Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
List of Tables
Table of Exhibits
History and Context Underlying Current Work on the Sophomore-Year Experience
Lessons from the First-Year and Senior-Year Movements
Primary Objectives in the Second Year
The Role of Purpose in the Second Year
Organization of the Book
The Development of Sophomore Programs
Student Issues in the Sophomore Year
Student Diversity
Keys to Student Success
Sophomore Academic Performance
Issues Facing Sophomores
Redefining the “Sophomore Slump”
Institutional Interventions That Promote Sophomore Success
The 2007 Sophomore Experiences Survey
Recommendations for Sophomore Success and Satisfaction
Theoretical Framework
Major: Making the Choice
Academic Planning
Return to the Campus Community
Related Sophomore Issues
The Second Year of College
Changing Nature of Work and Career
Student Success Factors
Theories of Career Development
Critical Ingredients in Career Choice Interventions
Institutional Models That Promote Academic and Career Success
Intellectual Development
Integration of Experiences That Support Student Learning in the Second Year
Lessons from the First Year
The Sophomore Experience
Engaged Learning
Recommendations for Faculty Development
Models of Student Development in the Sophomore Year
Service-Learning in Four-Year Institutions
The Community College Context
The History and Shape of Study Abroad
The Impact of Study Abroad on Students
The Intersection of Study Abroad and Sophomore Development
Recommendations for Study Abroad During the Sophomore Year
CHAPTER ELEVEN - UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH A Powerful Pedagogy to Engage Sophomores
Undergraduate Research: Definitions
Examples of Research Specifically for Sophomores
How to Reinvent Undergraduate Education
History and Current Status of Residential Learning Initiatives
Institutional Policies
Intentional Efforts to Support Second-Year Students
Defining Spirituality
Spirituality in Higher Education: Reconnecting Minds and Hearts
Second-Year Challenges
Components of Second-Year Programs
Steps for Creating a Second-Year Program
Programmatic Challenges
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - ASSESSMENT Evaluating Second-Year Programs
Defining Assessment
Planning for Sophomores with Assessment in Mind
Qualities of Effective Assessment for Second-Year Students
What Should We Be Assessing in the Second Year?
Understand the Importance of the Second Year
Build a Case
Develop Partners
Engage, Empower, and Recognize Students
Extend Lessons from Other Transitions to the Second Year

List of Tables

Table of Exhibits
Exhibit 3.1. Psychometric Properties of the Instruments


The University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition was established in 1986 with a small grant from the South Carolina State Commission on Higher Education and has grown into a multi-faceted center providing professional development, research, and practitioner-focused publications for an international community of higher educators. The Center’s scholarship and advocacy on behalf of college students in transition has garnered significant world-wide attention and impacted student success initiatives across the globe.
The Center’s stated mission is to support and advance efforts to improve student learning and transitions into and through higher education. The Center achieves this mission by providing opportunities for the exchange of practical and theory-based information and ideas through the convening of conferences, institutes, workshops and other professional development events; publishing monographs, a peer-reviewed journal, an electronic newsletter, guides, and books; generating and supporting research and scholarship; hosting visiting scholars; and administering a robust Web site and numerous electronic listservs.
Although the Center is perhaps best known for its leadership in the first-year experience movement, other significant student transitions are central to the center’s efforts and advocacy. National attention on the sophomore, or second-year, experience has been facilitated by the Center through information sharing at its annual National Conference on Students in Transition, the publication of two monographs on the sophomore year, the administration of two national surveys on sophomore programming, and national dialogue via an electronic listerv. This volume, Helping Sophomores Succeed: Understanding and Improving the Second-Year Experience, will provide an even wider audience of higher educators with resources and ideas to assist them as they strive to improve the second-year experience for students at institutions far and wide.

