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Sophomore Spark Summit Lights a Direction for Second-Year Students

Sanyin Siang presents the keynote event to more than 100 sophomores.
Sanyin Siang presents the keynote event to more than 100 sophomores.

Hearing from successful people who had no clue at age 19 where they’d actually end up proved reassuring to sophomore Emily Ford this weekend. Ford was among the 100 second-year students who attended the kickoff for “Sophomore Spark,” a QuadEx program designed to meet the personal, professional and intellectual needs of sophomores.

The Sophomore Spark Summit, a pilot launch event held Saturday afternoon at the Rubenstein Arts Center, included engaging keynote speakers, conversations with alumni, and interactive sessions on managing stress and connecting with the creative, right-side of the brain.

Sophomore Spark co-chairs, Greg Victory, assistant vice president and Fannie Mitchell executive director of the career center, and Jenny Wood Crowley, assistant vice provost for intellectual community in the Office of Undergraduate Education, said sophomore year tends to be an exceptionally challenging and growth-filled time, when students wrestle with ways that purpose and values intersect with academic and career journeys.

“We want them to see they have the skills, resources and mentors already here,” Victory said. “And to let them know they don’t have to have it all figured out right away.”

Wood Crowley shared a one-on-one conversation with Rishab Jagetia, a sophomore who cares about environmentalism and economic justice. He asked her to help him generate more serious student engagement with those issues outside the classroom.

Sophomores pick up some swag during lunch at the summit. “I explained that programs like Sophomore Spark will be an integral part of the QuadEx experience when it fully launches this fall,” Wood Crowley said. “Building community, highlighting resources, and providing meaningful connections between students and faculty, the way the Spark Summit did, are essential components of the new residential living and learning model.”

Ford said she particularly enjoyed the keynote talk about “unleashing one’s superpowers” and the nonlinear career path of speaker Sanyin Siang, Pratt ’96 MBA ’02, founding executive director of the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics. 

“One of the reasons I came was to hear people’s stories,” Ford told Siang in a breakout improv session they both attended.  “I’d been feeling lost. Since freshman year, I thought I wanted to do premed. Now I’ve started taking more of a variety of classes that are not STEM, I’ve been feeling so much better. Coming today was a really good decision.”

The Sophomore Spark Summit was made possible by the generous support of Stacey (P’22/’24) and Dan (T’79/P’22/P’24) Levitan.