The Center for Student Activities at Mississippi State University is hosting the first ever Sophomore Strong program in recognition of the unexpected challenges and canceled events for second-year students due to COVID-19.

The Sophomore Strong program began with an organization fair and an ice cream social called "Sophomore Scoop" on Aug. 24. This event was designed to provide an opportunity for sophomore students to learn about MSU organizations and events they may not have been exposed to during their first year.

Carrie Anne Bounds, the coordinator for student activities at MSU, designed and proposed Sophomore Strong as an event to educate and include sophomores regarding events on campus, as well as to compensate for some of the missed opportunities during their first year.

"Collectively, as a university, I feel like there's been this need to do something, but how do you make up for an entire year that's been lost to a pandemic?" Bounds said. "Our department and division have done a really good job of recognizing the experiences our second-year students missed out on last year."

Some of the most notable elements and events that were missed by freshman during the 2020-2021 school year, according to Bounds, were New Maroon Camp, interactions with professors and on-campus organizations and general opportunities for students to interact. Therefore, Bounds came up with a series of events to accommodate some of these needs.

"We knew we wanted it to be multiple events, such as one that would help sophomores get plugged in and involved, which was Sophomore Scoop," Bounds said. 

Bounds is also organizing a picnic for faculty and staff interactions with students, aimed at teaching students where to seek help and guidance in their classes and future academic and professional goals. The final event will be a late-night breakfast and trivia event to offer some fun facts and background information about MSU, as well as provide another opportunity for sophomores to meet and socialize.

"We hope that the interactions students have with faculty members and each other at the Sophomore Strong events will encourage them to reach out and advocate for themselves when they are struggling," Bounds said. "If I could walk away from this with any outcome I can imagine, it would be for sophomore students to feel seen and to feel valued and to feel confident that they have the resources and knowledge they need to be successful throughout their years here at Mississippi State."

Julia Pratt, a graduate assistant for student activities, worked closely with Bounds to plan and execute the Sophomore Strong program. Pratt led the first event, Sophomore Scoop, in an introduction on how to find clubs and events to get involved on campus.

"For Sophomore Scoop, we wanted to give students an opportunity to learn about how to get involved and what involvement means, as well as learning about different resources and tools that they have through our office and other offices to get involved, specifically Cowbell Connect," Pratt said.

Pratt emphasized the importance of shining a light on opportunities that all students have, even after their freshman year, to get involved on campus and to find clubs and organizations they will love.

"It is especially important to make sure our sophomores and second-year students are understanding that their time to get involved is not over," Pratt said. "We know that when students get involved, they have higher satisfaction here at college, they have higher academic outcomes, they have better relationships with their friends and their roommates and when they leave college, they are more prepared for life."

Over 200 students attended the Sophomore Scoop involvement and organizational fair, and over 40 organizations tabled in the Union ballroom for the fair. On top of meeting with various MSU clubs, second-year students were able to enjoy an ice cream bar and mingle.

Andrew Bonner, a sophomore electrical engineering major at MSU, attended the Sophomore Scoop event to learn about campus clubs and meet with other sophomores and students in involvement.

"It was interesting to learn about the different organizations, jobs and events going on," Bonner said. "I got to see the orientation leader table, and there was a table for environmental awareness and all sorts of different things, some of which I had heard of and some of which I hadn't."

Bonner and other sophomores met with many of the clubs and organization representatives to discuss what it would look like to be involved and join a club. Many sophomores found Sophomore Scoop to be a crucial part to their integration into campus.

"Because we didn't get much in terms of hearing about organizations last year, due to COVID-19, I was interested in hearing about some of the involvement opportunities," Bonner said. "What I mostly enjoyed was walking around and going to almost every table. Many of the things I had heard of, but did not know what they were, so it was interesting to find out more about those."

The Sophomore Strong events are scheduled to continue throughout September. Other events in this program included a New Maroon Camp 2020 tailgate on Sept. 11, which was followed by a picnic with faculty members on the Drill Field on Sept. 14. The final event, late night breakfast and trivia, will take place on Sept. 17, providing one more opportunity for students to learn about and become integrated with the MSU culture and campus.

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