For Cara Ramsaran ’21, there was a certain level of stress associated with trying to find the right major to fit her interests and dreams. Luckily for her, and the hundreds of other undecided students arriving on campus each fall, SUNY Potsdam’s Exploratory Program provides them with the support and guidance they need to choose a fitting career path and major.
“I think the best part of the exploratory program is that I’m not alone in trying to figure out what I want to do,” Ramsaran explained.
As an undergraduate student, she worked with Assistant Professor Matthew LaVine ’08 to make some decisions about her future. “I found everything interesting—communications, philosophy, sociology, and politics. Trying to narrow down exactly what I liked about those disciplines, and figuring out what I wanted to do, was the toughest problem,” she said.
LaVine, who attended SUNY Potsdam as an undergraduate student, was in the perfect place to help her choose a major. He was once an undecided student himself, exploring four different majors and three different minors before selecting philosophy and mathematics as a double major, and going on to pursue his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University at Buffalo. Truly a Renaissance man, he has taught courses in philosophy, mathematics, environmental studies, linguistics, and psychology since joining the College as a faculty member in 2012.
“The Exploratory Program offers academic support and programming aimed at helping students who haven’t yet declared their major to find the right fit for them in terms of a curricular path,” LaVine said. “Our job is to do whatever we can to help students rigorously and systematically explore what different disciplines at SUNY Potsdam look like, day-to-day.”
Any student who has not yet selected a major is considered an exploratory student at SUNY Potsdam, and there are numerous tools available to them through the program. The Major Fair gives students the opportunity to interact with faculty from different departments and learn about all of their academic options. A Career and Major Exploration class also allowed first-year students like Jason Perregaux ’21 a chance to assess their strengths and narrow down their career interests. “The goal was to help you find the career you want and then to backtrack to figure out what majors and what minors would help you do that,” Perregaux said.
When Michaela Nissen ’19 was a first-year student, she also remembers feels totally uncertain about her career path. “I was very nervous because I didn’t have a major and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was worried about graduating on time. What if I declared a major and then want to switch? I had commitment issues, times 10. It was rough,” she said.
That changed over the course of her first year on campus as she went from being an exploratory student to selecting a major in early childhood education. Toby White, the director of experiential education, was an encouraging voice as she struggled to make a decision. He thought she should consider becoming an educator, and he recommended meeting with a local teacher to see if it was a good fit. “I shadowed a teacher and I loved it. I loved being in the classroom and I loved working with the kids,” Nissen said.
The exploratory program offers a home for students who are trying to choose their academic trajectory at SUNY Potsdam. If you are currently an exploratory student trying to narrow down your interests, contact Sergio Lopez, the director of the Exploratory Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org.