F&M Stories

Not Out of Sight Nor Out of Mind

How Specialized Programs Engaged, Supported, and Connected Remote Sophomores

This summer, Franklin & Marshall College made the difficult decision to decrease the campus population during the fall term due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to reduce the number of students in on-campus residential halls, the sophomore cohort was to continue remote instruction.

“It was very tough news to digest because it was such a sudden move from the College,” said sophomore Maritza Marquez. 

Sophomore Sara Ghorashi agreed. “Not being on campus is hard, and there is a sense of disconnect,” she said.

So, how did the College address this sense of disconnect? How did F&M create a sophomore year experience that engaged and supported the members of the sophomore class while remote—and through their transition back to campus?

Beth Throne, associate vice president for student and post-graduate development, was eager to answer those questions.

“What kinds of programs, resources, and opportunities could the College offer specific to the sophomore year experience?” Throne said.

Quite a few, it turns out. In addition to each sophomore around the globe receiving an F&M and College House mask with a note from their College House Don and Dean, Throne helped launch a Class of 2023 Sophomore Year Experience (SYE) Canvas site, containing information and resources about major/minor declaration, off-campus studies, library resources and more. To date, over 420 sophomores have been active on this site.

Sophomore Experience Graphic

Image Credit: Luke DeBord

“I really enjoyed all of the programs offered for the sophomores,” Ghorashi said. “Beth and OSPGD did not let any sophomore feel excluded and made us feel extremely connected to campus.”

Marquez agreed, noting that even though she is a house adviser and was able to physically be on campus, it often didn’t feel that way due to the missing presence of her fellow sophomore classmates. 

“I felt overwhelmed with the idea of navigating campus in this new COVID world without my friend group,” she said. “The Canvas site made me feel connected to my peers and to the pre-COVID campus we left. Many of my friends also used the Canvas site to keep up to date and attend the workshops that went virtual. Most of the resources on the Canvas site have helped us navigate our way in this new COVID world.”

That sense of connection is what inspired Throne and her team to create these specialized programs.

“These programs have been deliberate and have touched them on all aspects,” she said. “Our focus now is ensuring this experience carries into their transition back to campus.”

“I particularly enjoyed Not a Major Decision: Reality & Impact of Major/ Minor Declaration,” Ghorashi said. “There’s so much stress and uncertainty regarding declaring your major, but I learned so much from attending this workshop, and it made me more relieved about the whole process. Beth did an outstanding job organizing this workshop.”

Moving forward, Throne and her collaborators are planning a "Design Your Future" summit for sophomores that provides them with resources and tools to develop an action plan for the experiences they want to pursue during the remainder of their sophomore year and beyond; a celebration of their return to campus; and several others.

“Franklin & Marshall did a fantastic job in aiding sophomores with resources,” Marquez said.

Sophomores have been enjoying: 

  • a weekly newsletter
  • a social media campaign promoting sophomore-year experience events and resources
  • “Sophomores on the Move,” a wellness incentive campaign created in partnership with Athletics, the Office of Wellness Education and the Mindfulness Committee
  • “Not a Major Decision: The Reality and Impact of Major/Minor Declaration,” featuring Throne, F&M Provost Cameron Wesson, and F&M Registrar Laura Medvic
  • A virtual academic fair during which students could learn more about F&M’s majors, minors, programs and related course offerings directly from faculty across departments, who were present to share information and answer questions

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