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'Meta major' program aimed at getting students to focus interests sooner

Jun 2, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Central Wyoming College hopes to initiate a new set of academic programs this fall to help students identify preferred areas of study.

The "meta majors" were designed to more quickly focus each student's attention on a pathway of interest. As a result, the individual avoids taking unnecessary credits and can save financial aid money for use at a four-year school after graduation.

The change represents a revision to CWC's general studies degree, resulting in the creation of new Associate of Arts degrees in interdisciplinary studies, business, health science, liberal arts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), social science, and visual and performing arts. A certificate also would be available in health science.

"'General studies' is losing its meaning," said Jason Wood, the college's executive vice president for student and academic services. "(These are) default pathways, instead of students just randomly selecting classes. There's informed choice."

Each track represents a "better concentration" of what students need, Wood said, offering "more impact on learning" for fewer credits.

Advising

Wood explained the concept of interdisciplinary studies, through which a student selects two academic programs of interest and works with a faculty member to define a unique major.

"They come out with a customizable roadmap for students to achieve a degree," he said. "And they're transferrable. ... It will match up with a major or minor that's very common at the university setting."

He noted that the program is "advisor intensive" and may require CWC to rethink its advising strategy.

"It's not core schedule building," Wood said. "It's faculty working with students before they enroll here (to find out) what they want to accomplish."

Instead of making it mandatory to meet with an advisor, he plans to give students an incentive. For example, this spring he let students register early for classes if they showed up for an advising event.

"We had 307 students on our initial advising day participate," Wood said. "We can refine that process and make it even better next time."

Participation in a new student orientation including a financial literacy class and a persistence and completion academy also are part of the meta majors proposal, which Wood called "perhaps the most exciting initiative" he has brought to the CWC Board of Trustees.

The board approved the plan in April, and the Wyoming Community College Commission will consider the revision in June.

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