Students begin college seeking rewarding academic experiences. Some first-year students enter with undeclared majors, wanting to explore a variety of disciplines. Others just want to learn it all.

Whatever the case, West Virginia University will launch a centralized support college aimed on July 1 to assist these students who don’t have an academic major. University officials hope it will also improve retention and graduation rates.

Although WVU’s 77.2 percent retention rate and 57 percent graduation rate are above the national average, Elizabeth Dooley, dean of the University College and associate provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, anticipates this program will improve those figures.

Dubbed the University College, this new unit will serve as an “academic hub” for exploratory students, general studies students, nontraditional students, the First-year Experience, McNair Scholars and undergraduate research opportunities.

There are about 7,800 WVU students who will be served through the college.

“These students span the gamut,” Dooley said. “Some students might come here wanting to be a teacher, but then they’re not sure anymore so they flounder. In partnership with the other colleges, the University College will be able to capture those students and help them re-focus and identify a new pathway.

“The University College will encounter the brilliant student who wants to experience life and education. Their objective, at this time, is to explore the possibilities. They want to have the academic experience and learn about a lot of different things.”

The ultimate goal of the University College is to steer those students toward a concentration by their sophomore year.

Academic and career advising will be central components of the college. It will also encompass Blueprint for Student Success programs like the First-year Experience, Center for Civic Engagement, the Resident Faculty Leader program, summer transition entry program, McNair Scholars, B.A. Pathways and others that contribute to student success.

In addition, the college will partner with the Career Services Center, which offers career counseling and career development programs.

The main hub for the college will be in the Student Services Center, Dooley said.

The University will introduce the University College to incoming students at new student orientation this summer and fall. By fall, the college plans to hire an associate and an assistant dean.

“We’ll have plenty of opportunities to help students with decision-making,” Dooley said.

Provost Michele Wheatly echoed Dooley’s description of University College as a tremendous asset to WVU.

“As a land-grant institution, we want to offer access to a diverse student population,” Wheatly said. “The University College will ensure that access translates into achievement.”

Wheatly also praised Dooley as the ideal leader for the new college.

“Dr. Dooley is a passionate and committed educator,” she said. “She has a real vision for what can be accomplished within the University College framework.”

Similar systems are in place at other universities across the country, Dooley said. At some campuses, all first-year students must go through a university college system. But WVU officials did not want to impose that on students who’ve already mapped out their career path.



CONTACT: University Relations/News

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