Students explore options at annual Majors Fair


GVL / Aida Dennis

Jacob Kirn, Web Editor

On Nov. 2, Grand Valley State University students, faculty and alumni gathered in the Grand River Room in Kirkhof Center for the annual Majors Fair. 

The event included representatives from all 96 undergraduate degree programs, as well as the Career Center, each offering valuable insights and networking opportunities for students looking to explore new fields.

Emily Davis, a College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) advisor and member of the Exploratory Study advising team, said the event was designed for potentially-undecided students to connect with faculty from a broad range of departments, interact with advisors and explore future career paths. 

According to the Exploratory Study website, over 1,000 students begin their journey at GVSU without declaring their major each year. However, several faculty members said that the event was equally valuable for students looking to switch from their current major.

“I can speak from personal experience,” said Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Elizabeth Arnold. “I came into university with one major in mind, and decided very quickly that it wasn’t for me.”

This is perhaps due to a lack of exposure, Arnold said, as lesser-known degrees are often dismissed as irresponsible financial investments. 

“There are so many majors and minors available that incoming students have simply never heard of,” Arnold said. “Students come out of high school thinking ‘engineering, nursing or education,’ until they come to something like (the Majors Fair) and see that there’s more options out there.”

Sara Arends, an undecided freshman, said her discussions with faculty and alumni helped to ease the pressure of not having a major declared. 

“I told them that I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet,” Arends said. “They would say, ‘We still don’t really know what we want to do.’”

Other students, like undecided freshman Jack McClure, echoed the idea that events like these can be important for those still trying to figure out their plans.

“It’s important to look around and see all of the options, to talk to people from areas you’ve never considered,” McClure said. “If nothing else, it helped me learn more about what I don’t want to do, which is just as important — you’ve just got to narrow down the list.”

McClure said that he was also directed to the Career Center table to learn about PathwayU, a resource that helps students choose an educational path based on their career goals and interests.

“I feel like a lot of students are intimidated to come to (the Career Center),” said Graduate Assistant Ashley Oerman. “But undecided students can really benefit from things like career assessments, one-on-one advisor meetings and even our class, US 301, that helps students explore different industries.”

Oerman added that the Career Center can also help students create resumes, practice interviewing and find meaningful job opportunities at any stage in their life.

Some attendees poked fun at what appeared to be a smaller turnout than in recent years — the leading idea was that students had preferred to enjoy the 70-degree November weather — while others hoped that, more seriously, the large collection of online resources had been helpful enough for students to learn about their options.

“We’ve had a couple of good conversations,” said Affiliate Professor of Geology Ian Winkelstern. “But even if you have one that’s impactful, it’s worth showing up.”

Associate Professor of Biology Michael Henshaw said for students who weren’t able to attend, reaching out to their advisor is a great way to get started.

“We have such amazing resources here,” Henshaw said. “We know it’s difficult for students to make these big decisions, to figure out what direction they’re headed in, but we all just want to see people succeed and get to where they need to be.”