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Nancy Webber
Office of the Provost

Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2009

New Choose Your Major Learning Community opens doors

Oct. 5, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Students at Indiana University Bloomington who want a holistic personal development experience with the chance to explore all academic possibilities before settling into a major have a great new option for campus housing.

The Choose Your Major (CYM) Learning Community opened its doors this fall semester to 60 freshmen. They live together, take some courses together and participate in programs that develop a sense of community, all while determining by the end of their freshman year which major they are best suited for. The diverse community includes students from 32 different cities in Indiana, 15 from across the U.S., as well as a few from China and Japan.

Choose Your Major

Tom Kenyon speaks to Freshman Interest Group students that are part of the Choose Your Major Learning Community.

Print-Quality Photo

The need for such a learning community is based on the research and experience of Tom Kenyon, coordinator for exploratory student resources in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (OVPUE).

"Being an exploratory major in college can be overwhelming and confusing for freshmen," he said. "This is not surprising because at IU there are more than 140 majors, and it can be frustrating for freshmen when it seems that almost everyone else has already chosen a major.

"We know this is not the case," Kenyon continued. "Statistically at colleges across the country, 70 to 85 percent of college freshmen enter college as exploratory majors or change their major during their freshmen year. This community provides an informative, supportive and positive environment to counter the stress of working through this decision-making."

Housed in the Wright-Harding residence hall, CYM students are offered specialized support and guidance from professional staff as they go through a tried and true step-by-step exploration and decision-making process. Half of the group is enrolled in two special Freshmen Interest Groups (FIGs) with 15 students in each. The remaining 30 students are divided into two 15-student "teams" for the purpose of running smaller workshop sessions and group projects.

"The great thing about the CYM community is that, in presenting the range of majors offered by IU Bloomington, it not only exposes students to choice and creates excitement towards learning, it also guides them in solving problems and making decisions," said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Sonya Stephens. "In this academically and socially supportive residential community, Tom Kenyon brings his wide experience and innovative approach to a new context, connecting students with each other, with the campus and its many resources, and in so doing, fostering successful transitions to college life and learning."

Some sessions invite IU Bloomington faculty to become involved with the CYM community through workshops called "Choosing Their Majors: Your Professors Share Their Own Stories." In these sessions, faculty members tell how they chose their undergraduate majors, and how they went from being undergraduate students to professors at IU. Personal tips and some great insights are shared.

In support of the community, Residential Programs and Services (RPS) refurbished the common gathering space for sessions with new walls, windows, and furnishings. The newly configured space -- with Internet access -- significantly enhances the opportunity for presentations and group work.

The RPS mission is directly met by the CYM community. RPS aims to bring the academic life of the university into the students' living environment by providing a residential experience that best meets the education and development goals of its residents outside of the classroom -- enabling them to succeed inside the classroom.

"This community is a true learning partnership not only through the collaboration between RPS and OVPUE, but also one that involves the students through their interaction with each other, with Tom Kenyon as the residential fellow, and with the student leaders in the community," said Diana Jacobs, director for academic initiatives and services for Residential Programs and Services. "Through an immersion utilizing common, exploratory experiences, students will have the opportunity to investigate their options and choose a major that will help them fulfill their interests, their career goals and their dreams. They will all learn from each other and with each other toward a common goal."

Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education C. Kurt Zorn emphasizes, "Tom Kenyon is widely recognized as an innovator in the area of exploratory student resources. Over the years, he has conducted many workshops for students, and given numerous conference presentations on his philosophy and practices. He also has developed an extensive repertoire of materials, including an innovative 'Explore Your Majors at IU' Web site, to support and guide students as they move through the exploratory process. A logical extension of this work is the creation of the Choose Your Major Learning Community, where students can receive more in-depth guidance from him. This collaborative effort between RPS and OVPUE provides yet another resource that undergraduate students can use to enhance the value of their educational experience."

For exploratory students not participating in the Choose Your Major community, OVPUE also offers an ongoing series of Explore Your Options and Explore Your World programs and Choose Your Major workshops. These programs bring faculty into residence centers across campus to discuss their disciplines and answer student questions throughout the academic year.

For more information on the Choose Your Major Learning Community, contact Tom Kenyon at or call 812-855-0568.