Sophomore Blue Jays flocked to the KAV for this year’s Sophomore Year Experience Opening Dinner on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Begun as a way to welcome sophomores back to Elizabethtown College, bring the class together, maintain a sense of group identity and combat the “sophomore slump” trend observed at some colleges, the dinner is a semi-formal way to inform students about programs and resources available to them.
Class of 2018 President Sean Fiedler gave the opening remarks to students present at the dinner, praising the accomplishments of the Class of 2018 during the previous year and stating that he looked forward to even greater things this year. Dinner was then served, and students were able to chat for an hour before the event continued. “I thought the Sophomore Experience dinner was a nice way to catch up with friends and meet new people,” sophomore Sarah Schulteis said.
Dr. Brian Newsome then took the podium to inform the students about the various opportunities offered by the Sophomore Year Experience programs. These programs included things like the Career Vision Boards at CareerPalooza, the annual Majors and Minors Fair for students considering changing or committing to a major or minor, and new Mini Retreats designed to help sophomores discover more about themselves and their goals for the future. Each of the three retreats, headed by The Rev. Tracy Sadd, will be held in the Susquehanna Room and will be facilitated by students, faculty and staff members. The Oct. 11 retreat will explore students’ unique talents and strengths and the impact they have on the different facets of life. “The retreats seem like they could be fun and useful in figuring out the future,” Amelia Schaeffer, an attendee, said.
“Blue Jay Vics,” a program run by Professor Jean-Paul Benowitz, offers sophomore students the opportunity to explore Signature Learning Experiences and connect with senior-class mentors. “Vics” refers to the lead bird in a formation of geese or other migratory birds. The students who attended the dinner all seemed very interested in the retreats and other programs offered by through the Sophomore Year Experience.
The Sophomore Year Experience has evolved since last year, adding new programs and connecting with different offices on campus. The High Library and Career Services volunteered to provide new programs including “Infotecs,” reference librarians who have offered to assist students with research, and a customized-for-sophomores tour of the Internship, Job and Career Fair. Newsome, the co-director of the Sophomore Year Experience, called it a “cooperative structure,” adding that his own administrative assistant, Carol Ouimet, handled much of the “logistics and leg work” for the Opening Dinner.
Collaboration with Student Senate began to increase midway through last year. There were a series of focus groups to aid in the refinement of the program. Senators were asked to participate in these groups, and the relationship has continued to grow.
The keynote address was delivered by Dean of the Faculty Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan. McClellan shared his own experiences from his sophomore year. He stated that sophomore year is a time when students tend to rediscover themselves and try to decide the direction they would like to pursue in life. McClellan told attendees that now is the time when students should form relationships with professors who can help guide them through their remaining time here at the College as well as offer academic and emotional support. McClellan closed his speech by reiterating that sophomore year is the time for students to decide what they want to do or what their goals are in life, and then to seek it out using every resource at their disposal.
Finally, there was a closing discussion moderated at each table by faculty leaders from across campus about a New York Times article titled, “The Summoned Self,” in which writer David Brooks reflected on the difference between the “Well-Planned Life” and the “Summoned Life.” The Well-Planned Life focuses on planning every move in advance and is typically considered to be the more “American” of the two: the idea of the lone entrepreneur or underestimated genius who rose to the top of his or her chosen profession through careful planning and long years of dedication. However, Mr. Brooks advocated the Summoned Life, which focuses more on seizing opportunities as life presents them. The Well-Planned Life sees life as something to be navigated and conquered by a determined person, while the Summoned Life takes the view that life is “an unknowable landscape to be explored.” Brooks argued that while most people only tend to follow one or the other, both lifestyles have their merits.
Attendees were given sign-up cards and evaluations after the discussion to allow immediate involvement and feedback on the dinner. According to Newsome, the overall reaction has been very positive. “From my perspective, everything went well,” he said. “Catering did a fantastic job, it was well-attended, and it was a really wonderful evening.”
“It feels empowering to be back as a sophomore, and I feel as though there are more opportunities available for me now,” sophomore Lia Kopar said. “The most important goal is to work hard and not give up.”