Like the beginning of a new growing season, starting a new project is always a time for excitement and anticipation. That was certainly the case with this project. What we didn’t anticipate at the beginning was how much we would learn as a result of planting the seed of an idea and then cultivating the development of the project. As we now approach the harvest, it is with grateful appreciation to David Brightman at Jossey-Bass for accepting our proposal to undertake the venture in the first place. We have been skillfully guided and gently pushed by his colleague, Erin Null, through each step of the manuscript development process. She pruned where necessary, fertilized when needed, and helped us see the potential when we felt wilted. Her guidance, flexibility, patience, and professionalism are much appreciated.
We owe special thanks to our colleagues at the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina for their support during this project and for the very fact that the center’s work has provided the landscape upon which much of the new work related to the sophomore year has been nurtured and developed in American higher education. The center’s cultivation of national conversations, new survey research, and ground-breaking scholarship on the second college year enabled us to undertake this book. We are especially grateful to Tracy Skipper, editorial projects coordinator, and to Emily Mullins, graduate assistant, for their careful reviews of the manuscript drafts and their helpful suggestions.
We are indebted to our project team, including Scott Evenbeck, Jerry Pattengale, Molly Schaller, and Laurie Schreiner. Our early conversations with them conceptualizing the book and then identifying and inviting potential chapter contributors helped shape the volume you now hold in your hands. Their chapter contributions to this book are central to the book’s breadth and depth. And to each of the chapter contributors, we are ever so grateful for your important contributions from the field, from Hawaii to the east coast, that have made this book possible.
And finally, we also acknowledge the thousands of higher educators who share our interest in the undergraduate experience and who are planting new and cultivating existing programs for second-year students on college and university campuses everywhere. As a result of your attention and interest, may sophomore students thrive for years to come!
Mary Stuart Hunter
Barbara F. Tobolowsky
John N. Gardner

