A retrospective on the 2014 Sophomore Symposium

It is very unusual to see the campus crawling with students at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It is even more unusual to see these students sharply dressed in business attire. However, this was no ordinary day, but that of the Sophomore Symposium for the Class of 2016.

Dean of Advising and Academic Success Alex Vasquez said, “Sophomore Symposium is all about making sure we engage sophomores in the kinds of thinking, planning, and decision making that they feel is valuable in this year.”

Dean Vasquez co-chaired the event with Associate Dean of the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services and Dean of the Class of 2016 Denyse Wilhelm. Together they created a team whose mission was “engaging the students with the institution, with each other, and with the challenges and opportunities in front of them.”

As students filed into Weber Theatre, they began their journey.

This year’s plenary speaker, Jessica Bruce ’87, a corporate vice president responsible for global human resources and strategic execution for the Associated Press, filled the theatre with laughter, excitement and great advice. Dean Vasquez commented that Bruce was such a wonderful plenary speaker to have not only because of her dedicated involvement with the campus, but also because she credits her success to her Wheaton education.

After a humor-filled speech, it was time for the workshops. One workshop, entitled “The Writing Life: Journalism, Media, & Professional Writing” was presented by Professor Bill Kole, Ted Nesi ’07 and Julie Bogen ’14. It was useful for the students to hear not only from a very talented professor but also from a Wheaton student who had been sitting at Sophomore Symposium only a couple years prior.

A great number of alumni, faculty and students offered their expertise in a wide array of workshops. Dean Vasquez explained that there are three categories of workshops. The first is the “Staples”, or those that are necessary each year. The second her called the “Rotators,” or those which periodically reoccur over the years. And the third set was the “Experimentals”, which are new workshops that reflect new majors or interests at Wheaton.

One of the last workshops of the day was, “Get Yourself out There: Building Your Network and Your Brand,” given by Meredith Pepin, an assistant director in the Filene Center, and Sara Nausch ’11. Together, the two women presented on how students can stand out in the job market by using tools such as LinkedIn to promote and network themselves to potential employers. Nausch is an example of a Wheaton success story, as she was offered a job right out of college as an associate at K-2 Partnering Solutions in Boston, an international recruitment firm.

Her presentation was memorable, especially when she stressed that students should be conscious about how they present themselves on social media. One of her tips was to tell students to Google themselves, to see what type of information comes up and make sure the content is appropriate for the professional world.

This year, social media was a essential to the success of the symposium. Dean Vasquez said that Dean Wilhelm was a big supporter of using social media as a way to make this event more visible and accessible to students. With the use of Twitter, Facebook and the new hashtag (#SophSym2014), the event was promoted just enough to strike a balance between knowing what to expect and still being surprised.

Dean Vasquez wanted to remind students that “the spring goes very quickly.” He emphasized the importance of finding balance, and following through with  future plans. Because before we know it, the future will be the present.