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Sophomore students at Carleton College attend a banquet dinner, sitting at round tables with white tablecloths in a large meeting space.

The Sophomorphosis event at Carleton College unites sophomore students during the fall term, providing an opportunity to learn about career resources and interact with their peers.

RJ Holmes-Leopold

To equip students for their lives after graduation, Carleton College in Minnesota offers a special program for second-year students called Sophomorphosis (a play on “sophomore” and “metamorphosis”). The event series draws on institutional and outside partners to provide and information sessions geared toward sophomores exploring career possibilities and help them succeed in their academics.

In years past, Sophomorphosis was a multiweek series of events. This year, career services staff redesigned the program to better serve learners and condensed event offerings to one week each in the fall, winter and spring terms, focusing on career exploration, network connections and hands-on learning.

The event kicked off this fall and has so far seen success in connecting learners with the many resources available and providing visibility into various career opportunities after college.

The background: At Carleton, students must declare a major before their junior year, so career development staff provide special programming in the second year to help guide students’ decision-making.

Attendance waned in more recent years, so the staff decided to reimagine the program in a fall and summer session with a notable new start: an exclusive sophomore kickoff banquet. The dinner made it easier to centralize information to a captive audience and make the event stand out compared to other career-readiness workshops.

How it works: There are more than 10 Sophomorphosis events throughout the year, starting with the kickoff banquet in October and culminating in a major-declaration event in the spring.

“The Sophmorphosis program is designed to be an intentional series of events that brings the class together in focused ways to educate, celebrate and elevate their experiences as Carleton students,” explains RJ Holmes-Leopold, director of the career center.

During this fall term, events took place every day from Oct. 9 to 12, including a special information session on summer experiences for sophomores. In the winter, there will be another four events, slightly more spread out, from Jan. 4 to 18, that highlight fellowships, undergraduate research and study away opportunities for the upcoming year.

The launch: The fall semester had promising results, Holmes-Leopold shares.

The kickoff dinner provided staff a way to re-welcome sophomores to campus after the summer break as well as “an opportunity to inspire them to think bigger about their options available at the college as second-year students and beyond,” Holmes-Leopold says.

The event featured a senior student and a recent alumnus who spoke about their undergraduate careers, including experiential learning activities.

“Our hope is that having more examples of success from older students and alumni will help reassure sophomores that there are paths for them, that it’s OK to not know what you want to do, and that there are resources available at college to help get them to where they ultimately want to go after graduation,” Holmes-Leopold says.

Staff specially selected guests with diverse identities to provide individual attendees with possible role models who had found success with a shared similar background (students of color, first generation, low income and student athletes).

“As Carleton’s student demographics change to include a more diverse student body, students need to see others who share their identities succeed and to learn how to create their own unique journeys,” Holmes-Leopold says.

The career center also partnered with other offices, which sponsored a prize for a raffle drawing. The event drew 66 students and exposed them to a variety of programs in an hour and a half.

What’s next: The fall dinner was designed to inspire and socialize second-year students. Carleton will host an additional Sophomorphosis event, the Sophomore Summit, in late January to connect students with alumni for more career exploration, skill development and networking opportunities, with the potential of internship experiences. A final Sophomorphosis event celebrating students’ major declaration will be scheduled at the end of the spring term.

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This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Sophomorphosis.

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