Undeclared students shadow upperclassmen, explore different majors

Sara Schleede

When Isabella Vazquez, undergraduate studies freshman, applied to UT, she didn’t get into her college of choice. Now, while she fulfills her core requirements and waits to apply for an internal transfer, she gets to spend a week in the role of a business student.

Vazquez is a mentee in the third annual Interdisciplinary Studies Week. The event, hosted by the Senate of College Councils, Undergraduate Studies Council and the School of Undergraduate Studies, is a chance for undeclared students to shadow a student in a major they are interested in pursuing.

“They get a better perspective of what the major is really like because it’s not being filtered from an advisor,” said Lane Mann, communication and events coordinator for the School of Undergraduate Studies. “Sometimes it’s hard taking advice from someone who hasn’t been there. It’s nice to get advice from someone who is in your shoes.”

Sixty-three mentees have been paired with upperclassman volunteers in majors of the mentee’s choice. The mentors will spend the week giving advice to their mentee and bringing them to major-specific classes.

“I’m hoping that they attend classes and that they learn a couple things that they wouldn’t learn otherwise,” Mann said. “I’m hoping they meet a mentor that they can communicate with in the future when they’re applying to transfer.”

Stephen Nachazel, vice president of Undergraduate Studies Council, started college in the School of Undergraduate Studies. Now, as a junior majoring in math and minoring in business, he said he is grateful for the time he had while undeclared to explore different paths.

“One misconception is that (UGS students are) unmotivated or not smart enough because there’s this stigma against coming into college not having a major,” Nachazel said. “It’s not that they’re unmotivated or not as smart as their peers, it’s just they don’t quite have the path they want figured out yet.”

While mentees may or may not decide to declare a major after the week is over, Mann said this event is an opportunity to expose UGS students to a new community, which can sometimes be hard to find without a major.

“You come in and you don’t really have a clear community,” Mann said. “If you come into UT with a major you have a set group of students … but in UGS, (students are) all just kind of searching for a community and a major.”

As an incoming freshman, Vazquez applied to the McCombs School of Business. This week she is shadowing a finance major, but said she is applying to transfer into the School of Architecture to pursue her love for designing buildings.

No matter her major, Vazquez said she is willing to put in the effort and take whatever time is necessary to reach her goals.

“People expect you to know what you want to do at the age of 17, and everyone knows that doesn’t work,” Vazquez said. “Everyone takes their own time.”