Sophomores Guided Through SOAR


Kate Little

SOAR student leaders pose with Associate Dean of Students Dana Hamdan in Wilder Hall.

The newly-created Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources program will offer sophomores academic and career advising tailored to their specific interests. Participants will be paired with a SOAR leader — a junior or senior knowledgeable and experienced in their major — who will guide them through how to declare a major, create an academic plan, and pursue job and internship opportunities in their field of interest.

The program will kick off with a two-day retreat on Feb. 1 and 2, and participants will attend three follow-up sessions with their SOAR leaders throughout the spring semester. The program is designed to give sophomores more specific guidance, considering that some students may have yet to declare their major or have an advisor in their department of interest.

“Typically, sophomore year is the year that students feel forgotten,” said Associate Dean of Students and Interim Director of the Career Center Dana Hamdan. “[First-year] students receive a lot of attention with orientation and [Peer Advising Leaders]. Junior year, students have already declared their majors and have established an identity in their academic department. Seniors have a capstone, are doing research, and are getting ready to launch. We don’t have a lot of resources specifically for sophomores. We have resources for all of our students, but nothing just for students in this developmental stage.”

College sophomore Eddy Tumbokon, a declared History major, applied to SOAR because he feels the program will help address some of the unique questions sophomores face when navigating Oberlin academics.

“I think within the sophomore year specifically, advising tapers off because most sophomores are in a limbo state between their first-year advisor and pushing to declare a major, where we may not know someone to be an advisor,” Tumbokon said. “I wanted to take advantage of one of the few sophomore advising opportunities on campus.”

SOAR leaders currently represent 15 different majors, and the program will hopefully be expanded to represent all academic majors in the future. Leaders were selected for their academic success, extra-curricular experiences, participation in campus activities, off-campus internships, and involvement in their individual departments. They are eager to support fellow Obies during this impactful — though sometimes confusing — time in their Oberlin careers.

“It’s a program to facilitate sophomores getting new opportunities and making meaningful connections that they need to make to sustain their career path and career goals while at Oberlin,” said College senior and Biology SOAR leader Juan Contreras. “It’s a time when they need to be making decisions, and if they are making them alone they may not feel as comfortable in making those decisions. It’s hard to do alone.”

SOAR leaders emphasize that sophomores do not need to have a declared major to participate

“Even if you are just considering the major, you should still apply for SOAR,” said College senior Jad Kaiss, Theater SOAR leader. “It’s something that is low stress and helps you out immensely. It’s definitely something that I would have enrolled in if I had had the chance.”

At the February retreat, participants will be able to connect with their fellow sophomores, SOAR leaders, and Oberlin faculty members. Day one of the retreat focuses on fostering these bonds and creating plans for the future.

“On day one, the sophomores will be divided into clusters based on their intended academic majors, and a faculty member from that major will support them in developing their five-semester academic plan,” Hamdan said. “We will also provide developmental advising to help students thrive as they face new challenges.”

Engaging with faculty will give students increased access to opportunities, both on and off campus.

“If you have a broad network and know all the professors, you will have someone you can go up to and ask if you have a question about research or anything,” College junior Tyler Hartman, Chemistry leader, said. “[Faculty connections give] sophomores an opportunity to look at more in-depth internships and research opportunities to start bolstering their résumés.”

The second day of the retreat will help sophomores learn how their Oberlin academic plans, which they built on day one, can relate to outside experiences like Winter Term, summer opportunities, and future employment.

“Day two will be focused on co-curricular engagement and integrated learning,” Hamdan said. “Students will explore how their academic plans can be connected to summer and Winter Term. The Career Development Center team will do workshops for them, on résumé and network building, public speaking, and basically all the things you need to plan effectively for your internships and summer work experiences.”

The SOAR program was inspired by the model and success of the Peer Advising Leader program, launched in fall 2017 for first-year students.

“There will be a lot of learning that takes place in the SOAR experience, but it will also be fun,” Hamdan said. “There is power in working in cohorts with your peers. Another example of Obies helping Obies.”

College sophomore Gio Donovan, an intended English major, applied to SOAR partly because she experienced the benefits of working in small, peer-based groups through the Peer Advising Leaders program.

“I think part of the thing that makes PAL so great is that you can build so many communities,” Donovan said. “To have a community surrounded by people who are possibly going to major or minor in the same field as you creates a more focused community. There are a lot of departments who will have events and things like that, but this is a good way to get to know older majors and people in your year who will possibly major and [get] guidance and perspective from each other to learn that you aren’t struggling alone.”

Applications to participate are due Monday, Dec. 10, or Tuesday, Nov. 27 for those who want to be considered in the early decision pool. All College sophomores are encouraged to apply.