UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Major new ‘Major’ event connects students, faculty

UND Career Services’ first Major-Minor Fair aims at students looking for a change

students talking to faculty member
The three hour event saw over 400 students stop by to meet faculty and learn about UND’s degree options. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

As students progress through their academic careers, evolving interests and fluctuating career opportunities often lead them to reconsider their trajectory and change their focus midway through their time at school. This process can be overwhelming, but Career Services is finding new ways to ease the stress of finding a new path.

“About 60% of students change their major at least once in their time at UND,” said Kyle Braun, academic and career coordinator in Career Services“We’ve started to see a lot more students come to our Academic & Career Exploration program, and we wanted to think of ways to reach as many students as possible.”

The Major-Minor Fair, held in Memorial Union’s ballroom on Nov. 2, was the result of these discussions. The three-hour event invited students to meet faculty and discover some of the 200-plus degree programs offered by UND.

Akin to Career Service’s Career Expo, the Major-Minor Fair was designed to bridge gaps between students and programs that might suit their academic interests. Face to face meetings with faculty are essential to helping students find their place, Braun said, because nobody can pique your interest in a subject quite like a faculty member.

“Part of the idea came after we’d been meeting with faculty about sharing information with students and the way that they talk about their programs,” he said. “Just how excited they were about their disciplines — it’s really powerful. We really wanted to put students in that same position.”

Bruce Dockter, a lecturer of civil engineering, was well prepared for the event with a spread of brochures, pamphlets and books at his table. Through his experience recruiting high school students, he’s found that making connections with students is key to getting their interest.

“Once they’ve had a chance to look at everything, I make sure to give students my business card,” he said. “I let them know that I tend to teach a lot of the beginning courses, so they can give me a call or send me an email. I think making that personal connection is important.”

Student talks with faculty
Face to face meetings with faculty are key to driving academic interest, according to Kyle Braun of Career Services. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

Career Services meets with hundreds of students a semester, and one of the main problems they’ve found is that, while students know what their interests are, they don’t know exactly what program will suit them best. Some of the impetus for hosting the fair was their desire to give students an idea of the breadth of UND’s programming.

“When we’re meeting with students one-on-one, we’ve seen that they’re struggling with a lack of awareness, not a lack of knowledge,” he said. “We wanted to get everybody in one room and make it easy for students to explore their options.”

Faculty from programs like theatre arts, sports medicine and communications sciences and disorders commented on the importance of events like the Major-Minor Fair in their recruitment efforts. Students aren’t always aware of the options offered by their programs, they said, and high traffic settings like this can lead to discoveries for students.

Michelle Novak, a clinical assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, said that her department has found that students often don’t know what the career paths the program will lead to. And, while they see students regularly transferring from other departments, raising awareness is key to getting that initial interest.

“It’s not uncommon for us to see students from healthcare or education fields join us,” she said. “We train students for careers like speech pathology and audiology. It’s great for students looking to work in a medical-related field but find the risk of something going wrong overwhelming.”

“We always tell students that we’re in a part of the rehabilitative medical community where you can’t really hurt people,” she said. “We see a lot of students come to us when they’re changing their minds about things like medical school or nursing. There’s a lot of overlap, but sometimes it takes events like this to show students that.”

Michelle Novak
Michelle Novak at her Major-Minor Fair table. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

In total, more than 400 students visited the ballroom that afternoon, and that high attendance was partially due to the event’s variety and versatility. Students said they found value in the ability to freely explore UND’s offerings while getting face time with faculty.

Jacob Stanley, a sophomore mathematics major, said that while he was not necessarily looking for a change in majors, he wanted to explore ways to supplement his education and pursue other interests.

“When I came to UND, I basically just chose my path right away. I didn’t explore much when I was deciding what to study,” he said. “I wanted to see what else there was. I’m thinking about picking up a minor in physics, so it was a good chance to meet them and pick up some info.”

Other students, like Jake Ocker, are considering a larger change in their academic career. Ocker, a freshman aviation student, said that he was attending to learn more about departments that would suit his interests more.

“I’m not sure that what I’m studying now is right for me. I just wanted to see what was out there,” he said. “I’ve had some really good interactions with people over at the communications table and got some good info from the literature and English faculty, too. It’s been helpful to have everything here.”

student and aviation ambassador
In total, 90 faculty members and representatives from across campus joined students at the fair. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

For students in Ocker’s position, a change of course so early in their academic career can be difficult to navigate. But Braun said that the benefit of programming like the Major-Minor Fair is that it shows students they don’t have to uproot from UND to find what they’re looking for.

“The retention aspect is something we’ve been really intentional about going into events like the Major-Minor Fair,” Braun said. “We’ve got these students here at UND already and if, for whatever reason, they feel a need to change, we want them to know that UND is an institution still has all of these other options that they might want to pursue.

“Change doesn’t have to be bad thing for students, we can put them on the right track and off to a good career regardless of when or how you decide to change.”

Braun and the team at Career Services were pleased with the level of interest they saw from students and faculty at the event, and they plan to continue holding more Major-Minor Fairs in the future. Notably, Braun hopes to incorporate more academic programs which have expressed interest in joining them when they hold the event again in the spring.