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September 6, 2016   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Exploratory Center provides personal advising services

Exploratory Center provides personal advising services

Tracy Coley

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By Tracy Coley | September 6, 2016
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UGA dedicated on Aug. 24 the Exploratory Center, a new resource that provides personalized advising services for students who need help choosing a major, as well as for intended business and journalism majors.

Across UGA, advisors in each school and college assist students with established majors. The 13 advisors in the Exploratory Center, which is located on the first floor of the Tate Student Center, are specially trained to help students identify a major that aligns with their interests and skills. In addition to housing advisors who work exclusively with students with unspecified majors, the Exploratory Center houses advisors for students who plan to pursue careers in business and journalism.

Led by coordinator Jennifer Eberhart, the advisors also refer students to partner units on campus that can assist them with career assessments, campus engagement and experiential learning opportunities that may help them identify the best academic path for them.

Recent data show that nearly 70 percent of UGA students change majors, with about 25 percent of those students changing their majors more than once.

"Our goal is to help every student make the most of their first year of college and work through career goals while taking core classes that count toward their degree and reduce time to graduation," said Judith Iakovou, director of UGA Academic Advising Services. "Many times students feel pressured to declare a major before they arrive for classes, and when they change majors, they end up losing course credits that don't count toward their new majors."

Litashia Carter, an advisor for students with unspecified majors, said the center is an invaluable resource for undergraduates trying to navigate the vast landscape of majors.

"The Exploratory Center has been great for students who don't yet know what they want to do," Carter said. "They've told our advisors that even the name ‘Exploratory' makes them feel like they've come to the right place to find the major that's best for them."

"This center sounds great," said Beatriz Lima-Silva, a fourth-year student majoring in public relations. "I wish we'd had this when I was thinking about applying to Grady. It would have made my transition so much smoother."

The center already is proving to be popular, assisting nearly 600 students within the first week of opening. Located in the middle of campus and with easy access for students, the center signals the completion of a major component of UGA's initiative to enhance advising.

"The Exploratory Center will help our students earn their degrees in a more timely manner, and it exemplifies the University of Georgia's commitment to student success," said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Since 2014, the university has hired 35 additional advisors to give students more individual attention in the advising process. More than 50 new faculty members also were hired, and more than 300 course sections were added in critical areas in 2015-16 to reduce class sizes and increase the amount of personalized instruction students receive from their professors.

Incoming students this year also are the first to benefit fully from UGA's experiential learning initiative, which requires all undergraduate students to have at least one hands-on learning experience outside of the traditional classroom setting prior to graduation.

"The Exploratory Center is one more step in the university's ongoing efforts to enhance our world-class learning environment," said President Jere W. Morehead. "By providing students with unrivaled hands-on learning opportunities and a high level of personalized support, we help position them for success at UGA and well beyond graduation."

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