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Second-year program initiative strengthens sophomore experience

By Katherine Kohls
On April 6, 2009

Sophomore year is a struggle-students are no longer grouped in the first-year experience, do not yet belong to a group defined by major and senior year looks a long way off.

Mike O'Neal, director of second-year programs, said he hopes to give sophomore students direction by increasing their connection to Miami University. One venue of marketing toward sophomores is through the second-year program Web site launched mid-March, O'Neal said. O'Neal added he has already been contacted by other universities who have visited the Web site and want more information.

According to O'Neal, this year's first-years will be the first class affected by the sophomore on-campus living requirement. He said the new second-year programs are geared toward helping sophomores succeed academically and personally with the intention of increasing the sophomore retention rate.

"We lose 10 percent of the class after the first year and another 8 percent after sophomore year," O'Neal said.

According to Rob Abowitz, associate director of residence life, Miami's first-year retention rate is outstanding in comparison to the national retention rate. However, Abowitz said sophomore year is when Miami loses more students than expected.

"There is a lot of literature that suggests to help sophomores, you need to help them reflect on their experiences," Abowitz said. "I think the new programs will assist in personal development and cultural proficiency through reflection."

Abowitz said some opportunities for reflection will be through conversations with staff in residence halls.

"Staff needs to help students with the developmental process," Abowitz said.

O'Neal, who has a background in college residence life, began developing the second -year programs in August 2008.

"I'm not starting from scratch, it's more of a repackaging of things that are already available," O'Neal said.

According to O'Neal, he plans to market career workshops directly to sophomores to increase their participation.

"We want students to reflect about why they are in their major," O'Neal said.

O'Neal said research shows students are not asked why they are interested in their chosen field of study. He said he does not want Miami students to realize during a job interview they are not interested in their chosen field.

"My first goal is to get student participation," O'Neal said.

O'Neal said marketing the second-year programs in an effective way will increase participation. He said participation will help students feel more connected with the university.

O'Neal said he hopes to improve the overall college experience for all students yet especially tend to the needs of sophomores.

"Part of my job is to build tradition," O'Neal said.

According to O'Neal, college was seen as a weed-out process when his father, a Miami Merger, attended Miami. He said now with government funding and expectations, college is a part of the developmental process.

Abowitz said a result of the second-year programs will be that Miami graduates are more prepared for the world.

According to O'Neal the second-year programs are slated to begin fall 2009.

O'Neal said he expects many changes to be made as the program gets student feedback.

The second-year Web site can be found at

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