If you walk inside of Butler University’s Learning Resource Center, you will likely run into Heather Lee, one of the academic advisors for students in the Exploratory Studies Program. Inside her office hangs a bulletin board covered in photographs of students: students she has helped pick an area of study through the program in the past year alone.
For some, deciding what to study in college can be one of the hardest decisions to make. Typically, Lee will meet with students to plan a schedule that includes classes that cover a wide range of the student’s interests before they even arrive on campus.
“What’s the number one question that people ask when you are coming into college? ‘What’s your major?’” Lee says. “Exploratory studies is a great place to fall if you have a couple of ideas or if you have 20 or 30.”
Lee teaches an exploratory studies class that is geared toward first-year students. The class isn’t like a typical seminar; students complete self assessments, shadow and observe classes, and do research on the types of careers that are available with each degree that they might be interested in.
Through the class, exploratory students can also job shadow and attend faculty panels where professors come and discuss every major and minor that Butler offers.
“This leaves them with a foundation where they get to learn about their strengths, what their interests are, and gives them an opportunity to see what [a certain major] is really like,” says Lee.
Lee feels that the program is extremely valuable to students because it can empower them and give them reassurance that they will find a major that they are interested in.
“Some students look around campus and feel that their peers have it all figured out,” Lee says. “You don’t have to have it all figured out. When [students] do come in as exploratory, I like for them to convey it to other people and say that they are an exploratory studies student; that it is a major, and that they are doing the research to make an informed decision on what their major is going to be.”
In recent years, exploratory studies has been one of the largest majors on Butler’s campus. Since the 2015-2016 school year, the program has grown by over 60 students. Currently, there are almost 200 students in the program.
Jen Mann is another academic advisor in the Learning Resource Center who also works as a student development specialist. She says that the exploratory studies major is essential because of the countless options that are available to Butler students.
“In high school, students are likely only exposed to around 10 areas of study,” Mann says. “Here at Butler, we have over 65 majors. There is no way that a first year student has any concept of what some of those areas are that they could potentially go into.”
Mann sees the exploratory studies program as a unique opportunity for Butler students.
“I think what this program has done is make [exploratory studies] a very real major,” Mann says. “It is a program that is intentional, planned, and thoughtful, and is a space where you can come in and have some normalcy with the goal of students feeling confident in saying that they are an exploratory studies major.”
Corrin Godlevske is a junior marketing major who started her first year at Butler in the exploratory studies major. She said that coming into college, she was torn between studying business or going into the pre-PA program.
“I’m thankful that I fell into exploratory,” Godlevske says. “The amount of help that I’ve received, even after [declaring my major], with questions about prerequisites and classes and all of that, they are always so willing to help me out.”
During her first semester as an exploratory studies major, Godlevske felt a little nervous about choosing an area of study, but listening to professors talk about their majors during classes and taking a Real Business Experience class helped to guide her toward the marketing major. Now she is confident in her major and thankful for the program.
“I’m not behind and I don’t feel like I missed anything that any other first-year would have done,” Godlevske says. “If anything, it has added to my experience and now I have such a great support system in the [Learning Resource Center] because they are always there to reassure me.”
Godlevske thinks that the exploratory studies major is something that separates Butler from other schools because it can be comforting to a new student who is unsure about deciding a major.
“I don’t think that a lot of other universities offer the same experience,” Godlevske says. “You come in and get this reassurance that you are in the right place.”
Nina Bertino is a junior strategic communications major who started as an exploratory student. She said that originally she was thinking about studying psychology in college, but joined the exploratory studies program to hone in on her interests.
“I didn’t even know that [strategic communication] was an option,” Bertino says. “It has been such a great major for me and the exploratory class helped me narrow down what exactly I was interested in.”
Some may doubt that the exploratory studies major would work or that it is worth the time to go through. But for Bertino, it was well worth it.
“I had a lot of people tell me, ‘Oh, you are going to school and you don’t even know what your major is?’” Bertino says. “I am actually on track to graduate a semester early because I went into exploratory.”
Bertino said the biggest thing is to figure out what you are passionate about and to go from there.
“There are a lot of people who declare, but you shouldn’t let that scare you,” Bertino says. “A lot of people change their majors or go into a major that they don’t really like. Take the time and figure out what exactly you want to study.”