“As a sophomore you have garnered the power gained from successfully meeting challenges … to make decisions impacting your next two years and perhaps the rest of your professional lives. If you take advantage of the resources provided here … at Wheaton you would be prepared to lead a wonderfully intricate world because you are all members of a transformative environment.”
These were the inspiring words of keynote speaker Oneda Horne-Jones ’07 on Jan. 31 at the Sophomore Symposium 2.
Jones, alumni volunteer and college success initiative coordinator, shared her own experiences at Wheaton and how it affected her personal and professional life. She said, “Wheaton will provide you with tools to design and follow your own life plan including the heights and depths of your individual professional pursuits. I learned more about diversity at Wheaton than at any other point in my life. Administrators worked hard to encourage and assist me and my peers in our engagement.” Jones’s experience tied into the words of Sophomore Class Dean, Denyse Wilhelm, who urged students to identify with the community and alumni and integrate their experiences with those two factions.
The schedule of the day was designed so that students could interact with alums during two sessions, based on majors and prospective careers, followed by an informal brunch. Assistant Director of Alumnae Relations, Marco Barbone ’09, said that 60 students and 40 alums attended and that Career Services and Alumnae Relations partnered to recruit career partners who were invited to be panelists during the event. Barbone said, “It is important to know that Wheaton alums are well-rounded professionals who do not take a straight line right into a career but are able to adjust and find their niche and succeed.”
The major’s workshop covered 13 popular majors including Computer Science, English and Philosophy among others. Sophomores had the opportunity to interact with several alums who took the same major while at Wheaton. Sophomore Class President, Samuel Evans ’17 said, “Personally, the day was a great tool for me to focus on my secondary major, Economics…It allowed me to center my attention to what the future could hold for my broader academic spectrum.” The second workshop allowed students to hear from alums based in careers ranging from finance and law to non-profit and counseling among others.
The two new aspects of this year’s symposium were dividing the event into two parts and hiring peer mentors. Barbone said that this was perfect as “Part 1 in early September provides the sophomores with information about the year, going abroad and what to expect. Part 2 of Sophomore Symposium is one of the first times that sophomores meet with alums and start the networking process.” Evans agreed that this allowed sophomores to focus on developing networking skills and practicing time management this semester, after graduation and beyond.
Wilhelm stated that peer mentors will continue to be a fixture in the coming years but that rising sophomores would meet their peer mentors before the end of the semester. Peer mentor Elizabeth Burrill ’16 said, “I have really enjoyed developing relationships with students, being able to share my experience and exchange perspectives with them. I would have greatly benefited from having a peer mentor during my sophomore year.” She also said that the sophomore peer mentors helped facilitate the Sophomore Symposium 2, greet and introduce alums to students and participated in networking opportunities between students, faculty and alumni.
Audrey Dubois ’17 said that she liked this new format of the symposium. “I think this is a really good way to build off of the first one, which was really introducing all the concepts of internships and everything. I’d really like to involve more potential careers for future symposiums.” Frannie Palmer ’17 agreed, stating, “The first Sophomore Symposium helped me realize that I had opportunities to get scholarships and internships but then this one let me realize that it was important to start networking and looking for internships and making relationships with other people in the field that you’re interested in.”
Becky Hemperly ’88, who is the VP of contracts, rights and royalties at Candlewick Press, was present at the English major and publishing career workshops. She said that she had been a part of the sophomore symposium many times before and had benefitted from talking to alums when she was a student at Wheaton. Hemperly said she was interested in students and learning about their experiences. “I feel like it’s a selfish thing I do… I come here to recharge my batteries. This gives me a chance to step back, reflect and remind myself that I do really love this (job).”