New center helps students find majors and career paths

The Center for Academic Planning and Exploration plans to open to all students in spring semester.

Danielle Nordine

First-year Chiara Wallace is tired of being asked what sheâÄôs majoring in, because she still doesnâÄôt know. The new Center for Academic Planning and Exploration hopes to help students like Wallace and students who need to declare a major soon, by providing more intensive help. âÄúSome students fall between the cracks,âÄù said CAPEâÄôs co-coordinator LeeAnn Melin . âÄúWe want to help students re-establish their purpose for being here.âÄù The employees at CAPE were hoping to open the center to all students this November, Melin said, but a soft launch earlier this month left many administrative questions unanswered. Instead, the center will now probably be open to students in the spring semester, she said. University data shows that an average of about 5 percent of students who enroll in the College of Liberal Arts each year are strongly undecided about a major, and Melin said thatâÄôs probably a conservative estimate. Wallace said she feels pressure to choose a major when her parents and other students ask her what sheâÄôs studying, as well as when registration rolls around and she doesnâÄôt know what classes to take. âÄúMost people have a very structured plan, they have a goal in mind and theyâÄôre working towards it, but I donâÄôt have a goal yet,âÄù she said. âÄúYou donâÄôt want to waste time in classes that arenâÄôt going to help you in the future.âÄù Wallace said she plans on taking a variety of classes and looking for student groups and volunteer opportunities in her areas of interests, but Wallace said that a University service like CAPE would be helpful in her search. On top of the number of undecided students, an additional estimated 2,300 students are in the process of transitioning from one college to another, Melin said, and those are also students CAPEâÄôs services would help. While other advising and career offices at the University focus on particular colleges or programs and need to divide their time among many students, Melin said CAPE can offer a more overall and interconnected view of the University. âÄúWeâÄôre kind of U of M experts,âÄù said Angie Schmidt Whitney, a CAPE coach and coordinator for the Career and Community Learning Center. âÄúWe can help students with things all across the U, not just college-specific.âÄù Since University students are required to choose a specific college when they apply, Melin said it makes it difficult for students without a major or who plan on going into competitive programs like journalism and nursing, which require a second application, to find their way. âÄúTime is a challenge for other advising officesâÄù Schmidt Whitney said. âÄú[CAPE] is still short term, but intense. We want to get student reconnected to their college.âÄù Melin emphasized that CAPE is not an academic advising office, so employees canâÄôt sign off on academic plans or deal with issues students have with their academic advisors. CAPE is running its pilot program to more solidly define its goals and setup. Currently the center consists of two offices and a reception center in Appleby Hall, but it will be housed in the new Science Teaching and Student Services Building when it opens in the fall.