Anny Rodriguez will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and women’s and gender studies, a minor in human rights, and a goal of working in the community health field.
Four years ago, however, the Colombia native came to UMass Boston uncertain about what the future might hold for a liberal arts graduate.
“I think all of us have had that conversation with our parents, ‘What are you going to do with your major?’” Rodriguez said. “It’s sometimes hard to see the benefits of a liberal arts education; not until you go out and try what you have learned do you realize all the benefits of it.”
Rodriguez and scores of other sophomores in the College of Liberal Arts have had that opportunity through the college’s SophoMORE program, an expansion of the college’s CLA First! learning community for freshmen.
The College of Liberal Arts first launched SophoMORE three years ago with the help of a state-funded Vision grant. Three cohorts of about 40 students each have engaged with the program, taking advantage of workshops for resume writing, networking, and professional communication, and participating in a required job shadow, often with UMass Boston alumni.
“Freshmen year, students get study skills, opportunities to get involved on and off campus, and chances to take on different roles,” said program director Joyce Morgan. “Sophomore year, it’s a chance to say, ‘OK, you took in all this information your first year, now turn it inward and think about what you want to do with this college experience.’”
This winter, students flooded local businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations to get their feet wet in a job environment related to their studies. Sophomores spent the day at law firms and advocacy groups, the Boston Ballet and the Taj Boston, among other sites.
William Rivera, a psychology major and music minor from Springfield, shadowed Robert Surratt of the Boston Private Industry Council, which connects Boston youth to education and employment opportunities. Rivera sat in on calls and watched Surratt review high school students’ resumes.
“I think the best thing about this college and this program is they get to know you,” Rivera said. “They know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, and they work on that to showcase your strengths in a professional setting.”
Alumni such as Alan Shapiro ’77 have hosted several sophomores over the years who might be interested in going to law school after graduation. Lunie Jean-Phillipe ’92, who works at State Street Global Operations as a senior associate, also opened her office to a student this winter.
For students like Amber Rodriguez, a sophomore psychology major who is thinking about making the switch to women’s and gender studies, the job shadow has been the perfect way to test whether her current path is the right one. She shadowed Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Liza Talusan in classes and meetings at the Park School in Brookline.
“I came into college expecting to major in psychology and become a psychologist – but that’s not always the case, and it was kind of good to experience someone who went through that firsthand,” Amber Rodriguez said.
For first-generation college students, or students who may not have a homegrown network in Boston, SophoMORE is especially supportive by building the skills and connections students need to compete for sought-after jobs after college.
“Our students can get a degree in psychology and they can work in the business field, in mental health, or something completely different; the strength of our curriculum gives them the strength to tackle any problem and be flexible,” explained Stephanie Fernandez, Academic Adviser for CLA First! and SophoMORE.
Anny Rodriguez participated in a job shadow at the Chelsea Collaborative two years ago, and the experience opened her eyes to the nonprofit world. Now, as a senior, she gives back to SophoMORE as a peer mentor.
“It was a perfect match,” Anny Rodriguez said of her daylong visit to the nonprofit’s green center. “I realized no matter where I end up working, I want to have an impact on the community.”