The Second Days retreat, part of the College’s new Sophomore Year Experience, took place last Saturday in the newly renovated Greylock Mill. Members of the Class of 2019 loaded onto busses at 8:30 a.m. to head to the event filled with speakers and activities in North Adams. There were 29 students present.
Upon arrival, they signed the class banner, posed with the event sign and mingled. Dean Roshanda Booker welcomed the students, introduced speakers and sophomore ambassadors and laid out the agenda for the day.
Director of International Education and Study Away Tina Breakell presented on the opportunities available abroad. Breakell spoke about experiences at other institutions as well as the College’s own Williams-Mystic and the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford.
Mike Kiernan ’81, had each student write a brief life timeline on one side of an index card and a personal vision statement on the other. Students then split into pairs based on who they were most unfamiliar with in the group. The pairs took turns telling their own stories and asking questions. Each pair then worked on “co-visioning” by using the information on the cards to set goals for the time left at the College. Kieran developed this process through his work at MiddCORE, a summer mentoring program at Middlebury College.
Director of Accessible Education G. L. Mazzard Wallace urged the group to take advantage of all of the different opportunities at the College. He spoke on how the word success carries a different, nuanced meaning for almost every person and had some students share their personal definitions. Some said that GPA was their metric to determine success, while others believed that happiness was more important.
Wallace also emphasized that his office, in Paresky 202, is a great resource for all students in search of support.
Michael O’Connor, associate director of the Career Center and director of the career discovery program, used a roleplaying activity to help students work through decisions, particularly choosing a major. Groups discussed how to reconcile their own dreams with their parents’ expectations, choose majors and concentrations, and find careers that incorporate seemingly incompatible passions. He made sure that students were aware of the various resources the Career Center has to offer, such as the Colleges’ LinkedIn page, Route 2 and the alumni network.
Interspersed with the speakers were various activities, including a “step-in-step-out” exercise wherein a statement was read and students would step into the circle if they agreed and stayed put if they did not. Statements ranged from “I want to be a JA” to “I am worried about family back at home.” Students also wrote letters to their future selves and received T-shirts commemorating the event.
Students and the staff working on the SYE committee were pleased with how the day unfolded. David Han, ’19, is a sophomore ambassador who helped conduct the event.
“In an institution as old as Williams, tradition often trumps all so it’s really difficult to start,” Han said. “But our SYE team worked really hard to put this event on, and for its first year, I think it went really well.”
Booker was also proud of the event.
“The location was great, and the attendees were engaged, enthusiastic, and garnered great academic information to prepare for their sophomore years.”