In the focus groups, AU sophomores said they didn’t want panel discussions. They didn’t want a formal program. What did they want?
Just ask associate dean of students Marianne Huger Thomson. She was looking for the answer too, making sure AU’s sophomore class gets the attention it deserves.
“They actually want to get to know their faculty, and that’s one of the great things about AU: smaller class sizes, connection to faculty, and the focus on teaching,” she said. “So, that’s something we wanted to facilitate.”
That’s why Thomson, the Office of Campus Life, and the Office of the Provost have partnered to create the university’s inaugural sophomore-specific event, “Chart Your Academic Future.”
“When we think about AU milestones, first year is exploration, figuring out what your academic home might be,” Thomson explained. “Sophomore year is about figuring out how to dig in to what you’re doing. . . . It’s going deeper into the things you’re interested in.”
With that in mind, faculty members and upperclass student leaders will gather on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in Mary Graydon Center rooms 2-5 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to host AU’s sophomore class.
Second-year students will be able to talk to these professors and campus leaders about everything from research to figuring out a minor to internship possibilities.
“They might be thinking about changing majors,” Thomson said. “They might want to do research with a faculty member. They might want to learn about how a faculty’s career was shaped, or they might just want to get to know them.”
The event’s rooms will feature different “hubs,” according to Thomson, where students can chat with faculty members from each college or school, maybe even meeting a professor who could become a mentor or advisor.
And if you ask Thomson, AU is the ideal place for an event like this. Actually, it’s the ideal place for the student-faculty connection that so many college students look for.
“At AU, the faculty are doing interesting things. They care about students and want to connect with them,” she said. “AU is the perfect size—not so big that it’s overwhelming to get to know your faculty but big enough so that you can find faculty interested in what interests you.”
Other national universities are also looking to better support their sophomore class, through mock convocations and the like. Still, Thomson knew the wonks at American University would want an event that helps them further their studies and, ultimately, their lives beyond graduation.
“We thought our students would be interested in something a little different that’s targeted to their needs,” she explained.
Wait, There’s More
At the end of the day, Thomson believes this event simply highlights the university’s commitment to creating an unsurpassed undergraduate experience for all its students.
That means paying attention to their needs and responding to their feedback.
“We’re interested in all transitions that college students go through. So, not just the transition from high school to undergrad, but transitions within college,” she said. “We know that sophomore year is full of transitions, but we didn’t have a way before to mark this.”
Thomson is hoping second-year students will come out, connect with professors, and answer some more questions for her—like how they can make next year’s event even better.
Still, she says, if nothing else, there will be great food. That’s something any student—sophomore or otherwise—can really get behind.
“We’re not just talking cheese and crackers,” she said. “This is going to be nice.”
Sign up in advance to Chart Your Academic Future.