Ashon Lanada wasn’t sure of his end goal when he came to Montclair State, but as the newly elected executive president of the Student Government Association – and his recent decision to major in Business Administration – Lanada says he’s getting closer. “I’ve been involved in creating a great platform and network for myself, and taking advantage of the opportunities this campus has to offer.”
That includes seeking the advice of mentors at University College, the first program of its kind in New Jersey that allows students to explore academic and career options as pre-major students. They’ve helped him navigate a path. “Not just my life, not just my major, but my path to where I’m at now,” Lanada says.
His story is one of 2,500 – a major milestone for major decisions reached by students who entered Montclair State as pre-majors assigned to University College.
On May 5, University College will commemorate “Signing Day” with a virtual celebration of this year’s major declarations and other significant milestones achieved since University College launched just three years ago. Lanada, a junior, will be the student speaker.
Starting Montclair State as a pre-major – a term once known as undeclared – Lanada says he credits the transformative learning opportunities available at the University for his success, including attending workshops on leadership development and financial literacy.
“University College has seven full-time advisors to coach students in finding a major that fits well and feels good so they can move on from University College into their major and eventually graduate college in a timely fashion,” says Lindsey Hresko, an academic program coordinator. Academic programming provides a variety of initiatives to help students search and explore Montclair State’s 300 majors, minors and concentrations.
Lazaro Valdes Fraga, among those who recently declared a major, says his advisor “helped me and motivated me tremendously. She encouraged me to actively seek information that could help me find my passions and understand my interests.” The sophomore now plans to major in Language, Business and Culture.
“We’ve been working hard to connect students with different majors and with different departments to get them that face-to-face, hands-on experience, to give them a really good taste of what it would feel like to be in the majors that they’re interested in,” Hresko says.
For Liliana Esmail that included helping her narrow her field of interest in science and encouraging a double major. “Many people told me double-majoring would be too hard and I was wasting time,” says Esmail, a sophomore. “But my advisor was one of the only people who had faith in me and told me that if this is what I really want to do then I should. Now I am double majoring in Molecular Biology and Arabic, and I am looking to pick up a minor in Chemistry.”
Esmail, along with Valdes Fraga and Lanada, are now giving back as fellows with University College, mentoring freshmen as they make their own major decisions.
“A lot of people like mentoring, a lot of people like helping others, a lot of people like seeing others succeed. And that’s what I like to do,” Lanada says. “I have a student, a photographer, under my wing right now who I’m helping make campus connections, making sure he’s building a network for himself.”
“We are so proud of our students that have taken advantage of all the exploratory opportunities we’ve offered them and found the major that aligns with their interests, strengths and career goals,” says Associate Dean Daphne Galkin. “Signing Day is our way of recognizing this significant step in our students’ academic journey and celebrating their achievements.”
The Signing Day celebration is open to the campus community and will take place Wednesday, May 5, beginning at 2 p.m., via Zoom. Pre-registration is required for all attendees – register here.
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren
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