The Office of the Student Experience (SE), part of the Division of Student Life at Rensselaer, aims to ensure that all undergraduate students are successful both in and out of the classroom. This semester, SE and the Archer Center for Student Leadership Development launched a new program, the Sophomore Symposium. The program gives sophomore students the opportunity to garner leadership skills, reflect on their experience, and further their own personal, professional, and leadership development plan.
In facilitating the transition from high school through graduation, a team of class deans associated with each cohort of Rensselaer students, and who follow them from sophomore year to graduation, continually work to provide guidance, support, challenge, and intervention to students.
The goal of the Sophomore Symposium is for students to begin to think about who do they envision themselves to be and, most importantly, what steps do they need to take to get there,” said Darren Jones, class dean for the Class of 2016, who coordinated the program along with support from Tracy Schierenbeck, associate director/lecturer in the Archer Center.
“The sophomore year is a pivotal point in the collegiate experience in that it is a time where students start to create their identity and find their fit at Rensselaer,” Jones added. “As students start to find their fit, we want them to think not only about the future, but also the legacy that they want to leave in their community, Rensselaer, and, ultimately, the world. The symposium is also a manifestation of what CLASS (Clustered, Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students) is all about as we work to design time-based programs that provide support and co-curricular opportunities for students throughout their undergraduate time at Rensselaer.”
“The sophomore year is a pivotal point in the collegiate experience. As students start to find their fit, we want them to think not only about the future, but also the legacy that they want to leave in their community,Rensselaer, and, ultimately, the world.”–Darren Jones
The event was planned by a team of students enrolled in Emerging Leaders II, a leadership development series coordinated by SE and the Archer Center. The overall symposium and planning was part of two-phase program. The theme for the Emerging Leaders II program is “Championing an Initiative.” Phase One featured students attending six session classes led by Schierenbeck and Jones. During the sessions, students learned hard skills in leadership, facilitating meetings, and managing people.
Phase Two focused on “Leadership in Practice.” During this phase, students worked to plan the symposium. A corporate structure was developed that included nominating a symposium chair, Shoshana Rubinstein, who then supervised two committee chairs. Eric Dominguez served as chair of the operations and logistics committee that included Christopher DiNicola, Ben Peacock, and Olivia Fryt. Candice Poon served as chair of the advertising and marketing committee that included Greg Grebe, Emily Walters, and Deborah Winograd.
Forty students attended the event. Event highlights included a keynote address by Lester Gerhardt, longtime professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, who spoke about passion and leadership. Timothy Sams, vice president for student life, served as the closing speaker.
Symposium sessions were led by upperclass students, faculty, and staff, and representatives from the Division of Student Life. Some session offerings included “Champions of Co-op” presented by the Center for Career and Professional Development, “Building an Online Presence” presented by Holly Nelson, communications specialist for the Rensselaer Union, and “Kingian Nonviolence” presented by Sams.
Jones also noted that the Sophomore Symposium will become an annual event. This year, additional financial support for the symposium came from Alumni Relations, and plans are underway to encourage more faculty involvement and corporate sponsorships.