Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to major in and exactly what career field they want to enter upon graduation. For many, however, things are a little less certain – some students may need to explore different possibilities to find the right fit. If this second profile describes you, then the Albright College Alpha Program is designed specifically for you. Through academic guidance, peer support, special events and career counseling, the Alpha Program will help you to choose the appropriate major, as well as assist you in finding a fulfilling career.
The value of this program is best shared by Albright’s alumni and students who have participated in the Alpha Program. Also, learn more about what it means to have an “undeclared major” as part of the Alpha program and the support you can expect. Be sure to check out this past year’s Alpha Program events.
Mission – The Alpha Program will provide holistic guidance for entering students who have not declared a major. The Program will combine academic coursework, focused advising, and a specialized living environment that integrates academic and social content to provide intentional support to students on their pathway toward acclimating to college life and selecting a major that best suits their academic, personal and career interests and abilities.
What Does It Mean to Be “Undeclared”?
Alpha, the first letter in the Greek alphabet, symbolizes a beginning. First-year college students experience one of the most exciting and, at the same time, potentially bewildering “beginnings” of their lives. The Alpha Program is meant to serve the needs of the many students who have yet to settle on a major, for whatever reason – perhaps you have a difficult time choosing among many interests; or you want to explore some options before deciding on a program; or maybe you feel pressured to choose an academic major, but don’t feel ready.
At Albright College, we emphasize that it’s fine for students to enter college without a clear idea of which academic program they wish to pursue and what their ultimate career will be. Even those who enter with certainties often find themselves in transition between majors more than once as their studies progress. Nationally, about 70% of students change their major during their college career. Being undeclared and/or undecided isn’t a cause for panic, for you or your parents! The opportunity for academic exploration is a unique life opportunity, and it is central to the educational experience at a liberal arts college like Albright.
What Can You Expect as an Alpha Student?
The Albright Alpha Program is available to all first-year and sophomore students who have not declared a major. Each Alpha student is assigned a faculty adviser specially chosen to counsel undeclared students and help them learn about the programs of study the College offers, the careers these may lead to, and their own interests and goals. Alpha’s goal is to help students explore the world of knowledge and themselves in order to make better informed choices among academic concentrations.
Gradually Alpha students define their academic interests more clearly and select a major that will provide learning in depth to complement the learning in breadth which comes with a liberal arts program’s general education courses. The Alpha Program facilitates this process.
The Alpha Toolbox
Advisors – Every student will be assigned an Alpha Advisor from among the faculty. These advisors have received training and professional development targeted toward working with students who are currently undecided about their majors. In addition to meeting with the Advisor to select courses for the upcoming semester, Alpha students meet with their Alpha Advisor regularly to discuss courses, interests, and other tools to determine an appropriate major(s). Your Advisor, who together with the Registrar and others, can work with you to select a program which provides broad exposure to many different fields and keeps curricular options as open as possible. The Advisor will assist in choosing courses in a wide variety of academic disciplines. In doing so you will also meet a diverse group of faculty, who present new knowledge and new perspectives, and have the opportunity for many contacts with peers with whom you can share experiences and exchange ideas.
Office of Student Success – The Office of Student Success provides proactive outreach, personalized academic support, and campus connections to help first-year students maximize their potential for success. Each freshman student has been assigned a Student Success Specialist (SSS) based upon their last name.
The coaches are assigned as follows (with office locations in parentheses):
- A-D – Sharmon Bryant (Teel Hall 108),
- E-J – Jason Deitz (Teel Hall 314),
- K-L – Laura DePue (Teel Hall 213C),
- M-Q – Robin Vacek (Teel Hall 213A),
- R-Z – Dom Washington (Teel Hall 109)
Alpha Majority FYS Courses – Many Alpha students will be placed in a First-Year Seminar course with other Alpha students that was developed and modified by Albright Faculty as well as T3 and ELCDC staff to include facets aimed at fostering success in undecided students. Some of these faculty members will be familiar, as they are also Alpha Advisors. This course will contain opportunities for students to interact with T3 and ELCDC staff along with the course’s faculty member. This initiative is new to the fall 2020 semester!
