At Sophomore Success Dinner, Alumni Provide Valuable Advice

A group of students and young alumni serve themselves at a dinner buffet table.
Georgetown College young alumni and students gathered for the last 2018 installment of the  Sophomore Success Dinner series earlier this month. (Photo by Darcy Palder/Georgetown College)

November 12, 2018 — The Georgetown College Office of the Dean hosted the final Sophomore Success Dinner of the year on November 1. The dinner brought four College alumni to campus to speak with about 30 current College sophomores about the lessons they learned during sophomore year.

The dinner was the final 2018 installment in the College’s Sophomore Success Dinner Series, which began last fall.

Senior Associate Dean Thom Chiarolanzio explained to students that the dinners came to be after he realized the significance that sophomore year holds in a student’s educational career.

“Students wanted a sense of assurance in their sophomore year,” said Chiarolanzio. “I learned that it would be really helpful if we could assemble recent Georgetown College alumni to come back to campus and talk about how they navigated their sophomore year.”

Mentors and Learning

While audience members ate, the panel answered a series of questions about their College experience.

Jose Altamirano (C’17), who currently works at the Baker Center for Leadership and Governance at the McCourt School of Public Policy, advised students on studying abroad.

“It’s not guaranteed to be a great time — it really is what you make of it,” Altamirano told the group of sophomore students. “What really helped me have a fantastic time was my homestay. I really recommend living in a homestay if you can because it really provides that balance of traveling all the time and getting some sort of cultural immersion in the place that you are.”

Panelists also discussed the people that particularly impacted them during their sophomore year. For Harrison Williams (C’16) an international trade consultant at Wells Fargo, his faculty mentor both guided him in the classroom and helped him learn more about himself.

“If any of you are thinking about foreign languages — Professor [Alissa] Webel was actually one of the people who taught me what type of learner I was, which is an auditory learner,” Williams said. “She actually took office hours to help me understand how I learn and how I develop.”

Diversity of Classes

The panelists discussed how the College’s broad range of class offerings influenced the directions of their academic and professional careers.

“The diversity of academic classes is something you can only get from the College,” said Altamirano. “I took Spanish, German, economics — things beyond the gen-eds. I appreciate that I could branch out and experience different fields.”

Chiarolanzio hoped that students would walk away from this discussion topic with both a greater appreciation for the liberal arts education and more confidence in their paths.

“I want students to have faith and trust in the Georgetown College liberal arts degree,” Chiarolanzio said. “I want students to see young Georgetown College alumni who majored in a discipline that they were passionate about but that their current career is not tied to their specific major. What matters are both the hard and soft skills students are learning in their majors.”

Leslie Telleria (C’21) was comforted to hear that it’s not necessary to spend sophomore year making career moves.

“It gave me some reassurance that I don’t need to do all these things to come off as impressive and that I can focus on what I’m passionate about,” she said.

Taking Time to REFLECT

The group also took time to focus on reflection and contemplation — a priority for Chiorolanzio, who wants students to take time to slow down in a high-pressure environment.

“I hope they take away that they are not alone when making challenging decisions,” Chiarolanzio said. They can seek help, seek mentors, and take time to really reflect when making decisions.”

Altamirano noted that certain resources and programs can serve as an aide to reflection for students who are unlikely to do so on their own.

“Sophomore year was a lot of hustle — Georgetown is a really charged place, and no one can keep up for the entire time.” Altamirano said. “What I found really powerful was doing an Alternative Spring Break Program through the Center for Social Justice. [The] program incorporated daily reflections, and it was a very powerful and intense experience that had nothing to do with a class or an internship.”

Williams emphasized the importance of identifying what you want out of your experience.

“I think a lot of times we just push through, instead of taking a step back and thinking, ‘What is the best thing that I want from my Georgetown experience?’” said Williams. “That was one of the biggest things I wanted to emphasize — enjoy your experience being here on the Hilltop, because it is such a unique one.”

For students in attendance, the reassurance went a long way.

“I just feel significantly less stressed,” Maya Andresino (C’21) said. “I think what we learned was that everyone had a significantly different experience, but they all turned out OK.

— Darcy Palder