Undecided? AEP Can Help You Find Your Major

When junior Kamia Berry was finishing her first year at Bradley, she felt a trepidation many other students feel at that juncture – did she make a premature decision on declaring a major? Although the classes she took in kinesiology and psychology – her declared major – were interesting, they didn’t create any kind of spark.

Berry turned to Bradley’s Academic Exploration Program (AEP) for help. The program works closely with students to help them discover their new path, rather than place the burden solely on the already-stressed student to make the choice.

AEP is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country. Originating decades ago as a direct result of the G.I. Bill’s expansion of higher education opportunities, it has played a critical role in helping generations of Bradley students find their majors and career paths.

Using various assessments alongside one-on-one interaction with their advisor, AEP creates individualized plans for each student for them to explore topics that interest them. They facilitate interactions with faculty and students in different departments so program participants can see first-hand what these new majors would entail.

“When I was in AEP, they made a complete effort into making sure that I knew what I wanted to do,” Berry said.

During one of these one-on-one meetings, her advisor suggested organizational communication. Berry was immediately curious. “You really like communicating with people and being involved and helping others,” she remembered her advisor saying. “Well, this sounds like it would be a really good fit for you.”

Once Berry met with Associate Professor of Organizational Communication Elena Gabor, she quickly realized this degree was the one for her. Even as she settled happily into her new major, AEP did not rest. They also opened the door for her to pursue a social media marketing minor based on her interests.

As her education continued, Berry gained even more appreciation for their efforts. “During my junior year I started to see how they really work together. Both of those things became a good fit for me.”

They key to AEP’s success is the time invested by staff and student, said Greg Haines, director of the Academic Success Center. He stressed the importance of developing a strong relationship, building trust and rapport, and to go deeper to understand the circumstances of each student.

“We are a judgement-free zone,” he said.

Berry agreed, citing that relationship as the primary factor for her successful AEP experience.

“They just made it a really big point of wanting to know you as a person to get to know your personality,” she said, adding AEP staff remained committed to helping her meet her goal of graduating on time.

“We value this relationship as advisors,” Haines added. He noted seeing positive developments and outcomes was rewarding for the advisors as well.

Now about to start her final year, Berry is grateful for the doors that AEP helped her open, especially since it didn’t mean taking more time to finish her degree.

“I'm definitely glad about the decisions that I made,” she said. “I'm actually very, very grateful to the AEP program.”

- Mel Huang

Photo of Kamia Berry with Bradley University's mascot KABOOM