Oswego adds program to support sophomore success

For some students, the life of a college sophomore can resemble being a middle child—no longer the new kid on the block but also not yet at the top rung. A new Sophomore Success initiative at SUNY Oswego looks to provide more attention to students at this critical juncture in their college career.

“There’s a lot of fanfare when you’re a first-year student, but a lot of sophomores feel like, when they come back, the trumpets have stopped blowing,” said Gary Morris, Oswego’s associate director of career services and chair of the new sophomore committee.

About 18 months ago, at the suggestion of Dean of Students James Scharfenberger, Morris and Christy Huynh of the Student Advisement Center began researching what other colleges do and brainstorming how to better serve sophomores. That 10 percent of sophomores do not return for their junior year showed a need to better engage this population, Morris said.

Goals for the effort include having sophomores better identify with their class and their chosen major, developing markers or “rites of passage” for their progression in the college experience and cultivating a higher level of engagement in their academic career and personal development. With an expanding committee including faculty and staff plus an Auxiliary Services grant, the initial year has offered a series of events to engage sophomores in several ways.

Support activities

The Job-a-Rama on Feb. 3 is one visible plank of the emphasis. For this event, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Campus Center’s Swetman Gym, sophomores (as well as juniors) can meet with on-campus employers to learn about future positions including a range of internships, service-learning opportunities, work-study positions and temp-service jobs. The goal is to connect students with many ways to meet their career aspirations, personal interests and financial needs, Morris said.

A series of programs called Test Drive Your Career helps sophomores learn more about their chosen or desired major. The series includes field trips, such as public justice majors traveling to visit the New York State Police Academy and local prisons to learn more about potential career paths. Morris said such experiences usually take place with faculty “to extend the classroom a bit” and often through alumni contacts who can expand students’ networks.

A Pizza With Professionals series invites those working in an area of interest for a casual meal and question-and-answer session with students. Webinars, such as one on service-oriented careers, have seen large and engaged turnouts, Morris said.

“The sophomore year is a time when a lot of students choose a major,” Morris noted. “It’s one of the most important decisions they’ll make in their life, and it’s done with little fanfare.” His committee hopes to bring more attention to this milestone in the future and celebrate it as a rite of passage, he added.

The committee also hosted a day of service, where sophomores gathered to assemble care packages for first-year students. “While that benefits first-year students, it also provides an opportunity for sophomores to come together and work on their class identity,” Morris explained.

Initial Sophomore Success activities have proven “very successful, and the students have been very receptive,” Morris said. Plans include further broadening the committee and offerings to make the sophomore experience a real highlight in the path through college.

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(Posted: Jan 20, 2010)