September 14, 2016

Purdue Profiles: Susan Aufderheide

Susan Aufdewrheide Susan Aufderheide has been everything from a professor at Purdue to an academic advisor for the 1999 NCAA women's basketball championship team. Download image

Susan Aufderheide has guided the Exploratory Studies program at Purdue for more than 16 years. She also has been a professor in Physical Education and Health and Recreations Studies, an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and director of academic support services in Intercollegiate Athletics.

What is Exploratory Studies and what is your role as director?

Exploratory Studies is a program that helps students discover the major that best reflects their interests, skills and abilities. With the guidance of our advisors, students are given the luxury of a non-pressured environment to explore their own interests, skills and abilities while exploring the over 200 majors at Purdue.  

Each student is assigned to an experienced academic advisor who is familiar with all Purdue colleges/schools and degree programs. A course schedule is created for each student specifically tailored to their interests, skills and abilities, allowing them to fulfill general requirements, while exploring all that Purdue has to offer. A student can stay in Exploratory Studies for two years, but can declare a major at any time during those four semesters.

As director I am responsible for the strategic direction of the department and the implementation of its programs and services. I provide expertise, mentor staff and advocate across campus for the needs of the exploratory population. I also advise my own subset of exploratory students and teach a mandatory course for our students called Academic and Career Planning.  

What is your favorite part of your work?

Working one-on-one with students. As an advising administrator, I believe deeply in serving both as an academic advisor and an instructor of our Academic and Career Planning course. I feel I am a much more effective leader if I experience firsthand the joys and frustrations my staff sees on a daily basis. 

Does this program help students save money?

When students come into Exploratory Studies, they begin taking coursework that spans all of the majors they are considering. Once they decide which direction to pursue, they have already taken many of the courses they would need for that major.  They are well on their way to completing their degree in four years. If a student comes in decided and then makes a 180-degree major change, there is a good chance they have not taken the appropriate courses for their new major. This adds time and money to completing their degree.

What would you tell incoming freshmen about the program? 

Exploratory Studies is the place to begin you college career. Nationally 80 percent of all college students change their majors at least once. We give you time to explore the over 200 majors on campus while keeping you on track to graduate within your four-year time frame. While exploring you will have an amazing relationship with an advisor who has knowledge of you, your interests, skills and abilities, and all majors on campus and has time to get to know you and assist you on this wonderful journey.

Eighty-five percent of the students who started in Exploratory Studies never change their major once they leave our program. Students have taken time to explore themselves, their major and career interests. They make those major decisions based on fully vetted information.

What is your most memorable moment from your time at Purdue?

I would have to say being an academic support staff member of the 1999 national championship women's basketball team is the most memorable. It was great being able to travel with and support the women in their academic endeavors as they made that historic run.

Writer: Megan Huckaby, 765-496-1325,

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