Exploratory program offers unique options

Davy Vargo

Some may be inclined to call Kent State exploratory students indecisive, but sophomore exploratory student Celeste Dawson calls them passionate.

“There is an array of different personalities,” Dawson said. “A lot of people come in with so many passions, so many interests, and they can’t pinpoint it to one (major).”

Kent State’s exploratory program is a popular option for students who are unable to choose a major. Currently there are 1,044 students enrolled as exploratory students.

Exploratory students are able to take different classes from various majors until they reach 45 credit hours, generally after three semesters.

Nicole Kotlan, director of the Exploratory Advising Center, said the program allows students to choose a concentration, based on 13 interest areas, for their First-Year Experience course. This allows them to hear guest speakers from various fields, and helps them narrow down their career interests.

“For example, if I’m interested in business, those sections have special speakers that come in related to the different areas of business,” Kotlan said.

The exploratory advisors recommend courses that fit the best with student’s possible interests but keep them on track for any major they may choose.

“(For example), if they’re interested in communications, marketing (and) history,” Kotlan said, “business is going to have the highest math of those three, (so) we would recommend they take (a certain) math class so that if they go to any of those three, they’re done with math.”

Kotlan said students are presented with plans, tests and activities that measure their “career readiness.” They meet with their advisers for an hour-long appointment each semester, plus a meet and greet appointment in the fall.

“We know we want to spend more time with them and have those conversations — not just about picking your classes. It’s about learning more about (students) and helping them explore,” she said. “We’re not here to spin a magic wheel and find a major for them. There is work on their part to do the exploration.”

Dawson was intrigued with the strategies that the advisers used to boil down her major interests.

“It was very interesting because they took things like my favorite TV show or my favorite book and turned that into ‘Oh you have sole focus on family,’” she said. “It was a very interesting process, how they took little things like that and turned it into things about me.”

Dawson is still in the process of deciding between interpersonal communication and human development and family studies.

The level of certainty for a major commitment varies from student-to-student.

“Some students are coming in almost decided; they might want to be nursing, they might (want) to do business,” Kotlan said. “And then you have students … they don’t know what they want to do, but they know what they don’t want to do.”

Sophomore marketing major Emily Dominik was one of those students who was undecided.

“I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I came to school,” Dominik said.

She thought about majoring in communications, public relations or advertising, but business was near the bottom of her list.

“I realized I was actually not very good at writing, so public relations would not be a good idea,” Dominik said. “And then I actually took a few business classes and I was like ‘Oh, I can do this, this is great.’”

While some believe it is more economical to follow your job opportunities, Dominik believes people should follow their passions.

“I think (there) are plenty of opportunities to mix passion with opportunity,” she said. “I think you can meet in the middle and not even sacrifice the passion.”

Dawson agreed.

“If you follow your passions, opportunities are going to fall into your lap,” she said. “If you’re loving what you’re doing, you’re going to have a drive to pursue that, and so I think the opportunities would just be there.”

Hobson Hamilton, Jr., assistant director of Kent State’s Career Services, said he also believes in following passions versus opportunities.

“If a person follows their passion, they’re going to typically find opportunities that match their qualifications,” he said. “I think they’re going to enjoy doing that more.”

As a career counselor, Hamilton ideally wants to merge passion with opportunity, and show students where the best opportunities lie for their particular passions.

Davy Vargo is the student life reporter, contact her at [email protected]