The Experiential Learning and Career Development Center (ELCDC) is a key part of the Alpha toolbox, helping students identify their strengths and interests, learn about potential careers, and even undertake internships that help them define their goals. The Center offers career assessment/testing, welcomes one-on-one appointments with students, and sponsors events like those described below.
Events for Alpha students sponsored by the ELCDC may include things like the following:
- A panel of former students who relate their experiences in choosing a major or career.
- “What Can I Do With A Career In…” and other alumni networking events for students to engage with alumni to learn more about their college majors, careers, and the world of work.
- A virtual or on-site “fair” that brings together faculty from many different academic departments for information about their discipline and the careers they often lead to.
- A small panel of faculty might discuss particular academic programs at Albright.
- Sessions to take an interest-defining survey instrument and discuss the results.
- Other speakers or activities especially pertinent to the interests and needs of undecided students.
The Alpha Program cultivates self-direction and responsibility in its students as well providing assistance and opportunities. Another tool is the “Alpha Advising Syllabus,” which sets some self-guided expectations for you to meet in order to be more intentional about your academic progress and to maximize the resources available to you as an Alpha student, such as adviser meetings and ELCDC events. Another is an advisee “self-profile survey” that can give your advisor useful information about your academic history and habits.
The Alpha Living Learning Community is focused on providing Alpha major students an immersive residential experience by offering specialized academic guidance, peer support, special events, and career counseling to find a fulfilling major. Being part of the Alpha Living Learning Community will allow students to engage peers in the exploration of the future. Residential Life, the Office of Student Success, the ELCDC, and other campus partners will provide programs that are targeted at exploring different sides of students’ personalities, interests, and potential careers.
Individual counseling is always available from your adviser, the ELCDC, or others in Academic Affairs such as the Academic Learning Center or Dean. Once you have declared a major, you will be assigned an adviser from that academic department. However, many Alpha students find that their Alpha adviser remains a welcome resource for them throughout their career at Albright.
In The Works
An additional toolbox item that is being piloted is a course for first-year students focused on “Major Decisions.” This course will be offered in the spring 2021 semester to give students a better understanding of the career pathways available to them within certain majors and even after graduation.
Look for SPI 125: Major Decisions, being taught by Dr. Couchman. This class counts as a General Studies Elective, and will be held online, synchronously, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am-11:45am. In this course, students will learn how to succeed in college, how to make major decisions in life while avoiding common pitfalls and biases, and how to begin forming a personal life philosophy that can help guide you on your path. Through readings, activities, and seminar discussions, students will assess abilities, turn general interests into concrete steps forward, and gain valuable skills.
Important Resources for Albright College Alpha Students
Focus 2 Career: Career and Major Exploration Portal
Access Code: lions
Listen to What Our Graduates Say about the Alpha Program
“When I started at Albright, I was clueless. The Alpha Program really came through for me. With my advisor’s help, I put together a diverse academic program that gave me a broad background and a push in the right direction. I gained a liberal arts foundation that I depend on every day in my business, and in my life.”
Major: Business Management;
President, Marchon Eyewear – On Top Corp.
“The Alpha Program helped me explore Albright’s academic possibilities and let me try a little bit of everything before I picked my major. I ended up taking courses I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. One in particular, an interdisciplinary study in the Bahamas in biology and chemistry, shaped my decision to become a biology major. Alpha is something that is unique to Albright, and it certainly weighed in my decision to come here.”
“I owe a lot to Albright and its Alpha Program. I had a strong interest in political science when I started there, but I also like psychology. The Alpha Program enabled me to thoroughly explore the curriculum to decide which major best suited me. Of course, there’s much more to Alpha. My advisor and I had a lengthy discussion about the law and political science which inspired me to go on to law school. Alpha really takes you where you want to go.”
Alison Carrigan, J.D.
Major: Political Science, Summa Cum Laude
Judicial Clerk, State of NJ
“I didn’t want to pick a major that I might later change, so Alpha was perfect for me. I knew I was interested in art, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be only an art major or to add another major. Through Alpha, I hooked up with a professor in communications who told me his field would work well with my art focus. My advisor was fabulous and always there for me.”
Production Coordinator, Soap Opera Digest, New York