The Compass Year

Taking Students from Undecided to Unstoppable

By Mount Mary University

Posted on April 10, 2019

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Students who enter college undecided about their major face many challenges, including the fear of wasted time and money, as well as parents who aren’t sure they want to invest in education without an end game in mind.

To address this issue, Mount Mary University has created the Compass Year. The program will begin in fall and will assist students in their search and keep them on track to graduate in four years. Already there has been significant traction, with local media interest and a spike in enrollment inquiries in this program.

“There is much uncertainty and stress for an 18-year-old who wants to go to college but doesn’t have a clear direction,” said Mount Mary President Christine Pharr, Ph.D. “Through this program, students can identify careers that will allow them to make their greatest contributions to society and achieve fulfillment in their lives.”

Entering college undecided about a major is commonplace among first-year students. Most students – as many as 80 percent in some surveys – will switch majors at one point during their time in college, according to the industry news service Inside Higher Ed.

This program fills a gaping need in society. Current studies show a decided lack of career fulfillment in the workplace. An estimated 87 percent of American workers aren’t passionate about their careers, according to the Deloitte Center for the Edge.

“Helping women discover their purpose is a longtime strength of Mount Mary,” Pharr said. For example, members of Mount Mary’s faculty and staff have engaged in projects related to vocational guidance for the past three years to better engage students in determining vocation.

“People are most happy when using their greatest gifts,” Pharr said. “This objective fits in well with the mission of Mount Mary.”
The Compass Year incorporates practices that have proven successful in career advising and guidance, such as classes in their first year introducing students to possible career options, and the ability to take core classes in their basic areas of interest.

Students journey through the Compass Year as a group, which provides  support and structure throughout the process. It begins with a three-day jump start before the semester begins. Students and specially- trained faculty advisors work together and students have access to mentors, experiential learning and job-shadowing opportunities. Along the way, students also participate in purpose-driven classes embedded in Mount Mary’s core curriculum, such as Leadership for Social Justice and Search
for Meaning.

If students have not settled upon a major by the end of the year, they have continued access to individualized counseling.

Mount Mary’s Compass Year is the only coordinated program of its kind in the Midwest, said Wendy Weaver, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies.

“The Compass Year is a unique opportunity for undecided women to find their passion, understand themselves and discern their purpose,” Weaver said. “The entire program is designed to destigmatize the status of being undecided.”

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