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The Division of Student Learning and Academic Success prepares students for what’s next. It guides undergraduates throughout their time at UCF by helping them explore majors, register for classes, and succeed in college-level courses. The division dedicates significant resources to help students learn in real-world settings through high-impact practices experiences including internships, study abroad, and undergraduate research.

For students who plan to attend graduate or professional school, SLAS helps them consider their options, create an academic plan, and navigate the application process. Its Academic Advancement Programs (AAP) has a proven track record of enabling students to gain admission to top doctoral programs across the world. In fact, in the last five years more than 50 percent of UCF students who received prestigious awards were AAP students and alumni. Fifty-three percent received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and 77% are Goldwater scholars.

“Education is not one-size-fits-all,” says Theodorea Regina Berry, vice provost, Student Learning and Academic Success and dean, College of Undergraduate Studies. “Each student comes to UCF with an idea of what they want to accomplish in college and beyond. The division helps them to create tangible goals and achieve them.”

Victoria Alexander ’21 is just one an example. She was a McNair Scholar, part of the AAP, and an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) major. Alexander knew that she wanted to work with children but was having difficulty finding the major with the right fit.

“In the beginning, not understanding the depths of what I wanted to pursue was my biggest challenge,” she explained. “I realized after spending time in some courses that I needed to course-correct, and had to change around my minor and areas of study a couple of times. Thankfully, there were people who helped me along the way.”

With guidance from an advisor, Alexander selected the IDS program. Offered by the College of Undergraduate Studies (CUGS), it allows students to build an individualized academic path from over 7,000 possible area of study and minor combinations. The result is graduates with broader perspectives from which to gain insights, strategize, and problem-solve. Other majors offered by the College of Undergraduate Studies include Environmental Studies and Integrative General Studies.

Delaney McLinden, who is going into her fourth year, is another example of how SLAS and CUGS is allowing her to forge her path to academic, professional, and personal success. An IDS major, her areas of study are chemistry and biomedical sciences, with a minor in medical anthropology. She decided to pursue a career in medicine because she enjoys science and was enthralled by the anatomy and biology courses she took in her first year of college.

“I’ve always been interested in a lot of different subjects, so I wanted to have space in my schedule to study anthropology, take extra courses in psychology and explore other areas,” said McLinden. “With the Interdisciplinary Studies major, I get the chance to do that and have the college experience I wanted.”

In addition to pursuing her IDS major, McLinden is working on an anthropological research project looking at the impact of sorority culture on beauty standards and body modification choices. Her project, part of the honors undergraduate research program, will shed light on what beauty standards, if any, are propagated within the UCF sorority community and how those standards impact students’ behavior and choices.

“As a member of a sorority, I’ve found community and friends and opportunities for personal growth,” said McLinden. “At the same time, many individuals perceive an undercurrent of social emphasis placed on beauty. Stereotypically, appearance is an important part of being in a sorority. So, I wanted to understand that more.”

The project will entail McLinden interviewing sorority sisters and then synthesizing the information and data she collects into an undergraduate thesis. She hopes her findings will help sorority members be more mindful of the role sorority culture plays in decisions they make about how they dress, perceive themselves and others, and interact with their peers. McLinden theorizes that participation in, and consumption of, social media may amplify the influence of those beauty standards.

“It’s more of a subconscious understanding, but that unspoken construct may become apparent in behaviors like fat shaming and fatphobia, changes in attitudes towards food and eating, and judgmental tendencies,” added McLinden. “I want to understand if sorority culture influences any of these behaviors and attitudes.”

McLinden believes her research will tie into her future career plans by contributing to her understanding of young women in general, a population that will make up a sizable chunk of the people she’ll be serving. It will also give her important insights on subcultures, how people interact, and the beliefs people hold about themselves and where those come from.

McLinden sees value not just in the lessons she’ll learn from analyzing the data, but also in the process of collecting that information. She anticipates that the experience of interviewing – 20 study participants will help her better relate to others and develop the rapport-building skills, empathy and bedside manner that is so important when interacting with patients. In addition to interviewing sorority members, McLinden will be observing the 2021 sorority recruitment process.

When she’s not participating in her sorority, laying the groundwork for her research project or exploring the many fields that hold her interest, McLinden loves reading fiction. She’s also a craft coffee connoisseur and enjoys traveling around Orlando trying different coffee shops. She keeps track of it all, and more details about her life and experiences, in a journal she updates frequently.