Edward K. Chan is associate professor of English at Kennesaw State University (Georgia). From 2003 to 2007 he also directed the Year 2 Kennesaw program and worked on sophomore issues at KSU and with colleagues across the country. He was a panelist on the national teleconference “The Forgotten Student: Understanding and Supporting Sophomores” (National Resource Center on The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, March 9, 2006) and the national audio conference “Strategies for Sophomore Year Success” (PaperClip Communications, December 7, 2006). In 2007, he cofacilitated a sophomore workshop at the Fourteenth National Conference on Students in Transition. Edward Chan has also worked as a research fellow for the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College studying out-of-class engagement and with the National Survey of Student Engagement Institute on the Documenting Effective Educational Practices project. He currently codirects KSU’s Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
Mary Crowe is the director, Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. OUR is dedicated to supporting and promoting undergraduate research, creative expression, and other scholarly experiences. She is a coprincipal investigator on two multiyear National Science Foundation funded grants focused on undergraduate research. She is a member of Project Kaleidoscope, a councilor in the Undergraduate Research Program Director division of the Council for Undergraduate Research, and on the Board of Governors of the National Conferences for Undergraduate Research. She earned her Ph.D. in biology from Northern Illinois University, and while a faculty member at Coastal Carolina University directed the research projects of over thirty students, including four who coauthored peer-reviewed articles on the behavioral ecology of crabs.
Scott E. Evenbeck is professor of psychology and dean of University College at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). He joined the faculty of IUPUI in psychology in 1972, after completing his Ph.D. degree in social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Evenbeck has been involved for many years in the design, implementation, and assessment of programs for first-year college students and has given many presentations and written numerous articles and chapters on serving entering students. He serves as a Policy Center Advisor in the Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year and as a board member of the American Conference of Academic Deans. Evenbeck is a resource faculty member at the Summer Quality Academy of the Institute for Higher Education Policy. He served as a member of the Advisory Board for the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition from 2004 to 2008.
Robert W. Franco is professor of Pacific Islands Anthropology and director of the Office for Institutional Effectiveness at Kapiolani Community College, University of Hawaii. As a recognized expert on contemporary Samoan, Polynesian, and Pacific Islander demographic, ecological, health, and cultural issues, he has published scholarly research on contemporary Samoan political and cultural change, among other topics. He currently serves as the college’s liaison to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges/WASC, Association of American Colleges and Universities, American Council on Education, Community College Survey of Student Engagement, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (Community Engagement Classification). At Campus Compact, where he serves as senior faculty fellow for community colleges, he conducts trainings on service-learning, reducing the minority academic achievement gap, strengthening the liberal arts, and workforce development and civic missions of community colleges as “America’s democracy colleges.”
Jimmie Gahagan currently serves as assistant vice provost for student engagement at the University of South Carolina, where he also teaches a University 101 class for first-year student success. He has presented and published widely on such topics as residential learning initiatives, the first-year experience, academic advising, leadership development, the sophomore year, spirituality, and student retention. He has a B.A. in political science from the University of Richmond, an M.A. in student affairs administration, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration (anticipated May 2009) from the University of South Carolina.
Ann M. Gansemer-Topf is the associate director of research for the Office of Admissions at Iowa State University and a lecturer in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. Prior to her position in the Office of Admissions, she was the associate director of Institutional Research at Grinnell College focusing on departmental and campuswide assessment efforts. She has also been an academic advisor and taught and coordinated learning communities in the College of Design at Iowa State University and worked in residence life and campus ministry. She received her Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University, M.S. in higher education from Iowa State University, and her B.A. in psychology from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. She was the recipient of a Research Excellence award from Iowa State University and recognized as Outstanding Academic Advisor from the College of Design at Iowa State University.
John N. Gardner is the senior fellow of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. He is also executive director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, funded by grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Atlantic Philanthropies, Lumina Foundation for Education, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and USA Funds. Gardner had authored or coauthored numerous articles and books, including multiple annual editions of Your College Experience (1992-2009, with A. Jerome Jewler and Betsy O. Barefoot); Step by Step to College and Career Success (2005, 2007, and 2009, with A. Jerome Jewler and Betsy O. Barefoot); The Freshmen Year Experience (1989, with M. Lee Upcraft); The Senior Year Experience (1998, with Gretchen Van der Veer); Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student (2005 with M. Lee Upcraft, Betsy O. Barefoot, and Associates); and Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College (2005 with Betsy O. Barefoot and Associates).
Virginia N. Gordon is dean emeritus and adjunct associate professor at the Ohio State University. She has extensive experience in teaching, administration, advising, and counseling in higher education settings. Her bibliography includes books, monographs, book chapters, and journal articles on many topics associated with higher education. Her latest publications are Selecting a College Major: Exploration and Decision Making (2009) and Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2009). She has received national acclaim and numerous awards, the most fitting of which is NACADA’s (National Academic Advising Association) naming of its award for outstanding contributions to the field of academic advising the Virginia N. Gordon Award.
Paul A. Gore, Jr. is an associate professor and student success special projects coordinator at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In addition to his academic and student support roles, Paul serves as the director of institutional analysis. He holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Loyola University-Chicago, and master’s degrees in counseling and applied bio-psychology. Prior to arriving in Utah, Paul served as the director of the Career Transitions Research Department at ACT, Inc. in Iowa City, where he helped develop instruments, programs, and services in support of students’ academic and career transitions. He has authored over forty peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He is the past-chair of the Society for Vocational Psychology and serves on the editorial boards of several journals that focus on higher education, student development, and vocational psychology.
Sharon J. Hamilton, Chancellor’s Professor Emerita of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has been involved with enhancing student learning for over four decades. Formerly associate vice chancellor and associate dean of the faculties at IUPUI, and a founding member of the faculty of University College, Hamilton has written extensively about collaborative learning, general education, electronic portfolios, and the importance of literacy. Her memoir, My Name’s Not Susie: A Life Transformed by Literacy, and her play, My Brother Was My Mother’s Only Child, underscore the capacity of literacy to cope with complex life challenges such as those faced by sophomore students. Hamilton began teaching in a one-room, eight-grade schoolhouse on the Canadian prairies and was thereby introduced very early in her career to the vastly differing needs of students of varied backgrounds and intellectual experiences.
Mary Stuart Hunter is assistant vice provost at the University of South Carolina (USC). Stuart’s work centers on providing educators with resources to develop personal and professional skills while creating and refining innovative programs to increase undergraduate student learning and success. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, symposia, and training events. Her recent publications include Academic Advising: New Insights for Teaching and Learning in the First Year (2007), “The First-Year Experience: An Analysis of Issues and Resources” in AAC&U’s Peer Review (2006), and “The Second-Year Experience: Turning Attention to the Academy’s Middle Children” in About Campus (2006). She serves on national advisory boards of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the United States Department of Education’s Network Addressing Collegiate Alcohol and Other Drug Issues, and the editorial board for the Journal of Learning Communities Research. She was honored in 2001 as the Outstanding Alumnae by USC’s Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs and in 2006 as the Outstanding Campus Partner by USC’s University Housing division.
