Undeclared Option Allows Students to Explore – and Soar

Unsure what to study in college?

You're not alone. Not everyone can declare a major before even arriving on campus. That’s why, at JWU Providence, academic exploration in different fields of study has become a way of life. In addition to an interdisciplinary studies option to design your own major, two different Undeclared program options allow you to find your passion, staying on track to graduate while you explore the career fields that interest you during your first year of college. Your faculty advisor will work closely with you to ensure you're on the right path for you.

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Take a look at what JWU students and faculty have to say about JWU's two Undeclared program options.

JWU University Explorations

Undeclared: University Explorations is a structured path that allows you to learn about new fields of study while keeping you on track to graduation. With this program, you’ll take at least three Arts & Sciences core courses plus courses in areas you have expressed interest in, which could range from culinary arts to engineering and design to media studies. You have until the end of your first year to narrow down your favorites and choose a major to focus on for your remaining time at JWU.

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"Not every college offers the personal support that JWU has offered to those of us that have joined this program. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of a community that encourages personal growth on such an extensive level."

"If you want to explore your options and learn more about yourself as a student and a member of society, join the University Explorations program," Lesley Perez ’25 suggests. Calling it "an amazing way to explore interests and grow as an individual," Perez says, "I am happy I took initiative and joined the program; I feel more confident about my career interests as I prepare for the future. It’s important for each student to feel supported by their community, and this program ensures that students are given the freedom to explore their personal interests without any added stress or inconvenience."

"It can be scary to enter college without a set major, but JWU is there to guide students and parents through every step of the way," Perez adds. "Not every college offers the personal support that JWU has offered to those of us that have joined this program. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of a community that encourages personal growth on such an extensive level."

"If you have net yet declared an interest in any major, the University Explorations program is a beneficial class," says TJ Poutre ‘25. "It allows deciding students to gain some intel on many of the programs that the university offers. It also connects and refers students to other resources, such as counseling and library services."

Delia Rancourt ’25 agrees that University Explorations is worth taking if you’re unsure what major or career path you want to take. "You are able to graduate in four years and still have two semesters to dip into different majors to figure out what you genuinely want to do," Rancourt explains. "By hearing from different deans and other speakers who share what resources Johnson & Wales has to offer, students are able to get to their full potential. Without this program, students might never hear of half the courses, majors, opportunities, and resources that the school offers."

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"Starting college undecided can feel overwhelming, and that is where Explorations comes in. It’s a win/win for the student."

Professor Colleen Less, who is teaching courses in both Law and Integrated Learning this academic year, enjoys helping Undeclared students find their passion. "The beauty of the University Explorations program is that for incoming students, it validates what many already know—that it is perfectly acceptable to enter college without a declared major," says Less. "In fact, for those students who do begin college having a declared a major, a significant number will change their minds. I changed my major in college. Two of my four children did as well! So, I assure prospective students and their parents that uncertainty is part of the process."

She continues, "But starting college undecided can feel overwhelming, and that is where Explorations comes in. The first-year program taps into a student’s interests, providing exposure to identified subjects through course work. At the same time, students are enrolled in a First Year Seminar designed to introduce them to the many degree paths available at JWU. It’s a win/win for the student."

JWU Business Explorations

If you’re unsure of a major but are leaning toward business or hospitality as a career industry, then JWU’s Undeclared: Business Explorations program is for you. You’ll start with a basic business and general studies program, developing your critical thinking, analytic and communication skills in various areas of study while you get a clearer sense of the industry major you’d like to pursue. At the same time, you’ll work with dedicated academic and career advisors to hone your interests. At the end of your first year, you’ll choose your college major from a number of business and hospitality programs and be on your path to graduation and a career.

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"I started off as a Business Exploration major because coming into college, I had an idea on what I wanted to do, but I wasn't so sure of it," shares Nicole DaPonte ‘25. "Business Explorations was a way for me to explore the different parts of business. After being educated on it, and some conversations with my mentor, I decided I was ready to find my focus which is now Business Administration."

So how did DaPonte go from Undeclared to working toward her BSBA in Business Administration?

"I have always expressed interest in the idea of owning my own coffee shop," she says. "Coming into college, I was unsure of what direction would lead me to this dream of mine. While talking to Professor Norris, I expressed this dream of mine and questioned if being a Business Administrative major was a good idea."

"Professor Norris gave me the reassurance that I needed at that time to pursue this major. She reassured that this major would be perfect for my dream," DaPonte continues. "The next day was just a matter of putting things into motion, and that is how my journey of business explorations ended and my journey of Business Administration began."

Hannah Dorrance ’25 credits the Business Explorations program as being the main reason that she picked JWU as the right college for her. "I knew I wanted to be in business but was, and still am, not sure of what I want to study or do once out of college," shares Dorrance. "Having the Business Exploration option, and not just an undeclared major, gave me more structure. This lets me focus on business, but I still have the freedom to explore and see what each department has to offer!"

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"By having this freedom to go through different areas of business, you can get a chance to find the right fit for you."

"I only had two business classes my first semester and am starting my second semester with three business classes," she continues, and then reveals that her experience in the Business Exploration program has been "great" so far. "I was put in classes that I, if I had not been in this program, would have never even thought twice about," Dorrance states. "It has opened my mind and hopefully can do the same for others who are also taking this path into everything that JWU can offer! This program gives students an option to go into college with a little less weight on their shoulders to have their whole life planned and mapped out. By having this freedom to go through different areas of business, you can get a chance to find the right fit for you."

Associate Professor of Accountancy & Finance Barbara Norris enjoys teaching students in the Business Explorations program, which she notes has been a popular program for students who are interested in pursuing a business degree but are not yet sure which specific major is right for them.

To assist students in identifying a major, JWU assigns faculty mentors to meet with these students on a regular basis. "During our meetings we discussed how each student was doing in their classes and adjusting to college life, helping them with any issues they were having and with class selection for the spring. We also answered questions they had about different majors. For students who were ready to declare a major, we explained the process to them," explains Norris.

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She observed that students found it helpful to be scheduled to take Intro to Business and Management in the fall semester. "This is a required course for all College of Business (COB) majors, and each section of the course has a mix of different COB majors in it, which gives the Business Explorations majors a chance to meet and interact with them," she explains.

“The course provides students with a fundamental understanding of the global business environment while allowing them to examine the major disciplines within business using business terminology and current business practices. Career exploration and development of professional interests and competencies are integral to this course, so it really gives students a good overview of the business environment and the different departments that contribute to the success of a business enterprise."

“I really do believe that the faculty mentor program combined with the required BUS1001 course helps the Business Explorations students to focus on what type of a degree they would like to pursue as well as what type they would not want to pursue which will lead to better student retention and student satisfaction," Norris adds.


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