New orientation designed for sophomores

Recognizing the difficulties that sophomores face during the transition between their first and second years at Williams, a College Council (CC) subcommittee has come up with a proposal for a “Sophomore (Re) Orientation” program. The proposal, developed by the Sophomore Orientation Committee, was recently approved and granted funding by the Dean’s Office.

The CC proposal for the orientation puts forward the major challenges facing sophomores, considered by the Sophomore Orientation Committee to be issues such as major and advisor choices, as well as plans for junior year. As Committee member Liz Jimenez ’12 explained, “Sophomores are thrown into the thick of things like deciding what major to be, what to do with junior year programming, deadlines left and right for fellowships and Winter Study 99s, and still there is no structured or central place where they can get all this information.”

In addition, the Committee cited the lack of extensive entry support and Junior Advisor guidance as difficulties for sophomores that can create social gaps in the second-year experience. “Given the space and time to meet new people, it will be easier to smoothly enter and engage in the year,” said Emanuel Yekutiel ’11, committee chair and Class of 2011 representative on CC.

Yekutiel first brought forth the idea in January, and subsequently the Committee formed and met several times to discuss what was missing in the sophomore experience and ways to make up for the deficiency. As a result, members came up with a plan for “a fairly casual two or three day ‘orientation’ event for sophomores before the start of classes,” said former CC co-president Jeremy Goldstein ’09, who oversaw the Committee’s creation. Jimenez added, “We want to create a place, even if it’s a day and a half, where the sophomore class is treated to the information they need and the bonding they will appreciate.”

Sophomore (Re) Orientation will include a series of events, “where sophomores can feel taken care of,” Goldstein said. The main reason for the pre-semester start of the program is to avoid creating additional stress during the school year, organizers said. The programming will take place on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the beginning of classes on Thursday, Sept. 10.

The Committee has already contacted Dining Services and has prepared a rough budget of the costs associated with the event. The tentative programming schedule has been devised and will begin circulating by the end of the month when the Committee will launch an advertising campaign.

According to the Committee’s proposal, the program will address both the academic and social “gaps” in the sophomore experience. The Committee has proposed that the mandatory information sessions for those who are interested in studying abroad take place during Sophomore Reorientation, in addition to those held later in the school year.
The Committee plans on creating an informational fair for study abroad programs, the Williams-Mystic program and junior advising. A fair featuring senior representatives of various majors will seek to address questions that second-years might have concerning their pending choice of major.

Sophomore (Re) Orientation will also attempt to facilitate communication between members of the sophomore class. Goldstein believes that the program could provide sophomores with the opportunity to “reconnect with their classmates, and collectively as a class begin learning about the choices that lay ahead for the junior year.” Since dining halls will not be open at the time of the orientation, large-scale meals, such as continental breakfasts, barbeques, a Tunnel City event, a neighborhood dinner and one formal tent dinner will help bring the class closer together. Other events may include a bonfire, a dance party and a hike.

The Committee is expecting some difficulties, which are outlined in the Orientation’s proposal, such as concerns about costs, participation, security and conflicts with other student events. The Committee is currently working on resolving these issues and is hopeful that, like First Days, the program will be an attractive opportunity for students to prepare for the upcoming sophomore year.

“I think the orientation is necessary because it can give sophomores some structure for thinking about their year,” Goldstein said. “Socially and academically, it will hopefully make the adjustment to sophomore year a little easier.”