future plans actually has its benefits.
“Being an undeclared student gives you the opportunity to explore different fields of study,” Margaret Hopkins, director of undeclared advising, said. “It gives students the chance to see in what courses are their strongest abilities and it kindles enough interest that they will pursue a field in a major.”
Hopkins also mentioned the various resources that students have readily available on campus to help them narrow down a major, including the Toppel Career Center and the Counseling Center.
Dr. Barry Zwibelman, counseling psychologist and associate professor for the Counseling Center, explained how the various programs offered benefit students.
According to Zwibelman, the testing program starts with a personal interview with a professional counselor, which is in turn followed by a series of interest, ability and personality tests that are discussed with a counselor once the results have been determined.
Zwibleman points out that the whole process helps students to get to know themselves better and thus helps them find areas of study that are compatible with their personality.
Before attending the fair, freshman Alex Rundle said he was unaware of the amount of majors available. Rundle also pointed out the necessity to know the specific course requirements needed to fulfill a particular major.
“I got a list of classes needed to take for a specific major to see if I have to stay here for six years,” Rundle said.
For other students, the pressures to decide on a major are growing stronger.
Junior Andrea Sands admits she is currently undeclared, although she had once considered a major in medicine and in history.
“The key ingredient in choosing a major is to give yourself lots of options,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins went on to say that the fair did not help her find a major, but it did give her an opportunity to explore options she may not have otherwise considered.
Besides exposing students to a variety of courses and majors, the Majors Fair also allowed students to look into other avenues of learning such as exchange programs.
“Study abroad opens minds to new academic and personal interests,” said Chris Tingue, assistant director of the International Education and Exchange Programs. “It may help a student in some cases solidify personal interests that help toward selecting a major.”
Tingue also clarified a common misconception among UM students regarding studying abroad while simultaneously fulfilling certain UM requirements prior to graduation, such as the policy that UM students must take their last 45 credits in residence.
“If students go on a UM study abroad program via the office of International Education and Exchange Programs, they maintain enrollment status at UM when they go abroad, so they are still in fact in residence and not technically transferring credits,” Tingue said.
Whether attempting to decide on a major or on future career goals, Dr. Lydia Barza, interdisciplinary studies program specialist, explained the kind of advice she would give to students who are currently undecided.
“Gather as much information as possible and talk with administrators and faculty members directly about something that sparks your interest,” Barza said.
If you missed the Majors Fair and need help in planning your future, contact the Student Services Center at 305-284-5511. For more information on study abroad programs, call 305-284-3434.
Paul Fajardo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.