This Fall, AMU is rolling out a newly developed Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “Sophomore Success: Preparing Leaders for the Third Millennium.” The pilot program will focus on the growth and formation of students during their sophomore year at college, combating the well-documented phenomenon of the “sophomore slump.” Hallmarks of the program include discussions aimed at increasing awareness of the value of a liberal arts education, use of the StrengthsQuest assessment test to identify a student’s talents, training in oral communication skills, and opportunities for professional and academic development through one-on-one faculty-student mentoring.
“Sophomore year is such a critical year,” the program’s director, Dr. Richard Dittus, commented. “It’s the point in time when a student goes from random to focused exploration. Students begin to identify a direction in their academic studies, but they also need to start thinking about where they will go in life. We want to avoid the scenario of students being so focused on being students that they wake up on graduation day and ask: Now what do I do? The Sophomore Success mentoring process is the living out of our mission as a university: to know, to love, and to serve. We have a responsibility to get to know the students, love them, and serve them in the process of transition from late adolescence to young adulthood. We have to help the young men and women grow to that point and take ownership of the direction they set out on.”
How do I get involved?
Sophomore Success is an elective program for 2015-2016, meaning that students are free to choose whether or not they will enroll.* Some students may fear they already have too much on their plate, or hesitate to commit to a yearlong program. But no student should be so busy writing papers that they can’t stop and think: Where am I going in life and how am I going to get there?
Go to the Sophomore Summit.
The Sophomore Success Program will kickoff this year with a Sophomore Summit, Saturday, September 5th from 1:00-5:00pm.
The afternoon summit will begin with an overview of the program, followed by an introduction to the program’s practical resources available online on Blackboard. Content under “SOPH 201” (Fall) and “SOPH 202” (Spring) will guide students throughout the year via tutorials on topics such as “How to Write a Good Resume” or “Using Your Talents to Pick a Major.”
The Liberal Arts & Oral Communication
But how can students be expected to commit to their studies without understanding the reasoning behind their education? How can they inspire others to be leaders when they lack the tools for effective oral communication? The Sophomore Summit will include a faculty panel addressing these topics, namely, the nature and benefits of a liberal arts education within the Catholic intellectual tradition and the importance of oral presentation skills.
Throughout the year, the Philosophy Department will spearhead the initiative to integrate a deeper understanding of the liberal arts with the sophomore year core philosophy course, Nature and Person (PHIL 205). The Politics Department will oversee an integration of the study of great American political speeches and the exercise of effective oral communication with the required sophomore year American Civilization course (POLT 203).
During the Sophomore Summit, students will have an opportunity to meet their faculty mentor. Faculty Mentoring is an essential aspect of the Sophomore Success Program, as the program’s director Dr. Dittus attests. When Dittus was in college, he knew a young man who had a 1.7 GPA. Many urged him to reconsider his academic career, suggesting he drop out and join the military. But one professor said to the student: “I believe that you could be an actor.” This professor took it on himself to write to an acting coach and set the student on a new path.
The student was Denzel Washington.
“Faculty mentoring can make a significant difference,” Dr. Dittus said. “This professor recognized Denzel Washington’s talent, and encouraged him to take steps toward growth and development.”
Identify Your Strengths
Later in the afternoon of the Sophomore Summit, a second panel will offer guidance on choosing a major and making use of StrengthsQuest, a questionnaire developed by the Gallup Organization that helps identify a person’s talents and strengths. Sophomores will have the opportunity to take the assessment test. “Like any assessment, StrengthsQuest is just a tool,” Dittus said. “But in the faculty mentoring relationship, it becomes an energizing process of exploring how you can apply your talents to be a better student, or how you can utilize your strengths to become a better employee.”
Go Out Into the World
The afternoon summit will wrap up with personal testimonies on the usefulness and success of identifying and utilizing strengths in both the academic and professional life. Students will be introduced to the resources of the university’s Department of Career Services and begin the exploration of career opportunities suited to their strengths.
“Many people get focused on weakness,” Dittus remarked. “If you take something you’re weak at, and make it a little better, who cares? But if you take something that you’re good at, and you work on it, you can soar.”
Sophomores, Don’t miss this opportunity!
AMU students are often asked: What will you do with a liberal arts education? Dr. Dittus has an answer: “What you do in May, June, July and August.” It’s in the application of their talents and skills through internships, summer jobs, and volunteer work that university students test out where they can go in life. The sooner a student gets started on this path of reflection, assessment, and discovery, the sooner they will become who they are meant to be—and, in the words of St. Catherine of Siena, they will “set the world on fire.”
* Students who wish to get involved in the Sophomore Success program should contact Dr. Richard Dittus, Director of Sophomore Success QEP.