Steven G. Jones is the associate provost for civic engagement and academic mission at the University of Scranton. Prior to moving to Scranton, he was the coordinator of the Office of Service Learning in the Center for Service and Learning at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Prior to that he was the associate director of the Integrating Service with Academic Studies project at Campus Compact from 2002 to 2004. Jones received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Utah in 1995 and was an associate professor of political science at the University of Charleston from 1995 to 2002, where he also served as the director of the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Government Studies. He edited the second edition of Campus Compact’s Introduction to Service Learning Toolkit and is a coauthor of two other Campus Compact monographs, The Community’s College: Indicators of Engagement at Two-Year Institutions and The Promise of Partnerships: Tapping into the Campus as a Community Asset. He is also coeditor, with Jim Perry, of Quick Hits for Educating Citizens, which was published by Indiana University Press (2006).
Kirsten Kennedy is director of University Housing at the University of South Carolina. Previously she held positions in residential life at University of Missouri-Columbia and Bloomsburg University, as well as the position of adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at University of Missouri-Columbia. Kennedy received her B.S.B.A. degree in management (1987) and her M.B.A. degree (1988) from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (2005) at University of Missouri-Columbia. Kennedy has published on topics including faculty participation in residential learning communities, today’s college students, and assessing cost effectiveness in student affairs. Other research interests include parental influence on college student development, the history of higher education, and financial management of higher education and student affairs.
Stephanie L. Leslie is the director of study abroad at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). She is responsible for creating international opportunities with faculty members from all disciplines and coordinating the overseas experiences for IUPUI students. Leslie is the facilitator of the campus study abroad committee, which works to infuse study abroad throughout the campus. She is a founding member of the Indiana Re-Entry Conference that brings together returned study-abroad students from across the state to reflect deeply on their study abroad experiences and help them imagine how they can keep what they learned abroad active in their lives. She serves as the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region VI Education Abroad representative. Her educational background includes a master of science degree in higher education administration-college student personnel, and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and anthropology from Purdue University.
Jennifer A. Lindholm is special assistant to the vice provost for undergraduate education and associate director of the Center for Educational Assessment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is also director of the Spirituality in Higher Education Project. Formerly she served as visiting professor of higher education and organizational change at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and as associate director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). While at HERI, Jennifer also directed the institute’s Triennial National Faculty Survey. In addition to the spiritual development of undergraduate students, Jennifer’s research focuses primarily on the structural and cultural dimensions of academic work; the career development, work experiences, and professional behavior of college and university faculty; and issues related to institutional change within colleges and universities.
Jerry A. Pattengale is a leading voice for purpose-guided education™ and his recent books include Why I Teach and The Purpose-Guided Student (McGraw-Hill, 2008 and 2009). Pattengale also co-edited Visible Solutions for Invisible Students: Helping Sophomores Succeed published by the National Resource Center for The First Year Experience and Students in Transition, and served on its advisory board. His Virtual Advising Link (VAL) system was a NACADA award recipient (1999). Jerry received two Professor of the Year awards while teaching at Azuza Pacific University (CA) and an NEH award to study in Greece. He currently serves on the Governor’s Council on Faith Based Initiatives (IN), the boards for the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (Michigan State University), and Veriana Networks, Inc. (a new media group). Pattengale is the assistant provost for scholarship and public engagement at Indiana Wesleyan University (approximately 15,500 students), one of the Founding Institutions of the Foundations of Excellence program.
Molly A. Schaller is an associate professor and coordinator of the College Student Personnel Program and a Fellow in the Ryan C. Harris Learning Teaching Center at the University of Dayton. Prior to her faculty position she worked for ten years in student affairs administration. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Ohio State University, master’s degree from Miami University in college student personnel, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Ohio University. Her research focus is on college student development, with special emphasis on sophomore students. She has consulted with numerous institutions as they have worked to develop their sophomore programs. Schaller also researches the relationship between physical space, pedagogy, and learning on college campuses.
Laurie A. Schreiner is professor and chair of Doctoral Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University (CA). After receiving her Ph.D. in community psychology from the University of Tennessee, she has taught for the past 26 years in liberal arts colleges and universities. She is co-author of StrengthsQuest: Discover and Develop Your Strengths in Academics, Career, and Beyond, in addition to the Student Satisfaction Inventory, an instrument used by over 1,600 colleges and universities nationally, and Visible Solutions for Invisible Students: Helping Sophomores Succeed. A recipient of two federal grants for first-year programming and campuswide strengths-based approaches to retention, she is also a senior research associate with the Gallup Organization; is on the advisory board of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Students and Students in Transition; and directs a national project on assessment and retention for a consortium of 100 faith-based liberal arts colleges.
Susan Buck Sutton is associate vice president of International Affairs for Indiana University with specific responsibilities for IU’s urban campus, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). At IUPUI, she leads campus efforts in all aspects of internationalization, from international student admissions and services to curriculum internationalization. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Association of International Education Administrators and is the chair of the International Education Leadership Knowledge Community of NAFSA. Sutton is also Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and the past president of the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association. She also teaches a service-learning course on the anthropology of modern Greece on the island of Paros every summer. Sutton received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and has published four books and nearly 50 articles on both internationalization and anthropology
Julie Tetley is the director of First-Year and Sophomore Studies and Advising at the Colorado College. In her role, she has developed a program specifically for second-year students entitled the Sophomore Jump. She has several years of experience in teaching and advising and has given numerous presentations at the local, state, and national level. In addition, she served as the Commission Chair for NACADA’s Small Colleges and Universities Commission from 2006 to 2008. She is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in the School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University and her dissertation focuses on promoting self-authorship through a learning partnership academic advising program.
Barbara F. Tobolowsky is associate director of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina. In this position, she supervises the center’s research, conferences, and publication efforts. Tobolowsky also is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policies, and teaches graduate seminars in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program (HESA). She earned her doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, in higher education and organizational change.
M. Lee Upcraft is a senior research scientist at the Center for the Study of Higher Education, assistant vice president emeritus for student affairs, and professor emeritus of higher education at Penn State University and a senior scholar diplomate of the American College Personnel Association. He is the author or editor of 125 books, monographs, book chapters, and refereed journal articles on topics such as assessment in student affairs, the first-year experience, student persistence, academic advising, alcohol and other drug abuse, professional ethics, residence halls, student development theory, and higher education administration.
Kathryn J. Wilson is assistant vice chancellor for research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). She founded the IUPUI Center for Research and Learning and served five years as its executive director. She is the principal investigator (PI) and director for the IUPUI Ronald E. McNair Program and the PI for a multi-institutional National Science Foundation research project to develop an electronic research portfolio to document intellectual gains experienced by students during participation in faculty-mentored research experiences. She serves on the Board of Governors of the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and is a divisional councilor of the Council on Undergraduate Reserach (CUR). She is an associate professor of biology with a Ph.D. in plant science from Indiana University, Bloomington. Prior to campuswide positions she served 12 years as associate dean for research and graduate studies in the IUPUI School of Science, where she founded the school’s undergraduate research program and had primary responsibility for promotion and support of faculty research and graduate programs.

