Niagara University's innovative program that helps undeclared students find a major that best suits their needs and talents - while making sure they graduate on time - is being honored by the National Academic Advising Association.
NU's Academic Exploration Program, or AEP, is one of only four programs nationwide to receive NACADA's Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award.
"Niagara University has been steadfastly committed to promoting the development of undeclared students through effective advising programs and personal attention for more than 30 years," said Stephanie B. Currie, AEP director. "At Niagara, making a calculated, informed decision on a major is commended, and the students who make the choice to explore the rich variety of coursework at a liberal arts-based institution are celebrated."
Established at Niagara in the 1980s, AEP has evolved into the university's largest freshman academic program, with an average of 15-20 percent of the incoming class participating each year.
Designed for first- and second-year students, each student is assigned a personal adviser who helps the pupil research majors, minors and related careers. Students develop a four-year plan with an adviser and learn exactly what to do to graduate on time.
Students work with advisers throughout their time in AEP and are able to declare a new major at any point before the conclusion of their sophomore year. Aiding students in their discovery process are a variety of activities, including interest assessments, faculty and professional interviews, involvement in clubs and organizations, volunteering, online research and sampling coursework in different majors.
Data shows 94 percent of Niagara's AEP students graduate in the major they declare through the program, and 100 percent proceed with firm plans for experiential learning, such as internships, volunteering and study abroad opportunities. In addition, feedback from students exiting the program is consistently excellent, making AEP one of the most desirable majors on campus.
Collaboration across campus with deans and faculty members, as well as the offices of academic support, career services and student affairs, is regarded as part of the formula for success of the program.
"The impact of advising on student satisfaction and retention is well documented, and it is through efforts such as those at Niagara University that we are able to share new advances with others," wrote NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt in a congratulatory email.
Established in 1983, the NACADA Annual Awards Program for Academic Advising honors individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising. NACADA, with more than 10,000 members, is a representative and advocate of academic advising and those providing that service to higher education.
To learn more about Niagara University's Academic Exploration Program, call 716-286-8203 or go online to www.niagara.edu/aep.