Sophomore Institute: a career exploration.

Calling all sophomores!

By Sasha Nyary

Lillie Benowitz ’17 knew she was interested in pursuing a career in social justice before she attended Mount Holyoke College’s Sophomore Institute in 2015. But she wasn’t sure how to navigate the interview process or leverage her network.

After participating in the conference, Benowitz, who is majoring in politics and minoring in Africana studies, interned as an Urban Scholar in the Minneapolis public school system. Her work focused on racial equity and gender inclusion programming for teachers and administrators.

“The networking skills that I picked up at Sophomore Institute were helpful in navigating the interview process and throughout the internship,” she said. “How to network, how to present yourself confidently—is important in any field. It all comes down to relationships with people, whether you’re closing a big business deal or building a coalition to create change.”

Sophomore Institute is a half-day professional conference offered by Mount Holyoke College to help second-year students kick off the internship search process by honing their career management skills. Now in its third year, the conference is part of the College’s Lynk initiative, a customized program that helps each student connect her academic coursework to her career and life goals.

The event offers individual advising, an inspiring keynote speaker, and information on mock interviews, funding, and networking. Participants build foundational career skills while lining up engaging internships and research opportunities that fit their individual interests and goals, said Jenny Watermill, associate director of internships and student employment at the Career Development Center. About 100 students attend Sophomore Institute every year.

Sophomore Institute 2016 will be held on Saturday, January 23, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Naima McQueen ’11, program manager for on-site programs at RoboFun, will deliver the keynote address to kick off the program, in Gamble Auditorium of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Registration through Handshake is required.

During the conference, students will have the opportunity to participate in these workshops: Identity and Internships, Networking with Authenticity and Confidence, and Internship Advising and Search Tools. The day will close with a networking reception with faculty and staff.

Why Sophomore Institute

“Sophomore Institute is one of several Lynk programs specifically designed to support and engage students in their sophomore year, a time when students typically choose a major and hone in on their life and career focus,” said Watermill. The conference helps students understand how who they are fits with what they want to do with their lives, professionally and personally.

“Students who have participated in Sophomore Institute in past years overwhelmingly report that they feel more comfortable making connections with faculty, staff, and alumnae,” Watermill said. “They say they feel more empowered about the future, have more confidence in their ability to present themselves well, and that the conference helped clarify their goals, opportunities, and potential challenges.”

Ellen Hanlon ’17, who majors in economics, appreciated the timing of the conference.

“Attending Sophomore Institute allowed me to meet with a career counselor to brainstorm summer internship possibilities at the perfect time—before the semester began,” she said. “Starting the semester with a plan already in place made me feel more prepared. It was also helpful to be reminded that I am a part of a network of accomplished alumnae and a community of peers eager to enact change and make a difference in their fields.”  

Alheri Egor-Egbe ’17, an international relations and English double major who is exploring a career in international development, said Sophomore Institute “was the first time I participated in networking with Mount Holyoke students and alums, which was a new, exciting experience.”

“It gave me a head start on how to do an interview and how to network with people who may seem intimidating from a distance,” Egor-Egbe said. “I learned about the vast opportunities that Mount Holyoke has, and how helpful and eager the CDC staff are. I thoroughly enjoyed my day.”

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