University News

Event offers advice for sophomore year

Mandel hosts presentation to help first-years prepare for sophomore advising, concentration declaration

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Prompted by the results of a UCS poll, Dean of the College Maud Mandel led an event Monday night intended to provide rising sophomores with information on topics such as sophomore advising and concentration selection.

“This is the official takeaway for tonight: Do not panic!” said Dean of the College Maud Mandel at an event titled “Don’t Fear Sophomore Year” held in Salomon 101 Monday evening. The presentation attracted a small number of first-year students interested in learning more about the transition to sophomore year.

The informational meeting was organized in response to an Undergraduate Council of Students poll that indicated students want better sophomore advising, Mandel told The Herald. UCS and its Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee were instrumental in planning the event, which is part of a broader effort to focus on improving sophomore year advising, Mandel said. This effort recently included three lunches, which took place last week and were intended to address issues unique to sophomores.

Elena Saltzman ’16, chair of the AAA Committee, said the idea behind the event was to reach out to first-year students before they actually became sophomores. Though first-years and sophomores are often lumped together into one underclassmen “bloc,” they actually have very different needs, Saltzman said.

In addition to Mandel, several other members of the Office of the Dean of the College— including Deputy Dean of the College Christopher Dennis and Peggy Chang, director of the Curricular Resource Center and assistant dean of the College for engaged learning — also attended the session.

The event kicked off with a Powerpoint presentation given by Mandel. She discussed the sources of “sophomore angst,” such as concern about the future and unknowledgable advisers.

But Mandel said rising sophomores should not panic and proceeded to explain “the sophomore mindset,” which includes “Making Choices,” “Recognizing Success,” and “Establishing Relationships.”

For “Making Choices,” Mandel said rising sophomores should focus on the things they did well as first-years and build on their successes. Mandel also said students should investigate new options rather than committing too strongly to a single concentration.

Rising sophomores should also strive to draw connections between different areas of study explored as first-years and map out a plan for the next three years, Mandel said.

“If you are feeling tense about the big decisions, make a small decision,” Mandel said, adding that it is not true that a concentration defines the rest of a student’s life. It is important to “interrogate your motives,” and to be aware of the reasons guiding course selection, she said.

Mandel continued by talking about “Recognizing Success.” She said picking a concentration is not a moral choice, nor is it the end of other forms of intellectual exploration or the only pathway to employment. She especially stressed this last point and said that picking a concentration “reflects a choice to explore a mode of learning in greater depth.”

Mandel displayed the Brown concentration website “Focal Point” on the overhead projector and demonstrated that each concentration contains a link to further details on the CareerLAB website. Though the link malfunctioned at the time of the presentation, it was supposed to lead to the results of a survey that Brown graduates from the past two years filled out after graduation about their current employment. Generally, Mandel said, the data shows that the majority of students end up in the same range of jobs regardless of their majors.

For the last category, “Establishing Relationships,” Mandel said that every Brown student needs multiple advisers. She said sometimes first-years are misled because they believe their first-year adviser is the only source they can consult for advice. An adviser is not the source of all information, she said, but a conversation partner and resource.

To find other sources of advising, Mandel suggested that students reach out to concentration advisers listed on Focal Point and speak with advisers in University Hall and the CRC. The idea is to pull together a “stable of people” to advise you, Mandel said.

At the end of the presentation, the advisers from the Dean of the College office introduced themselves. Audience members were encouraged to ask questions about the year ahead.

One student asked about the timeline for students planning to double-concentrate. Mandel said employers do not care whether a student has double concentrated and only students with a deep interest in two subjects should do so. She also said that many students come to Brown because of the freedom of the open curriculum, but double concentrating imposes several requirements that restrict that freedom. The deadline to declare a second concentration is not until the seventh semester of a student’s time at Brown, she added.

Another student asked whether it is easy to change concentrations. Carol Cohen, associate dean of the College for health and personal issues, said it is easy to change concentrations. But students need to think about the choice and decide whether a switch is realistic based on the amount of requirements for their new concentration and the number of semesters they have left before graduation.  Since the standard concentration has 10 to 12 requirements, changing concentrations is “doable,” Cohen said.

After students asked questions, Neel Yalamarthy ’15 and Kimberley Charles ’16 — Matched Advising Program for Sophomores coordinators for this year and next year, respectively — explained the program, which matches rising sophomores with upperclassmen mentors with similar interests. MAPS applications will soon be released for rising sophomores interested in the program. In addition to advising, MAPS offers special programs and lunches throughout the year, Yalamarthy said.

After the event, audience members were invited to speak individually with the DOC advisers. Alex Vidmar ’18 said it was helpful to see so many different representatives because he had not known about all the resources available on campus.

Aidea Downie ’18 also said she enjoyed hearing advice from the numerous advisers on hand but added that she was unsure whether a student’s concentration really plays such a small role in careers after college. “Some concentrations at Brown seem more career-oriented than others,” she said, adding that advising in her first year was “awesome.”

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article said current MAPS coordinator Chinezi Ihenatu ’15 explained the program, but it was in fact Kimberley Charles ’16, one of next year’s coordinators. The Herald regrets the error.

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