Assumption College

SOPHIA Initiative - The SOPHIA (SOPHomore Initiative at Assumption College) program is specially designed to help students discover a deeper connection between their spiritual, personal, and professional lives.

Format

  • Audience: Sophomores
  • When: Academic Year – yearlong commitment
  • Frequency: In the fall, students attend a 3-day retreat, and all participants are required to take a common course.  In the spring, students have an option to enroll in additional SOPHIA courses and co-curricular activities.  Participants also live together in the Living and Learning Center and have faculty-led monthly discussions for 1.5 to 2 hours per group of 6 students throughout the year.
  • Approximate Number of Participants: 24 participants
  • Focus of Program: In the fall course, students are introduced to various ways of understanding vocation and reflect on how these notions relate to each of them by asking “the big questions” about their lives, their values, commitments, purpose, and responsibilities to the world.  Once a month, a carefully selected faculty mentor meets with six SOPHIA collegians to reflect on their own vocational calling. 
  • Additional Information: During the capstone trip to Rome, students take part in a study tour of the city led by Dr. Francesco Cesareo, President of Assumption College and renowned historian.  In the summer after the program is over, students may apply for a high impact grant to continue developing their vocational calling in one of three areas: Faith and Ministry, Community Engagement, and Life of the Mind.

Funding and Operations

The approximate program cost is $62,000 a year. 

  • External Support: The SOPHIA Initiative Program was made possible thanks to a substantial NetVUE Program Development Grant administered by the Council of Independent Colleges and generously supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc.  We received this grant in January 2013 (application process started in 2012).  The $50,000 NetVUE Development Grant we originally received was used for one-time initial program development that included a Faculty/Staff Seminar Workshop and funding for course development.

Description

The name of our program is SOPHIA, which both serves as an acronym for Sophomore Initiative at Assumption, and references the Greek word for wisdom.  Proverbs 8 serves as our motto: “Does not Wisdom call?”

History

The SOPHIA Initiative was developed in academic years 2010-11 and 2011-12.  In January 2013 we were notified that we had received a first round NetVUE Development Grant and this enabled us to launch the first cohort of SOPHIA collegians in September 2013.  Currently, we are in the second year of operation. The name of our program is SOPHIA, which both serves as an acronym for Sophomore Initiative at Assumption, and references the Greek word for wisdom.  Proverbs 8 serves as our motto: “Does not Wisdom call?”

Three members of our college community: Catherine WoodBrooks, Vice-President for Student Affairs; Neil Castronovo, Dean of Student Development; and Louise Carroll Keeley, then Associate Provost, attended our first national NetVUE meeting in March 2011 and were inspired to create our own program for vocational discernment and reflection, particularly targeting sophomores.  We decided to create this program for sophomores because we hoped to reach students before undertaking study in a major or otherwise committing themselves to a professional course of action. At Assumption, we already had numerous programs for first year students in place; moreover, we realized that they were not yet ready to consider the kinds of “big questions” we wanted students to ponder. Sophomores, on the other hand, were neglected, and we saw in this program our opportunity to begin reaching out to them.

Recommended Resources

SOPHIA Initiative website: http://www.assumption.edu/academics/programs/sophia-initiative

The NetVUE National Conference, held every other year, has proved to be an immense resource.  We would strongly advise other colleges and universities to join this group.  The networking opportunities there are incredibly helpful. 

Their website also provides a list of resources that are very useful.  We applied for and received a small grant supporting a visit from a NetVUE consultant as we planned our program.  This was very beneficial to us.  

Administration/Operations

The approximate program cost is $62,000 a year. The SOPHIA Initiative Program was made possible thanks to a substantial NetVUE Program Development Grant administered by the Council of Independent Colleges and generously supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc.  We received this grant in January 2013 (application process started in 2012).  The $50,000 NetVUE Development Grant we originally received was used for one-time initial program development that included a Faculty/Staff Seminar Workshop and funding for course development.

Assessment

We have yet to begin implementing program assessment.  We plan to start tracking our program outcomes in the near future.  Each fall semester the twenty-four SOPHIA collegians enroll in a common course.  We assess this course through student evaluations.  Our activities coordinator and director collect student written evaluations at the end of the SOPHIA fall retreat and upon returning from the SOPHIA capstone trip to Rome.  We are in the process of starting a database of student evaluations, and when they are 5 years out of Assumption create an assessment survey.