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Meta-Majors Initiative to Be Implemented Next Year

By Daniel Smith
On October 24, 2018

Meta-majors help keep undecided students on track to finish on time.
Photo Courtesy of Concord University

The Academic Success Center is currently planning to implement a meta-major initiative for students who have undecided majors.

According to Sheila Womack, program specialist, meta-majors are large areas of academic interest grouped together. The purpose is to find overlap of both required and general education courses that are relevant to one academic area. Finding overlap will help the student identify which majors have the most course requirements in common to determine which majors to group together into a meta-major.

The goal for doing this is for students who declare a meta-major to be able to take courses during their first year that satisfy each of the major’s requirements within that academic focus group. Womack states that when a major is declared at the end of the first year, there will be a seamless transition into the regular degree program.

She comments, “So we’re really just in the planning stages at this point. We’re trying to get faculty input and department input on how their programs fit into the larger idea of a meta-major. Really, academic focus areas is a more accurate terminology.”

There are five areas right now that are potential meta-major candidates. These departments are humanities and arts, social sciences, science and math, business, and education. For incoming students who are undecided on their majors, the ASC wants to keep the number of choices at four or five. Womack says these are informal classifications that will evolve as feedback is received.

Womack states that the meta-major initiative was started by Complete College America. On Complete College America’s website at completecollege. org, it is described as a national non-profit. Its mission is “Leveraging our Alliance to eliminate achievement gaps by providing equity of opportunity for all students to complete college degrees and credentials of purpose and value.”

The idea of the meta-major is also part of a Complete College America strategy called momentum year. According the website, a momentum year involves “first-year benchmarks” that include the student having chosen a major, enrolled with 30 credit hours for the year, and the with nine credits within the program of study completed, as well as entry level math and English.

Momentum year is one of the five strategies that Complete College America uses. The four other strategies are “15 to Finish,” corequisite support, academic maps with proactive advising, math pathways, and a better deal for returning adults.

All of the public state univerisites are part of this program. The state of West Virginia through the West Virginia Higher Education Planning Commission decided to partner up with Complete College America. Womack explains this as a retention effort to get more West Virginians to receive some kind of higher education credentials.

As for the starting phase of this initiative, a conference was held at the beginning of September, where representatives from all of the state institutions were present to receive training from Complete College America experts. The experts trained the representatives on how to implement this new strategy on campuses.

The initiative is now in the planning stages, and the ASC is one of many different offices that will implement the initiatives. ASC is working with Academic Affairs, the Office of the Registrar, the IT department, and Admissions.

Dr. Cory Williams, department chair and associate professor of communication arts, feels that it is something that students will find helpful only if they are undecided. “This could help people in their second year if they’re undecided and undeclared, but a lot of that’s on the student to pick a major, so they have to do that anyway at the junior level. If a program exists that helps people in the process of choosing a major, [the meta-major] can be helpful,” says Williams.

The biggest problem that arose with the students he advised, he states, was when they switched majors. He explains that doing so would put them behind in their progression, but if they stayed in the same area for a long time, they would be fine. Williams believes that when it comes to undecided students, as long as they choose a major and take general education courses, they should not have a problem.

He sees where the meta-major can help students target one area of study a little more, yet he hopes that every major is encompassed by the meta-majors. “It’s very important to have each discipline represented within each different meta-major, so hopefully all majors can be represented so that options are available for every major on campus within a meta-major,” says Williams.

The ASC is hoping to get all of the plans in place for this initiative so that it can be implemented the next academic year. 

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