John N. Gardner, Jerry A. Pattengale,
Barbara F. Tobolowsky, and Mary Stuart Hunter,
As higher educators, even though we may have differing educational philosophies and find ourselves in different types of institutions in terms of mission and student characteristics, our collective overreaching goal is student success. Although we may quibble over definitions of student success (such as GPA, timely graduation, and so forth), our hopes are for students to attend the best institution for them to accomplish their personal goals, whether that is earning a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or acquiring needed job skills to help them in their future lives or both. To that end, we offer initiatives, programs, and supports along the way to help students achieve their goals. For the past three decades, efforts in the first year have received renewed attention, because one of the first leaks in the higher education pipeline comes when students begin their first year of study. Those first-year efforts (for example, first-year seminars) have often led to many students making better grades, persisting to graduation, being more satisfied with their collegiate experiences, and a host of other positive outcomes (Tobolowsky, Mamrick, & Cox, 2005).
Although there is now extensive scholarship on the first-year and senior-year transitions, fewer scholars and practitioners have turned their attention to year two even though there is strong evidence that there is another serious pipeline leak during this crucial time (Tobolowsky & Cox, 2007a). Students in the second year too often feel invisible on their campuses (as highlighted in the titles of two publications from the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition dedicated to looking at the sophomore experience: Visible Solutions for Invisible Students: Helping Sophomores Succeed (Schreiner & Pattengale, 2000) and Shedding Light on Sophomores: Explorations into the Second College Year (Tobolowsky & Cox, 2007a). Too often these students no longer qualify for the supports offered to first-year students and they have not yet found comfort in a disciplinary home. Feeling lost, at the very least, can lead to frustration, and at its worst, to dropping out. Research suggests that students do experience these negative reactions, with the second-highest attrition occurring in the sophomore year (Almanac Issue, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2007-2008). This book hopes to shine a light on this too often neglected population to provide strategies for educators to help reverse this trend.
As authors, we can immediately anticipate a variety of possible reactions to this new work including
1. Why a book on another college “transition”? Is there sufficient substance to this transition to require this sort of attention?
2. How interesting. I am curious to see why this is a significant transition for students.
3. At last, someone has focused on the second year, because it confirms my long-held belief that something unique happens to students in the second year ... and it isn’t good.
Our hope is that by the end of the book, any doubters will agree that the second-year experience is unique and challenging for many students, and those with curiosity or an innate belief about the sophomore experience will have evidence to support those attitudes.
As we shall present, this work follows a long body of research, innovation, and applied practice to identify and improve student success in other critical college student “transitions.” Those works provided insight and inspiration as we tackled this less understood transition. In addition to those models, the following questions guided the development of this book.
1. What is the second year of college?
2. Does the second year differ substantially from the first year of college? If so, how?
3. What are some of the lessons learned from successful first-year and senior programs that could be applied to second-year improvement efforts?
4. Is the second year of undergraduate study a distinct period of personal and academic growth and learning for a significant number of students?
5. Is there empirical support for the archetypal notion of the “sophomore slump”? Is retention an issue in the second year?
6. What kind of a literature base is there to justify this work?
7. What are the central challenges to student learning and success in the second year?
8. What are the components for an academic rationale for such interventions?
9. If a campus wanted to intentionally improve its efforts to promote success in the second year, what might be academic and programmatic options for consideration? What can be learned from campuses already engaged in efforts aimed at the second year?
10. How might this experience and period in college be different for students in two-year institutions compared to four-year institutions? How might each sector respond accordingly?
We hope these are questions our readers will also consider and, after reflection, lead them to appropriate action.

