Studies consistently show that sophomores are the least satisfied of all college students. To combat the “Sophomore Slump,” Belmont developed a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Growth and Purpose for Sophomores (GPS), to implement in Fall 2011. The project will encourage sophomores to engage in focused exploration of themselves and their places in the world.
GPS programs include a new Sophomore Transitions Center (which will offer career and major guidance), a Sophomore Summit held in August, a sophomore service project, a convocation series and changes to on-campus living and the BELL Core curriculum. Curriculum changes include tailoring COM 1100, Fundamentals of Speech Communication, to address the needs of sophomores, and revising linked cohort courses to include engaged learning experiences.
According to the GPS Web site, “Many first year students know, for sure, what they will be when they grow up… but by their second year, they aren’t so sure at all and struggle to figure out what’s next.”
In the pilot COM 1100 class, students work through FOCUS assessments, write a series of reflective essays and prepare a four-minute statement about how their strengths, experiences and goals align with their future plans.
“The majority of my students have responded favorably to the opportunity to do some focused self-exploration and articulate a vision for their future,” said Dr. Mary Vaughn, chair of the communication studies department. “It is great practice for future job interviews or graduate school essays, and it forces students think about vocational planning well before that senior year.”
Dr. Jimmy Davis, associate provost and dean of the University College, said, “In many ways our sophomore initiative is an extension of the creation of the BELL Core seven years ago. The BELL Core put in place specific experiences for first-year and third-year students, but was much less specific about how it addressed the needs of second year students. So, with the other parts of the BELL Core firmly in place, we have an opportunity to lean on them to create something unique for our sophomores.”
The GPS initiative is part of Belmont’s reaccreditation process. Every 10 years Belmont University must reaffirm its accreditation through the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS). This process requires the University to demonstrate compliance with various standards as defined by SACS and, in this cycle, to present SACS with a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which describes a project the University will undertake to improve student learning outcomes. A SACS site visit will occur from Feb. 15-17, and various SACS representatives will meet with members of the University community to discuss Belmont’s QEP.