by Kevin Whitehead
Beginning next fall, Rider will be implementing the Freshman Discovery Program, a way to help undeclared freshmen settle on a major and ultimately pinpoint their career path.
This program, a three-year pilot to observe how students react and adhere to the program’s goals, is launching after a four-year process in which professors and faculty worked out its logistics.
“What we want to do is put in place a set of experiences that will excite those students which will show them the possibilities that Rider offers in different majors,” said Don Steven, Provost and vice president for academic affairs.
The Freshman Discovery Program consists of 40 undeclared students who have displayed satisfactory critical reading and writing skills — greater than a score of 500 and 530 on the SAT, respectively. These students expressed interest in the program during their application process.
Now that applicants are being admitted, the Office of Admissions will be better able to account for how many are interested in this novel program.
According to Steven, Rider has a retention rate of 80 to 81 percent of undecided students.
“It will be interesting to see if the students will really accept this program,” Steven said.
Steven said that the program will present a wide array of academic disciplines varying from theater opportunities to various branches of sciences, such as marine biology.
“[The Freshman Discovery Program] sounds like a good idea,” said undeclared freshman John Ahern. “I just think that you have to let students have the best experience they can.”
Ahern expressed displeasure with the way academic advisers currently assist undeclared students.
“Advisers haven’t really helped that much,” he said. “I meet with my adviser and schedule my core requirements. If they give me advice, it helps me a little. I took mostly core classes first semester, but at the end of the day it depends on the student.”
The 40 students will be divided into seminars — philosophy and sociology — each having 20 students.
“I’m hoping the seminars will spark each student’s interest in other areas,” Steven said. “If you’re in a seminar of philosophy, sociology, psychology or the arts, if you’re looking at an idea and you’re asked to wonder about it, I think you’re already opening your imagination to possibilities and to a student’s potential interests. That’s the kind of result I would hope to see.”
Steven and his colleagues are attempting to help these students find a career path. By testing them intellectually, the Freshman Discovery Program looks to present a positive learning environment and offer these students more opportunities at Rider.
“We want to create a bonding program compared to the likes of the Baccalaureate Honors Program,” Steven said.
He hopes that the Freshman Discovery Program will serve as a launching pad for undeclared students to propel themselves into Rider’s academic atmosphere.
“Once a student has that passion, there’s just no stopping them,” Steven said. “That’s the key to success.”