Exploring Your Options

An AEP adviser for athletes, Heather Moles, left, meets with an incoming student athlete.

By Frank Radosevich II
October 16, 2012

Ellie Silver knew back in November 2010 that she wanted to attend Bradley though she was still unsure about what to study.

A lover of science, Silver had considered fields like optometry but wanted a major that would cover a wide variety of science disciplines.

“I had so many possibilities,” the now sophomore student said. “I knew I wanted to help people and not sit at a desk all day.”

But not knowing where to start her academic career didn’t leave Silver behind her peers. Instead of jumping from major to major, she signed up with Bradley’s Academic Exploration Program. Now Silver, a health science major from Vernon Hills, Ill., is on track with classes and, most important of all, happy with her choice.

“I wasn’t rushed into making a decision,” she said of her choice of study. “I haven’t second-guessed my decision because I had the time to be thoughtful about my choice."

The Academic Exploration Program, or AEP, is a unique concept at Bradley that allows students to explore a variety of academic fields through coursework, advising and exposure to possible careers. Where most universities assign students to “undecided” majors and let them fend for themselves, AEP guides and encourages students to seek out their interests and find a major that matches them.

“The University was really one of the pioneers in the concept,” Dr. Joyce Shotick, executive director for student development and health services, said of the program that’s been around since the ’80s. “There is a tremendous need. Students really want that personal attention and to be provided with an opportunity to self-reflect.”

The program is open to all Bradley students and, once in AEP, they attend a weekly seminar class, individualized academic advising, a major/minor fair hosted in October and meetings with faculty members or department chairs. AEP also features the "Footsteps" program, which provides students with job shadowing opportunities in careers the students may be interested in.

Dr. Shotick said students in AEP are advised to think about what they value—time, money, family, freedom—and consider how their majors and future careers will affect those values. The structured program tries to find a major that matches a student’s personality, goals and skill sets. Dr. Shotick said most parents, after hearing about AEP, say they wish they had something similar when they attended college.

“For me, the beauty of this program is that it helps students as young persons make important decisions,” Dr. Shotick said.

AEP did more than help Silver determine her major; it also helped her know Bradley was the right university for her.

“AEP was a huge draw,” she said. “I didn’t want to just pick a major at random to get into another university.”