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. Read on to learn what it means to have an “undeclared major” as part of the Alpha program and the support you can expect.
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.
If you have questions about the Alpha Program, contact Michael Verno, Title III Activities Director.
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, who volunteered for this position. 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 can 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. 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. Here is a helpful document to get your started on your advisor/advisee relationship.
Meet Your Advisors
Hilary Aquino, Ph.D.
Hilary Aquino grew up in Manhattan, attended Dickinson College for undergraduate, and Stony Brook University for my M.A. and Ph.D. in History. Her research area of concentration is the ways in which gender and race intersect with medicine and public health. She advises for the History Department and the Public Health program, which she co-founded. She also teaches for the Women and Gender Studies program.
Specialty Advising Area/Discipline – History & Public Health
Guillaume de Syon, Ph.D.
Guillaume de Syon teaches all kind of history courses, from the Antiquity to the present, as well as first-year and synthesis courses on technology’s impact on society. Though he is specialized in the humanities, he also assists students in finding their way to the social sciences and the sciences.
Specialty Advising Area/Discipline – History & Humanities
Elizabeth Kiester, Ph.D.
Dr. Elizabeth Kiester is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Albright College in Reading, PA. She loves advising first-year and alpha students, helping them discover who they are, and watching them find their way here at Albright. She specializes in Gender and Family Studies particularly within labor market organizations and globally with regard to immigration. Her most current research projects focus on the impact of COVID-19, precarious status, detention, and deportation on immigrant communities. She enjoys spending time outside with her husband, Tim, daughter, Kaiya, and their dogs Jedi and Thorin.
Specialty Advising Area/Discipline – Sociology & Social Sciences
David Tanner, MPA
David Tanner has been at Albright College for over 10 years, serving as the director for the Center for the Arts and the academic program coordinator for the arts administration co-major/minor. He has more than 30 years of experience leading art and history museums and performing arts organizations. Tanner works closely with all the arts departments on campus, art and art history, arts education, music, fashion, and theatre, as well as the business, communications, history, and political science departments, often co-advising arts administration students in all of these co-majors.
Specialty Advising Area/Discipline – Arts Administration & Fine Arts
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-B; E-J – Jason Deitz (Teel Hall 314),
- C; K-L – Laura DePue (Teel Hall 213C),
- M-Q – Robin Vacek (Teel Hall 213A),
- D; 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 Student Support Services 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 both the faculty and support services staff of Albright College.
Experiential Learning and Career Development Center (ELCDC) – The 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. An Alpha Peer Educator, a former Alpha Major, is also involved in developing programs for the learning community as well as providing first-hand experience and knowledge of the journey from being an Alpha Major to declaring a major. 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.
SPI 125: Major Decisions – In this course, which counts as a General Students Elective, 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. This course is taught by Dr. Justin Couchman of the Psychology department, and it aims to give students a greater understanding of how they think and how that relates to majors and career pathways.
Major Shadow Program – Thinking about declaring or changing majors, but still have some lingering questions? No problem! Albright College’s Alpha Program can point students in the right direction to get those answers and more. Major Shadowing allows exploring students to gain insight about a major from those who understand it best. You’ll be prepared, to make a more informed choice before changing or declaring that major.
Major Shadowing offers students the following opportunities:
- Meet with a Department Chair to discuss the major and answer questions
- Meet with an upperclassman within that major to learn about the student perspective
- Observe a course within that major to experience directly the content, expectations, and excitement of the classroom
Students who wish to formally request this Major Shadowing opportunity should follow this process:
- Email your Academic Advisor, indicating an interest to shadow a particular major.
- The Academic Advisor will reach out to the requested Department Chair to establish contact between the Department and the student.
- The Department Chair will meet with the student to set-up any component of the Major Shadowing Program the student has interest in experiencing.
Alpha Student Resources
The journey of self and major exploration begins now! Start now by checking out some of our resources, including Focus 2 & What Can I Do With This Major, two career and major exploration platforms. Also, check back here periodically as we continue to add helpful resources.
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