University of Minnesota

CAPE History

Since opening its doors in the fall of 2010, the Center for Academic Planning & Exploration (CAPE) has established itself as an outstanding student services office providing much needed support to students who are exploring majors at the University of Minnesota.

Past to Present

The Center for Academic Planning & Exploration (CAPE) was initiated through the University of Minnesota's Strategic Position process in 2006. At that time, the Academic Task Force on Undergraduate Reform: Student Support, recommended the creation of a center that "provides advising and support services for students from any college who are exploring majors and career/life goals, making transitions between colleges, or who need general "just-in-time" advising and effective referrals in a central location" (2006). The committee identified these populations as falling through the cracks and in need of additional support to ensure their retention and success.

In 2008, the Center for Students in Transition Working Group proposed the establishment of the Center for Academic Planning and Exploration in order to provide targeted "high-touch" support for those students in academic transition, specifically students who are strongly undecided in their academic major, exploring majors between Colleges, or seeking admission to a competitive major. The committee report found that "each of these student groups depresses our retention and graduation rates, and each could measurably benefit from academic transition support not easily provided by individual Colleges." To view the full report, click here.

The Working Group's report has served as the strategic plan for CAPE as it evolved from a pilot program (January 2010 – June 2011) to an established student services department on campus. The committee identified the following principles to guide the operation of CAPE that have served as the foundation of its development.

  • All services are designed and offered to be helpful to the diverse needs of all the students enrolled at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
  • Services are to be designed on a partnership model, so that multiple resources of the University can efficiently be brought to bear upon each individual student.
  • Services are to be designed in a way that increases overall campus effectiveness in helping undergraduate students succeed. This includes a staff structure that facilitates staff development across the campus and a partnership model that ensures sharing of good practices across departments and colleges.
  • Services are designed to be attractive to students.

CAPE has embedded these original principles in the service model outlined below.

    • One-to-One Coaching Appointments: students commit to a short-term relationship with a coach to move them through the major decision-making process.
    • Online Course: CAPE offers a one-credit, online 7-week course to help students determine their major. Students meet with the instructor/coach twice during the course to guide their progress.
    • Workshops: CAPE offers an all-day intensive exploring majors workshop as well as 1-hour workshops throughout the semester.
    • Major Network: CAPE offers the opportunity for exploring students to meet with students who are currently in a major. Exploring students meet with their Major Mentors and shadow them as they attend class or student organization meetings.
    • Drop-In Hours: Students can utilize CAPE drop-in hours to receive quick consultation regarding helpful resources and next steps in pursuing their major.
    • Campus Training: CAPE coaches offer professional training opportunities for staff and faculty working with undecided students.
    • Collaborative Partnerships: CAPE works with college advising staffs, career centers and other areas to develop unique ways to work with exploring students. Multiple areas on campus use the CAPE exploratory resources in their first year courses, advising sessions or programs.
    • Outreach Events: CAPE attends various events to promote campus resources for exploring students.
    • Shared Staffing Model: CAPE utilizes the expertise of existing staff on campus and provides a unique professional development opportunity in addition to full-time coaches. Shared staff serve a 1-2 year part-time appointment in CAPE while still continuing their current role as an academic adviser or career counselor.

Measures of Success:

    • Students who successfully work with CAPE have a 90% retention rate at the University for the following academic year.
    • Student demand for CAPE services continues to exceed capacity.
    • Student and staff evaluations remain extremely positive reflecting high quality services.
    • CAPE has been nationally recognized for its unique model and proven success in serving exploring students as the recipient of the Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award from the National Academic Advising Association.


Center for Academic Planning and Exploration

511 Robert H. Bruininks Hall

222 Pleasant St. SE | Minneapolis, MN 55455
612-624-3076 |

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