The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) is SFU’s largest and most diverse faculty with close to 12,000 students over 20 plus disciplines. One of the main and persistent challenges facing the Faculty is related to the issue of undeclared students. Close to two-thirds of FASS students (7000+) are undeclared. While a large number of these students are understandably undeclared (i.e. they are still too early in their academic career), a significant number remain undeclared beyond 60 credits. This is causing numerous secondary issues. Most notably, higher dropout and stop out rates, as well as numerous administrative and resource challenges.
In the summer of 2015, senior FASS leadership approached the Student Engagement & Retention (SER) unit and Career & Volunteer Services to create a strategy that would address this issue. Despite tight timelines and limited resources, the three areas worked together to develop the new How I Met My Major (HIMMM) program. The pilot launched in the fall 2015 semester.
For SER, their involvement aligned with their evolving model of student support and their Senate mandated responsibilities. For Career & Volunteer Services, participation was tied to our department’s model of career support. Specifically, one of our key roles is to support students with good decision making as part of their overall (intentional) career exploration. This initiative also allowed us to connect with students who might not normally seek our support.
The goals of the initiative were multiple:
To achieve these goals a blended delivery approach was designed. Central to the program were three 10-minute in-class presentations delivered bi-weekly and supplemented by online course material., The in-class components used an “edutainment” lens (i.e. interactive, fun, and informative) to encourage engagement. This is where the Lego, Timbits, and Tinder came in. :)
The sessions were constructed to provide a behavioural nudge, to help students think about their major and their future in different ways. They were also meant to motivate students to explore the online materials where they could dig deeper and be motivated to take meaningful action. The content was grounded in career and student development theory and influenced by transition theory and behavioural economics.
Over the first two semesters of the pilot, over 1100 students were exposed to this program. Though it is still too early to determine if the program has met its originally stated goals, much has already been gained in this partnership. From a Career & Volunteer Services perspective, we were able to share our messaging, even if only briefly, with more than 1000 new SFU students. Our hope is that the seeds we planted will lead to a more mature and intentional way of looking at one’s university career. Perhaps of equal value, administrators and senior faculty members in the university’s largest faculty now have a greater appreciation of what we do and how our programming can positively impact the student experience. This has the potential to lead to many other interesting and exciting possibilities.
And people say you shouldn’t use Tinder if you’re looking for a relationship…