Sokthan Yeng, PhD, professor and chair of the philosophy department, works with a student.

The 2022 Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education has awarded Adelphi its Innovative Academic Support Initiative award for new approaches to academic support for students undeclared or undecided on a major. See how our support helps students find success.

Most first-year students these days arrive on campus with a major already in mind.

Still, there are many who aren’t sure of their academic direction. To help them, Adelphi has launched an innovative program of interdisciplinary courses and workshops introducing the many paths of study and providing the support needed to select an appropriate major.

Early in 2023, this program for undecided and undeclared students gained national attention when it received the prestigious Innovative Academic Support Initiative award from the American College Personnel Association’s Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education (CASHE).

“Adelphi is very focused on giving students personalized attention. This is especially true for our students who haven’t declared a major yet,” said Andrea Ward, PhD, interim associate provost for student success at Adelphi. “This recognition by CASHE reaffirms the success of our commitment to offering creative, fresh solutions for our students to create their own unique academic path.”

One Course, Many Disciplines

Adelphi’s program began in the fall of 2019 with the introduction of interdisciplinary 360 courses. Offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, each 360 course focuses on a general topic and is taught by a team of faculty members from across the academic disciplines. The goal is to provide a variety of perspectives and a 360-degree view of the subject matter.

“We believe in the 360 courses as an innovative way of exposing students to a number of different disciplines in one course,” said Margaret Lally ’82, associate dean of faculty programs. “Topics such as water, food and race are explored from multiple perspectives, contributing to our commitment to interdisciplinary learning.”

According to Tandra Chakraborty, PhD, Adelphi’s interim associate dean for student success and strategic initiatives, at least two 360 courses will be offered every semester. “The courses are interdisciplinary and can be taken by all students,” Dr. Chakraborty said. The different perspectives of various faculty, varied topics and interactive nature of the courses appeal to the students. Undeclared students get a chance to explore courses and decide their future paths.”

A New PATH for Self-Discovery

Adelphi’s focus on exposing students to the many disciplines and academic perspectives has sharpened with its newly revised General Education program. Planned to launch this spring, PATH (Preparation, Awareness, Transformation, Hands-On Learning) is a General Education program designed to promote self-discovery, shared experience, diverse and inclusive instruction, and socially engaged community action. Its goal is to encourage student success—and it will be particularly helpful for undeclared students still finding their major.

“We want our students to reimagine their place within the community,” said Jacqueline Johnson, PhD, associate professor of sociology and interim department chair. “Every step on the PATH is designed to help students succeed in studies, find their strengths and thrive in an ever-changing society.”

Another innovation for undecided students is a series of guided workshops organized by the College of Arts and Sciences. The most popular workshop, in conjunction with the Office of Academic Services and Retention, teaches students how to approach registering for classes, including what to think about—their strengths and weaknesses—before meeting with their adviser. Additional workshops are offered through the Center for Career and Professional Development, the Center for International Education, the Innovation Center, and the Learning and Writing Centers.

Delivering Results

The results of these initiatives are promising. Between Fall 2019 and Fall 2022, the number of undecided students decreased 21 percent, from 285 to 224. In Fall 2019, undecided students represented 12 percent of the new undergraduates, compared with 9 percent in Fall 2022.

To maintain the momentum of this success, Adelphi is introducing a new cohort teaching model for First-Year Seminars. The new approach has faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences teach interdisciplinary courses with related themes to multiple classes. Throughout the semester, students from the different classes meet together to hear from a speaker or attend an event or trip related to the themes. Students then take a 360 course in a semester following their First-Year Seminar.

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