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Exploratory Studies Program

The Exploratory Studies Program provides context for students to explore, discern and develop vocational identity and purpose.

Photo of Anjelica Juarez
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The Exploratory Studies Program provides the context for students to explore, discern, and develop vocational identity and purpose.  Many students apply to or enroll in a college or university with an underdeveloped sense of what it is they wish (or feel called) to do in their lives. Students are often forced into a major too early by simply focusing on their interests and desires, which, in many cases, are uninterrogated and underdeveloped. Many of those students who lack vocational identity or purpose are (often unintentionally and with all good intentions) pushed into majors that do not fit their vocational or intellectual goals because they are unable to articulate that vocational purpose during the admission process.  These students, then, are attrition risks or require a great deal of university resources to explore and change to new majors. With the increase in first generation college students and the increased recruiting opportunities afforded to athletics programs by their NCAA membership, the Exploratory Studies Program would allow traditionally under-prepared students to better navigate the major selection process with guidance from faculty and staff.

This program would feature a freshmen/transfer seminar class structured around finding meaning and purpose. Students who enter the exploring program will  be given an opportunity to explore different vocations via one day vocational experiences in different industries and career fields. Exploring students will be provided with academic advising in small groups which enables the advisor to engage the students in conversations specific to their vocational interests and help them to select a major and identify a career path. Additional features of the program include a retreat focused on finding purpose and vocation, a speaker series bringing in those who have traveled down different vocational pathways and can speak on topics of identity, purpose, passion and vocation. 

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This program is designed for undergraduate students our hope is that it will aid students in moving from education to vocation by providing them with the space to examine and explore their interests and passions before they select a major.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would love to hear from those who have already implemented programs similar to this one, what were some barriers that you faced? What would be worthy additions to this program to aid students in gauging their skills and purpose? What grant foundations and partners would offer funding to a program such as this?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

In the Fall of 2017 the first of 2 classes in this program will begin at our university. We are hoping that by starting small we can allow ourselves room to grow and change as we discern the needs of our students.

Tell us about your work experience:

This idea is the result of a collaboration of engaged faculty and staff members at our University. We all have varying degrees of education and experience in higher education and in exploring vocation.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Anjelica, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.