Sophomore orientation program institutionalized

The SophomOrientation program has recently been institutionalized and will now be managed by the deans’ office and the Office of Campus Life. According to Krista Pickett ’13, chair of the 2010 SophomOrientation committee, the program ensures that incoming sophomores are “reminded of the academic, psychological and social services available to them on campus and provided with a forum to come together as a class before their second year at school starts.”

“What we do for sophomores is something we should be thinking about as a College,” Dean Sarah Bolton said.

SophomOrientation was created two winters ago by College Council (CC) Co-President Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 when he chaired a sub-committee called the “sophomore experience.”

“I felt that there was a need to start a program such as this because I kept hearing from other students about the dreaded and inevitable ‘sophomore slump,’” he said.

The purpose of SophomOrientation is to help sophomores who may feel “a little lost, alone or uncertain of how to proceed and to mature at Williams,” Pickett said. “Sophomore year is an important one – there are lots of choices to be made regarding junior year, becoming a JA, studying abroad, choosing a major, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little guidance.”

Yekutiel added, “As the sophomore class becomes very scattered across campus in its second year, I felt there was a need to gather together as a class in order to form new bonds before the class became scattered.”

Yekutiel formed a committee two years ago to plan the program, and the first rendition of the event was carried through with 375 students in attendance. After constructing a detailed report and submitting it to the administration in the fall of 2009, the College decided to fund the program again in 2010.

The committee to head “SophomOrientation 2.0” included Assistant Director of Campus Life Jessica Gulley-Ward, Charlie Cao ’13, Nancy González ’13, Jack Noelke ’13, James Elish ’13, Tara Deonauth ’13, Wen Han ’13, Omer Khalayleh ’13, Pickett and Yekutiel. Gulley-Ward helped to manage the budget and fine-tune the events, and the students on the committee brainstormed and carried out ideas. “They did a fabulous job with the second iteration of the program,” Yekutiel said.

This year’s program included a social event at The Log, a speech given by Assistant Professor of Political Science Justin Crowe, a cookout on Chapin lawn, a study abroad information session, an academic expo, a junior year forum and a party in Goodrich.

“I do feel the program was a success,” Pickett said, citing the purple and gold 2013 water bottles, sophomore handbooks and social events as very popular among the students. “We’re proud of the work we did for SophomOrientation 2.0, but we’re also excited to see how the program develops and grows in the coming years.”

To get SophomOrientation institutionalized for years to come, the committee prepared a report detailing the strengths of the program and listing areas for improvement. “We demonstrated why sophomores need a program like this and exactly who benefits,” Pickett said. “We drew upon data from a survey administered to the class this past fall. We asked for a specific budget and certain kinds of administrative support, and Dean Bolton enthusiastically agreed to continue the program into next year.”

With regards to the survey, Yekutiel added, “The surveys demonstrated overwhelming support for the continuation of the program along with some really constructive feedback on what students appreciated.”

Results showed that 89 percent of those polled last year said that they believed SophomOrientation should be continued for future generations.

“We got overall positive responses towards many of the events, and 94 percent of sophomores polled this past year said they found the sophomore handbook to be helpful,” Yekutiel added.

“The program occurs at an extremely low cost, has a positive impact on the sophomore class and has demonstrated substantial buy-in,” Yekutiel said. “I see this as a success, and I am excited that it will continue to happen for many years to come.” High sophomore turnout at past SophomOrientations proves Yekutiel’s convictions to be true.

“I think the SophomOrientation crew did a great job piloting the program,” Bolton said. “Now we’ll start thinking about which of the pieces need to be stronger, and we’ll be putting the efforts of the deans’ office behind it.”