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.

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.

The Persistence and Retention of First-Year Business Undecided Students

My name is Jake Cameron and I am a rising senior Arts and Entertainment Management major at Pace University. I was very fortunate during my freshman year to be extremely involved in the AEM program, as I was able to meet with professors early on, meet upperclassmen and alumni, and also begin laying the groundwork for how I want to shape my college career. However, I know many of my classmates were not as active.

Since I was a sophomore, I have been a UNV Peer Leader under the supervision of Carolyn Endick, who is the Assistant Director of New Student Programs. For every student who attends Pace University, they must first take UNV 101 during their first semester. During this class, they are given an introduction to the university and the many different departments/assets that are a part of it as well. Additionally, the students also learn separate ideas of how to manage their time in college, how to create their schedules for different semesters, how to navigate New York City, etc. Their homework and projects involve going to events hosted by Pace’s clubs/organizations, and creating a 4-year plan that they can adjust as they continue on their college career.

While working with Carolyn in two separate UNV business classes, we’ve seen a variety of different students that have struggled with their adjustment into college. One particular difficult adjustment is found frequently in the many undecided business students that have been in our classes. While they are taking the exact same classes as business students with declared majors, they are overwhelmed or unmotivated to navigate within the array of clubs/organizations of particular majors and find difficulty finding a community of students who have similar professional goals to them.

This had led Carolyn and me to pursue research in the realm of undecided business students, and what we, as educators for UNV 101, can do to help students find their footing and major in college. What we are hoping to do is interview and poll a variety of different business students, and how they were able to finally pick their major. We also will be analyzing other universities’ freshman year seminars and how they also combat this type of student.

Our goal for the end of this project is to take our learnings from this Summer and apply it to our UNV 101 class in the Fall, which will be primarily filled with undecided business students. We would like to see how many students choose their major by the end of their first semester, and then, after their freshmen year, how many are still undecided. We want to also interview these students and see the influences that impacted their decisions, whether that be in-class experiences or out-of-class experiences. With that information, we hope to find the true motivational key that is seen in successful business students.