University Studies provides focus for undecided students
A. Sue Weisler
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Susan DiMeglio was decisive in selecting a college. After attending Explore Your Future, RIT’s career exploration program for high school students with hearing loss, she decided to apply early decision to RIT.
“I fell in love with this school,” explains the former high school softball captain from Long Island. “It was the only school I applied to, so I was very happy to learn I had been accepted.”
But even as she prepared to arrive on campus this fall, one aspect of DiMeglio’s decision was still in need of clarity. She found herself struggling to select a major.
“All my life I had been told I would make a great engineer, but I knew I was never really interested in it,” she says.
Instead, DiMeglio joined nearly 50 other first-year students who enrolled in University Studies. Launched under the Division of Academic Affairs, the new program is geared toward undergraduate students who may enjoy interest and proficiency in a range of disciplines but struggle to identify a priority area of study.
“University Studies provides these students with a structure that allows them to analyze their skills and interests and explore different fields,” notes Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “It’s intended to successfully and efficiently help the student identify and matriculate in an appropriate degree program as soon as possible.”
University Studies is staffed by a team of advisors who provide students with coaching and academic advising that’s based on a working knowledge of RIT’s broad portfolio of academic programs. In addition, students receive career assessment guidance through a one-credit-hour seminar course taught by faculty experts in career counseling. According to Marty Burris, director of University Studies, 21 returning students have transitioned into the program, and the internal transfer numbers continue to grow.
“There are a lot of reasons they change,” she says. “One of the most common reasons is students find the major they originally selected is not what they thought or wanted and they would like to explore other options.”
University Studies seeks to remove the stigma often associated with an “undecided” status. Parents who’ve been introduced to the program appreciate RIT’s academic reputation and the opportunities presented to students through its cooperative education program. Students gain satisfaction that comes from an affiliation with peers.
“University Studies students have an identity that they didn’t have before,” states Burris, “and that came across very nicely at orientation. They had a blast together and really felt like a group.”
DiMeglio already counts herself among the University Studies success stories. The program has given her an opportunity to explore her interest in photography. As a result, she’s transferred into the advertising photography program in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences.
“University Studies is a great choice for any student who is unsure about their major,” she says. “They really do a terrific job in helping students, and I have learned about so many different possible majors and careers since I came here.”