Final Report Summary: The Persistence and Retention of First-Year Business Undecided Students

I began this research with the intention of improving my skills as a Peer Leader in my university 101 classes. In my past 3 years as a Peer Leader with Carolyn Endick, the professor of the UNV101 class and the Assistant Director of New Student Programming, 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, especially business students. 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.

The methodology used to go in-depth into this topic was to read articles/academic journals that other students, administrators, professionals, etc have conducted in the past and to also speak with Pace faculty in how they handle undecided students. Through reading numerous academic articles that also took an interest in undecided business students and their motives, I was able to come to some conclusions on why this decision was made. A student’s personality must feel similar to that of the people they know whom work in business or from what they’ve seen in media. Most students are also typically familiar with the end goal of the major and the lifestyle that precedes it, such as office lifestyle, comfortable salaries, climbing a corporate ladder of sorts, etc. Using their standardized test scores and general likeness of high school classes and their relation to a specific subject matter, a student will rely on their own educational history and skills to eventually decide they want to pursue business. When a student is looking at a university to attend, many business students focus on the necessary classes that are in their curriculum and how difficult it will make their time in college. Many students who are going for a business major either want the competitive angle of competing with peers or they want a not so difficult curriculum. Students will also look for the reputation within their faculty, university, major, etc. They will rely on the university’s websites for updated accomplishments within the student body and faculty to compare how their future experiences could lead to a similar success. Also, students recognize when a university has helpful resources during their time in their undergraduate career and also for their post-graduate life. This would heavily rely on a university’s connections in internships and full-time jobs for after graduation.

Taking these factors into account, I also spoke with Shannon Haick, who is Pace’s Associate Director of Academic Resources for Advising Exploring Majors. In our interview, Haick spoke about her process when a student first comes to her office and how to keep them calm when entering their university lifestyle. She emphasizes that college is not the decision that will decide the rest of their lives, but open up new doors to the lives they can eventually achieve. She will then go through the students’ interest, personality inventories, transferable skills, and more analytical devices to truly understand who the student is and why they are at the university. Haick’s advice when motivating business students in the classroom is to emphasize the importance of their path, similar to the Pace Path each student must complete in their UNV101 class. While the Pace Path includes long-term goal setting for each semester and action steps to take for each, Haick specified students will take more action if they are consistently setting goals for themselves week-by-week in their educational careers. She also believes that students fall for fantasies of huge salaries and important jobs without any true context or passion in the work that fills these fantasies. The strongest factors in deciding how a student picks what they want to study in college should be something that not only challenges their insights, but also inspires them to keep working.

Moving forward with this research, Carolyn and I will begin our third section of University 101 this upcoming Fall. We will have a class made-up of exclusively undecided business majors and we will be changing the curriculum of our typical layout of the class to take these factors into account. We will be ensuring there is a larger emphasis on goal-setting throughout the semester, more specific knowledge of the Lubin School of Business in general with each major highlighted throughout the semester, personality strengths assessments, relevant-based news in business and a final project pitch that takes the Pace Path as more a business proposal then a college roadmap. We will also be surveying the students throughout the semester to see their process in deciding their major and how immersed they are in the classroom.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this subject, as it has put up a mirror of sorts to my decisions throughout my college career and why I’ve done what I have done. Carolyn has also been a fantastic mentor in this process, as it is extremely relevant to how she performs her job and helps her students during their first year. We are hoping to find this group of students to react well to our lessons in University 101, and show that students react well when these motivators are specified in a classroom.

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