History and Context Underlying Current Work on the Sophomore-Year Experience

The efforts to improve the first year are well documented in the literature. But the particular efforts to focus on the first year, it is generally agreed, began with the efforts of the University of South Carolina with its first-year seminar course, University 101, in the mid-1970s. This course provided the foundation for a series of conferences on (what is now known as) the first-year experience, where higher educators gather annually to share their experiences, insights, and research on new student support efforts. Accompanying these conference activities has been the creation and growth of a literature base, which now permeates many academic journals, launched by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina. The center’s expanded mission to advocate for a broader focus on “students in transition” led to a call for attention to efforts to improve the senior year, transfer transitions, and the second or sophomore year. In 2000, the center’s publication of Visible Solutions for Invisible Students, edited by Laurie Schreiner and Jerry Pattengale, marked the first book-length treatment of the second college year in America.
Both the senior-year and the sophomore-year conversations and campus efforts are outgrowths of the earlier focus on the first year. On many campuses the same faculty and academic and student affairs administrators that initiated attention to the first year are also driving this second-year focus. In fact, there is direct carry-over and convergence of these lines of work. Thus, although distinct, nevertheless, the efforts are interconnected. All evidence suggests that the more educators learned from the first-year student focus, the more they were inspired to reach out to address the needs of other students in transition.
Many educators (and organizations) have contributed to efforts to improve student success throughout the undergraduate experience. Especially influential have been campus-based practitioners who have adopted, replicated, altered, refined, and institutionalized these lines of work on hundreds of campuses. This volume is a direct result all of these efforts.

