To the Editor:
Sophomore slump is a real problem ("Clemson Seeks to Diminish the Sophomore Slump," The Chronicle, May 11), and the curricular initiative at Clemson is to be applauded. At my institution, we are looking at cocurricular alternatives that may produce similar outcomes.
This year my colleagues and I at Wheelock College launched a comprehensive sophomore-year experience, called SophServe, that is composed of many varied community-service projects, each with a four-to-six-week time frame. These projects have quite a range: tutoring local schoolchildren; leading a grant-funded day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.; fund raising and educating the community in a breast-cancer charity walk; and encouraging participation in the AmeriCorps Student Leaders in Service program, among others. SophServe invites sophomores to practice leadership skills and motivate their peers to become engaged and further connected to Wheelock's mission: to improve the lives of children and families. Each project is closely supervised by student-success administrators, and is preceded by readings and followed by reflection on key content and processes. Faculty are invited to participate, and next year we're looking to bring alumni on board to provide additional mentoring.
It is important for faculty and administrators to remember that carefully crafted cocurricular programs that target sophomores can go a long way toward reducing the "vacuum" experience reported at Clemson, while simultaneously encouraging growth in key learning-outcome areas, such as those proposed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities' Liberal Education and America's Promise initiative.
Jonathan S. Lewis
Associate Director for Student Success