New Explore Center assists undecided, pre-professional students

A new center in Academic Affairs has been created to assist undergraduate and pre-professional students who have not selected a major area of study.

The center, called the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center, replaces the Division of General Studies. The Explore Center features six advisers to assist students and is led by Katie Kerr, assistant director. Further oversight is provided by Bill Watts, director of campus advising services and the College of Arts and Sciences' assistant dean for student success.

The Explore Center combines advising assistance for undecided undergraduates (formerly part of General Studies) and pre-law and pre-health students (formerly part of the Arts and Sciences advising center). The center advisers also assist students transitioning to new majors.

Amy Goodburn, associate vice chancellor in Academic Affairs, said the Explore Center was created to better address the needs of undecided and pre-professional students.

"The Explore Center does some of the same things as general studies and some of the same as the Arts and Sciences advising center," said Watts. "We have combined these staffs to gain efficiencies and generate synergy in how we serve students."

Academic Affairs is providing funds to renovate the Explore Center space, located in room 33 of Canfield Administration Building. When completed, the renovation will include a conference room.

The Explore Center is also developing a website,

For undergraduates who are undecided on or transitioning to a new major the Explore Center offers many services including the chance to learn about different majors, select classes for interest areas that allow students to stay on track for graduation, and connect with Career Services.

The Explore Center will assist pre-professional students by offering information in pre-law and pre-health areas of interest, academic planning and prerequisite course selection for professional school requirements, engagement in beyond-academic activities, and preparation for professional school application, admission exam and interview processes.

Watts said students served in the Explore Center are at greater risk of leaving the university. Between 2002 and 2010, the retention rate for undecided students in general studies was 78.7 percent. UNL's average retention rate over the same span was 83.2 percent.

"The Explore Center is designed to help students find a path here at UNL," said Kerr. "We know that approximately 70 percent of students nationwide change their major at least once during their college experience. Whether students are first-semester freshmen completely undecided on a major or students who are reconsidering their academic paths, our staff is excited to help them find an academic home at UNL.”

Each student entering the fall semester undecided in a major, including undecided pre-health and pre-law students, has been assigned to one of the six advisers in the center. In addition, each of the advisers in the office is cross-trained to help any student who walks through the door.

Along with Kerr, staff members are Jaci Gustafson, academic adviser; Shonda Hertle, academic adviser; Kristin Plath, academic adviser; Erin Sayer, coordinator of pre-professional advising; Carmen Varejcka-McGee, academic adviser; and Mikayla Tegler, administrative technician.

Kerr said staff is working closely with Career Services to offer related services to students. She said they are also working with Admissions to recruit students who are undecided on a major.

"We want students to know that, if they are undecided on a major, UNL has a place for them to go to explore their academic options," said Kerr. "Students will spend quality time here learning about the majors and opportunities that UNL offers.

"Once they select a major, we will connect them with faculty and staff in the appropriate college to help them continue on the path to graduation."

For more information on the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center, email or call 402-472-3605.

“The office of Academic Affairs is excited to support the creation of the Explore Center to better support undecided students,” said Goodburn. “Helping students explore major options and investigate career choices from the moment they arrive on campus is essential for facilitating their academic success.”

— Troy Fedderson, University Communications