Update: The Persistence and Retention of First-Year Business Undecided Students

When I think about when I chose my major of Arts & Entertainment Management going into my freshman year, I relied on the knowledge that it was a lot of the classes that I enjoyed in high school (ie Statistics, Computer Science, E-commerce) and a hobby that I did all of my life (Theatre, Entertainment). However, while I have become very fortunate to love the major I am in, I never really thought deeper into what my time in my first semester to understand what drew me to a business degree. I am now excited to give that opportunity to the incoming Freshman who knows they want to pursue a business degree at Pace University but don’t know specifically which one and how to be active in it.

I began this research with the intention of improving my skills as a Peer Leader in UNV101. In my 3 years as a peer leader with Carolyn Endick, who I also have been doing this research with, we’ve noticed the true difficulties an incoming freshman has when they are thrown into a new environment with no real idea of what to do with their opportunities. The first aspect of this research was to figure out why the initial decision to enter college with an undecided business major would occur with students. By reading academic articles that also took an interest in these decisions, I was able to come to some conclusions on why this decision was made. They include:

  • The personality match to the subject matter with an affirmed identity
  • Lifestyle perception in employment for post-grad careers
  • Ease of completion of major and need to achieve amongst peers
  • Reputation within the faculty, university, major, etc
  • University resources for post-grad careers
  • Developmental resources beyond the university curriculum

It’s essential for this research to understand why these key decision makers are in place and how to implement them correctly within the classroom. What I will be doing to further this research is taking the class of undecided business students in our upcoming UNV101 this Fall and using them as a focus group to see how to motivate them into becoming more involved in their business school (and eventual choosing of their major).

A huge aspect of the second half of this research will rely on the surveys that the students will take in the beginning, middle and end of the semester. While the specifics of each are still being completed, the beginning survey will rely heavily on how each student got their start at Pace University. In a discussion I had with Shannon Haick, Associate Director of the Advising Center for Exploring Majors at Pace University, she emphasized how crucial it is to ease students in when they enter college not knowing exactly they want to study. They know they want to be at Pace and be in the city, but it is so evident that there are numerous other factors they are completely unsure of and can be overwhelmed by. The initial survey will ask them about what they wanted to grow up and how that idea has evolved throughout their academic career. Furthermore, I will also ask what kind of student they were like in high school and what they found to be their favorite classes. This will benefit me helping advise the students as they progress in their first semester, finding what they actually enjoy learning about and doing.

As for other changes in the UNV101 curriculum, a huge aspect of why students excel in business degrees is by finding their community within the business school. Throughout the semester, I will have business professors from each major give a quick informational speech about what their major is and what they can eventually do with it, with some successful students coming in to talk about what they have done as well. Another aspect would be immersing students in events at Pace, by attending large networking business events with students and be made a requirement to attend with me. Through our curriculum on top of introducing resources into the classroom at Pace, we will also focus on personality strength tests and motivational activities to not only be active in UNV101 but also their other courses.

Some challenges we have found with this research are to truly to decipher what it is that makes students tick. There are some students who take their curriculum very seriously and always give 110% in all of their endeavors. Even if they falter here and there, they make it known in and out of the classroom they are prepared to work. The difficulty has been identifying why some students don’t have that drive, despite the fact this is the higher education they are paying for. A huge initial question we had when beginning this research was are students studying business exclusively to make a lot of money in the future? While it is definitely in the students’ mindsets, the important aspect we need to focus on is they still need to work hard to eventually get those salaries, and they will find a lot of misery if they don’t have some interest in the work they are doing.

A lot more of this research will be more identifiable when we have our students in UNV101 beginning in the Fall semester. The organization of our syllabus and class structure will allow Carolyn and I to identify how true the variables are in deciding what business major to study for these students. The next steps are to identify why these students have chosen this undecided business degree and appeal to their needs based on what they value most.

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