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Success Starts Here: Making 'major' decisions

| Gretchen Hutterli

"Success Starts Here" is a series of seven articles that introduce new students to the UW-Eau Claire College of Business. A new article will be posted each week until the fall academic term begins. 

What's your major?

This is a tough question for many students to answer, but it is one that they will be asked throughout their college career. The College of Business alone has over 20 different major, minor, and certificate options. Which one(s) is right for you?

To answer this and other questions about majors, Gretchen Hutterli, assistant dean, interviewed Dale Fenton, a business academic advisor in the university’s Advising, Retention + Career Center.

Let’s say I am a student interested in business. What areas of study are available to me?

DF: The College of Business has all the traditional business majors and minors, like accounting, business administration, finance, information systems, international business, management, and marketing. In addition, we offer specialized programs or emphases in management and marketing such as human resource management, operations/supply chain management, sales, and marketing analytics. We also offer certificate programs in areas like advanced business communication and entrepreneurship that allow students to learn more about a different area of business by taking just a few extra courses. So there is really a program for everyone.

Students certainly have a lot of choices, Dale. Are some business majors better than others? 

DF: No, not really. While the employment outlook for new grads continues to be strong in all our majors, it is really best to follow one’s interests and select a major that is the best fit.

This is a good lead-in to my next question. How do students pick the major that is right for them? 

DF: A great question. Some students come to college knowing exactly what their major will be, but many don’t which is just fine. Their academic advisor can help guide them through the decision process. We can talk to them about the differences between majors and encourage them to attend Career Conference and other events where they can learn more about career options. We can also connect them with self-assessment resources in Career Services like SIGI 3, Career Cruising, and CareerLocker.

Freshmen should also consider taking, “Foundations for Success in Business”, a new course specifically for them. It is a perfect course for those who are undecided because it introduces them to all the different areas within a business. Mark Alfuth, one of our most popular instructors, teaches this course. In addition to being an excellent teacher, Mr. Alfuth has held many executive positions in the business world so he has lots of practical experience.

These all sound like excellent resources for students. How soon do they need to finalize their major decision? 

DF: Generally, by the end of their sophomore year. By then they will have completed most of the BUSCORE, the required core of courses taken by all business majors, and will need to start focusing on their major-specific courses.

I often get asked about the merits of adding a second major. Does adding a second one make you more marketable? 

DF: Not typically. For the record, most business students don’t have a second major. Accounting students are the exception as most states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, require students to complete 150 semester hours of university credit to earn CPA licensure. Our accounting students do this by completing a minor, a certificate, or second major in addition to their accounting major.

Another popular question: how long does it take students to graduate from the COB? 

DF: It depends. Most business students graduate in 4 to 4 1/2 years. Accounting and health care administration majors may take a bit longer because their programs require additional credits or a required practicum. In general, it may take a student longer to graduate if he or she repeats a required course, changes his or her major, adds a minor or second major, or doesn’t follow the recommended course sequence for an academic program.

You alluded to the courses required for an academic program. Where can students find this information? 

DF: Course requirements for majors, minors and certificate programs can be found in many places — in the university online catalog, on the COB website, in program fliers outside the college’s advising office, and in MyBlugold CampS. Major requirements may change from year to year so students need to follow the ones listed in the catalog for the year they entered UW-Eau Claire. For new freshmen, that would be the 2016-17 catalog.

Any parting thoughts, Dale? 

DF: College is a great time to experience new things and explore the world in a new way. It's also a time that can bring up significant life questions. This is expected and is a wonderful part of becoming an adult. So students, don't be afraid to ask questions and seek out help. There are many resources at your disposal that can contribute to your success in college.

Meet Dale Fenton, Academic Advisor
Dale Fenton

Dale Fenton is one of seven academic advisors in the UW-Eau Claire Advising, Retention + Career Center who advises business students. Dale helps them map out their academic and professional goals, and meets with them at least once a semester to make sure they're on track for their degree program. He also helps students during summer orientation develop their first semester schedule.

"It's great working with new freshmen as they step into this new phase of their lives. Their excitement is contagious." he said.

When he isn't working, Dale enjoys playing guitar and tennis, and spending time with his family (his son graduated from the College of Business in 2013). He also enjoys going to car shows and races. Having lived in Chicago for a number of years, he admits to being a Bears fan and hopes that Wisconsin and Minnesota students will still treat him kindly.

Dale encourages new freshmen to set priorities and focus on the things that are most important.

"Freshman year is a great time to make new friends, create new experiences, and enjoy adulthood," he said. "But your priority is to learn, to grow personally and to prepare yourself for a career. The habits you develop now will stay with you through college and your life after graduation. Make smart decisions early."

Plan to attend the COB Freshmen Meeting, Friday, September 2 from 11 am-12 pm in the Davies Center Ojibwe Ballroom. Watch your email for more details.