At Kent State, residential learning communities such as Quest and the Centennial Leadership Academy help freshmen students stay connected on a large college campus and develop faculty contacts.
But what happens when sophomore year comes around and those programs are no longer offered in the capacity they once were?
This is the problem Residence Services and other departments on campus are currently interested in learning about. Residence Services is in charge of coordinating the different learning and themed communities on campus.
“More and more literature is saying that sophomores are the new freshmen, that they are having a hard time finding success after the freshman year,” said Joel Bynum, senior learning communities’ coordinator for Residence Services. “They are dropping out at this point because all of these services that were offered during their freshmen year stopped.”
The interest in sophomores is a widespread phenomenon happening not only at Kent State, but other universities as well.
Throughout the past 15 to 20 years, there has been a lot of emphasis on retaining first-year students and offering support designed to help the transition from high school to college, said Amy Quillin, associate director for Residence Services. Some, including Kent State, are beginning to look at issues facing sophomores.
“What they found was that students who leave that support when they go into their sophomore year, and in the words of some sophomores, ‘feel like I have been dropped,'” Quillin said.
While sophomores may not need the kind of support first-year students do, they still have transitional issues, which Quillin said she calls “academic twilight.”
“It’s expected that first-year students won’t know what they are going to major in, but as a sophomore, there is a push to know what you are going to do,” Quillin said.
Residence Services is working to lessen this “academic twilight” and make the transition easier by making the programs more of a developmental process.
In Quest and the Centennial Leadership Academy, mentoring programs are some of the main ways sophomores are able to stay connected to the community after their first year.
“What we have done to bridge that gap is add mentoring programs,” Bynum said. “Basically, students that have participated in those communities as freshman have been asked to come back and participate in the programs happening in the community and take on a leadership role.”
For Quillin, creating programs to help sophomores is a process that will take time because it must be done right. Residence Services is only in the initial steps of looking into sophomore programming and has no projected time frame for fully establishing a sophomore residential learning community.
“At this point, we are looking at the current learning communities in general and seeing how we can develop them further for not only sophomores, but for anyone interested in the communities,” Quillin said.
“We are planning out strategically how we can grow them well,” she said. “We want to make sure we plan for this and don’t just wing it. We want to make sure a lot of people are involved and that we have the right support available.”
For more information on the residential learning communities and other themed communities offered to students on campus go to the Residence Services Web site at http://www.res.kent.edu/newres.
Contact room and board reporter Sarah McGrath at [email protected]