Sophomore Summit prepares students for life after Eckerd

Published January 30, 2020
Eckerd students in classroom for a Sophomore Summit breakout session

Sophomore students attended various breakout sessions like this one about careers in the non-profit and public sector with speakers including Neal Walker ’78, former United Nations Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Ukraine, who is now Diplomat in Residence at Eckerd College.

Administrators capitalized on the small window between Winter Term and Spring Semester to introduce the inaugural Sophomore Summit, a two-day collegiate and professional development program aimed at second year students.

The program, which began with an introductory dinner on January 26 and offered a full day of workshops on January 27, provided opportunities for about 50 students to network with and learn from faculty, staff, alumni and professionals.

The College’s retention committee spent about six months planning the summit, which featured 38 individual speakers and two dinners—one meal was a business etiquette dinner off campus with Virginia Edwards, a corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant from Beyond Manners, said John Sullivan, vice president of enrollment management and retention committee member.

“They were asked to dress in business formal and the consultant instructed them on how to eat at a business function, proper table conversation and cocktail hour etiquette,” Sullivan said. “Those are skills they can take to professional conferences, interviews and beyond.”

Keith Ravid ’18 (white), Sean Bradley ’18 (green) and Penelope Zinn ’14 (not pictured) spoke to sophomores about planning for careers after graduation. That evening, the sophomores attended an etiquette dinner in downtown St. Petersburg with a corporate protocol consultant.

Workshop sessions focused on practical ways students could get a jump start including preparing for graduate school applications, what it’s like to work in non-profit or government, internship and campus job resources, how to present yourself at an interview, forming meaningful relationships with faculty and getting involved in your community.

“I really enjoyed the workshop on graduate school because I learned things I didn’t know,” said Autumn Palma, a sophomore women and gender studies student from Damascus, Maryland. “I know I want to attend law school, so I thought this program would be beneficial to get an idea of the process.”

Committee members tapped their alumni resources to find successful Tritons eager to pay forward their knowledge to current Eckerd students. Sally Hayes ’02, an entrepreneur who co-founded a company that provides protective equipment to law enforcement and private security, talked to students about how to make the most out of your sophomore year at the opening dinner. Recent alums Penelope Alexiadis Zinn ’14, an assistant educator at Learn & Play Tampa Bay, Keith Ravid ’18, a private markets analyst at Raymond James Financial, and Sean Bradley ’18, a doctoral candidate in chemistry at the University of South Florida, shared how they began planning for the day after they graduated in their sophomore years.

Ethan Winship, a sophomore business administration student from New Port Richey, Florida, and a member of the men’s soccer team, said the opportunity to meet alumni working in his field of interest was worth the price of admission. “Being able to walk up to an alum who works at Raymond James and make that contact is a great help to a student-athlete like me who might not have a lot of time to network,” he admitted.

Expectations for participants were high, as they were instructed to dress in business casual and business formal attire for the duration of the Summit.

“The students were fantastic and really engaged and asking questions,” said Marjorie Sanfilippo, Ph.D., an associate dean of faculty, director of the John M. Bevan Center for Academic Excellence and a professor of psychology. “I’ve been really impressed with these young adults.”

The entire sophomore class and their parents received an invitation to register for the summit for the nominal fee of $20. Students whose travel abroad for Winter Term returned in time to join were among this year’s participants.

“This is still a pilot, but I’m very happy about what we have seen this year,” Sullivan said.