Bryant University students have until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major, giving them time and opportunity to determine a path that they enjoy and is meaningful to them. The MyPATH (Make Your Passion And Talent Happen) program, a unique partnership between the University's Academic Affairs and Amica Center for Career Education, helps them make the most of that time by assisting students with academic and career choices.
“One of our biggest jobs is to help students understand that there are so many options open to them at Bryant,” says Hayley Lowell ’21 a student MyPATH mentor. “We want to help students realize they aren’t restricted in their choices and they can build the path that’s perfect for them.”
Encouraged to explore
Through MyPATH, students have access to a variety of resources that can help them chart their future. One of the most important is a supportive network of mentors and advisors. “Part of what we try to do is take the stigma out of exploring. We let students know they don’t have to have it all figured out from the first day,” says Academic Advisor Douglas Hillis, one of the program organizers. “At Bryant, we’ve built a curriculum, and a MyPATH program, that helps you to explore, figure out what you’re passionate about, and stay on track.”
“One of the great things about Bryant is the College of Business and College of Arts and Science degree combination. You can figure out how to pair them to do exactly what you want.”
Discovering your path involves getting out of your comfort zone, says MyPath student mentor Christine Ochola ’22, so it’s good to have guides and resources that help you learn about new areas. “I think it's incredibly important for students to explore, especially when you’re starting out, because you don't know until you try something out,” says Ochola. “When I was deciding on my course of study I wanted to make sure I had all of the knowledge I could so that I can form my own opinions.”
Even if students come to college with a good idea of what they want to major in, MyPATH can still play an important role in helping them decide on a double major or complementary minor. “One of the great things about Bryant is the College of Business and College of Arts and Science degree combination. You can figure out how to pair them to do exactly what you want,” states Ochola who notes that Bryant University offers nearly 200 major/minor combinations. Talking with MyPATH advisors, she remembers, helped her decide to pair her Communication major with minors in Human Resources Management and Marketing.
Preparing for rewarding futures
The program, however, is about more than choosing a major or minor. It’s also about helping students make intentional choices throughout their entire time in college. MyPATH is part of a comprehensive program of advice and support designed to aid students from when they first step onto campus to when they graduate and begin rewarding careers.
“MyPath mentors don't just help students choose their direction, they help them figure out what they enjoy doing and what their talents are."
Through MyPATH, students are also introduced to elements of their education that go beyond the classroom, from co-curricular organizations to internship opportunities. “The MyPATH program can help them learn exactly what it means to pursue a major or a career in Finance, or all of the different paths they can take in Marketing,” notes Academic Advisor Kristin Pidgeon, who also helps to organize the program.
It's also an important advantage when planning for a career. "There is incredible diversity among career options, so careful research about finding a good-fit major and first job out of college is more necessary than ever before," says Veronica Stewart, Associate Director of Career Services for the Amica Center. "The MyPath program is so important because first-hand information from current students and graduates is much more valuable than internet research or making assumptions about what academic paths might be like."
At the heart of the MyPath program are the MyPath mentors, student advisors drawn from every course of study. Specially trained by the Advising office, the mentors are available throughout the school year to students seeking advice or information. “In the MyPATH mentors, you have more experienced students who have been in the shoes of the younger students, who have asked the same questions, have decided on a path they’re passionate about, and are excited to share their experiences and what they’ve learned,” Pidgeon notes.
“One thing that was clear from the panel is that none of the mentors had the same story but they all found their way. With a little bit of advice and searching, they all built their own unique path that fit them.”
The mentors’ job isn’t to recruit students to their own major, but simply to share their experiences with younger students and talk with them about their goals and interests. “MyPath mentors doesn’t just help students choose their direction, they help them figure out what they enjoy doing and what their talents are,” says Lowell.
The student mentors also offer a different viewpoint for students, complementing the advice they already receive from advisors and faculty mentors. “It’s important to be able to reach out to a variety of different advisors because they all provide different perspectives,” Ochola states. “Your academic advisors know more about structure and making sure you’re on the path to graduate but students have first-hand experience with classes, programs, and opportunities.”
An invaluable network
The mentors also can provide an important connection for younger students. “Sometimes it’s a little bit easier for new students to connect with another student than a staff or faculty member,” Lowell notes. “Having someone they know makes the entire process just a little bit more comfortable for them.”
“We’re not just available at special MyPATH events. We're someone students can talk to at any time, even if they just see us in the hallway,” she adds, noting that she enjoys getting to know the younger students. “We want students to ask us questions.”
"We’re helping students build the confidence to make their own decisions, and build their own connections.”
Both Ochola and Lowell agree that being able to give back to others is one of the best parts of being a mentor. “Sometimes there can be some stress involved with choosing your major and minor, so if I can help another student with that, that’s a good thing,” says Lowell.
Each year, the MyPATH program culminates with the annual MyPATH Showcase, an event that brings together Bryant’s entire first year class for an afternoon of reflection and discovery. This year’s Showcase took the form of a Zoom panel discussion where the mentors, accompanied by recent alum Hannah Sheldon ’20, discussed how they created their individual paths, answered questions, and offered advice to students finding their way.
“We wanted to use our best resources, which are our students and our alumni,” says Hillis. “One thing that was clear from the panel is that none of the Mentors had the same story but they all found their way. With a little bit of advice and searching, they all built their own unique path that fit them.”
Sharing that idea, says, Lowell, is one of the MyPATH program’s most important goals. “We want to help build students’ confidence,” she says. “Their exploration shouldn't just stop with MyPATH or the Showcase event. We’re helping students build the confidence to make their own decisions and build their own connections.”