Lessons from the First-Year and Senior-Year Movements

An obvious place to begin this exploration is with a brief look at other student transitions. Although the first-year transition is much more established in both the practice and literature of higher education than the senior year, enough is known about both for meaningful comparisons to other transition improvement efforts. A recapitulation of that literature belongs in other books. Suffice it to say here that, though distinct, the first-, senior-, and now sophomore-year efforts are interconnected. These connections become apparent when comparing these three primary transition efforts.

Retention as the Primary Driver

Although we wish we could report that the overwhelming reasoning behind why colleges and universities ought to pay more attention to second-year students was the prized educational outcomes that might thereby be enhanced, alas, both the first-year and the sophomore-year foci seem to be driven by “retention,” and hence a revenue and business model. There are some elite institutions where this may not be the case, but these would be the exceptions. Most certainly, proponents of more attention for this transition do offer educational and humanistic arguments. However, in terms of winning necessary support from resource allocators, the case still is being driven by the search for the fiscal Holy Grail: increased revenue by means of enhanced retention and graduation rates.
On the surface, retention does not play the same role in our focus on senior students. There the arguments appear primarily to be educational and humanistic in nature, such as providing intellectual capstone experiences; lending more integration and coherency to the curriculum; and providing more support for students as they (and their families) deal with the transition stresses of leaving college. Yet even in this transition there are elements of a financial and business model. As Gardner argued in The Senior Year Experience (Gardner, Van der Veer, & Associates, 1998), those who advocate for alumni development and cultivation before students actually leave college are part of the driving force behind a focus on seniors. In other words, it is hoped that attention on seniors will ultimately increase long-term financial-giving prospects.

Transition Efforts Reveal Varying Degrees of Intellectual Focus

Although all three transition efforts have an intellectual focus, it is more prominent in the sophomore and the senior years. One of the criticisms frequently made about the support strategies for first-year students is that they lack sufficient academic content and rigor and, in fact, are often (or even primarily) not delivered by educators with faculty status. It is our observation and experience that the efforts in the sophomore and senior years appear to have more focus on what’s happening to students in the major in terms of academic decision making than first-year initiatives.

Non-Faculty Members Have an Original and Disproportionate Influence

Faculty involvement is intimately connected to the intellectual focus of these three transition efforts; however, many of these programs were driven initially by non-faculty. It would be argued by many that this has been a mixed blessing and that the espousal by student affairs professionals for more attention to these transitions may have inhibited or discouraged faculty from becoming engaged sooner. Nevertheless, the contributions of legions of student affairs professionals and academic advisors to the needs of these students in transition should be acknowledged. It is our contention that the majority of initiatives within all three lines of work are faculty-owned and driven, regardless of how they may have started out, particularly with respect to the first-year work dating to the 1970s.

Varying Degrees of Stress Characterize These Transitions

The first-year and senior-year transitions are periods of higher stress for students and their families than the sophomore-year period. The beginning and ending transitions are periods of greater uncertainty and perceived higher stakes than the second year. However, this perception does not square with the realities for many students who make critical decisions (such as choosing a major or deciding not to remain in this college or any other college) during this collegiate period.

Family Involvement Varies During the Three Transition Periods

Families are much more likely to be engaged in decisions surrounding the first-year and senior-year transitions because the issues revolve around these questions: Where is my child/spouse going to college? What does she/he need to get off to a good start? What is my child/spouse going to do after college? Because the challenges of adjustment and the consequences of decision making do not appear either so apparent or significant in the sophomore year, it seems there might be a lower level of family engagement. Nevertheless, in the era of “helicopter parents” and families communicating via text, e-mail, and cell phones on a constant basis, families do remain significantly engaged during the second year and could be considered as potential partners for campus-based efforts to improve student performance.

There Is Less Attention Paid to the Second Year

To date, more attention is paid to issues associated with the beginning and end of college than the sophomore year. Of course, one of the purposes of this book is to redress this difference and to argue for attention to all three in a more balanced, seamless continuum.

Defining the Sophomore Year Is More Challenging than Defining Other Transitions

Perhaps one reason there has been less attention paid to the second college year is that it is more difficult to define. It is much easier to define the beginning and the ending periods of college, because they are more distinct, pronounced, and therefore amenable to redress. There is a greater ambiguity about when the second year begins both developmentally and academically. Is it a matter of time in college, number of credits earned, level of commitment and investment by the student, or degree of certainty about major and purpose?
The book editors considered these definitions and decided to take a broad view and focus on the second year a student is in college, recognizing that the examples shared within this book may, in fact, be based on a somewhat different, institution-specific group. The belief is that the differences are nuanced. The book editors felt that whether a student has crossed the credit threshold to be a sophomore or not, when they begin their second college year they are likely to face similar issues.

Greater Attention Is Paid to Decision Making for the Major

One of the critical decisions in the second year is regarding the selection of academic major. Often in the first year students are allowed to defer this issue and address more pressing developmental needs (such as the transition to college itself). But this particular decision must be paramount in the second year; therefore, the amount of attention paid to academic advising and career planning is greater than during the first year and even the senior year.

The Role of General Education Is Less Significant Beyond the First Year

Students are spending less curricular and classroom time in general education courses in the second-year and senior-year transitions than in the first year. This has enormous implications for teaching and advising students in the second year, class size, student motivation, and student perception of the relevance of academic requirements and work. This factor also increases the centrality of the student’s academic home unit in a successful second year.

The Possibilities for Pedagogies of Engagement Increase Beyond the First Year

It is possible, depending on institutional size and type, that class size may be smaller in the second year. Students may be more likely to be taught by full-time faculty, who may be more likely to use pedagogies of engagement. It should be an aspirational objective to maximize this potential for interactive classroom settings and hands-on learning opportunities so as to increase student engagement and satisfaction.

Primary Objectives in the Second Year

The primary goal of this book is to expose the unique challenges of the second year that make it such a vulnerable period for students on their higher education journey. Those challenges have a direct connection to the overriding tasks of the sophomore year: (a) selecting an appropriate, achievable major and (b) developing purpose. It is often at the end of the second year that students on four-year campuses must declare their majors and that students on two-year campuses will need to make decisions about where and how to continue their higher education. Selections of majors are bound up with students’ agonizing about deciding on a career, and these decisions lead students to an investigation of purpose.
A qualitative study of sophomores and juniors at a private institution in the Midwest explored perceptions of the sophomore year and found that some issues of major and life purpose were heightened in the second year (Gansemer-Topf, Stern, & Benjamin, 2007). For example one second-year student in the study stated, “It definitely felt like, you’re 20, you’re a sophomore, you have to declare your major. I definitely felt like I had to figure out the next 10 years” (p. 36). Another student commented, “There’s quite a good deal of discussion among people generally . . . about what exactly they want to do with their lives. I think it’s probably something to do with the whole having to declare your major” (Gansemer-Topf et al., p. 36). Therefore, many of these students felt great pressure to address questions such as, What do I want to do when I grow up? What is my life going to be about?

The Role of Purpose in the Second Year

Undeniably, the dialogue on finding one’s life purpose is challenging for people at all ages and circumstances. Parker Palmer (1998) brought the discussion of purpose to the attention of many academic circles by looking at educators. His message on purpose or personal alignment states in brief that
Many of us were called to teach by encountering not only a mentor, but also a particular field of study. We are drawn to a body of knowledge because it shed light on our identity as well as on the world. We did not merely find a subject to teach—the subject also found us. (Palmer, p. 25)
Palmer’s notion of finding one’s identity and place in the world is at the very heart of true student success (Pattengale, 2006). Concomitantly, researchers are also finding that for the traditional student the main intersection with this sense of purpose occurs during the second year (Reynolds, Gross, & Millard, 2005).