A Niche for Sophomores

Sophomore slump? No, these sophomores sizzle, as part of a program focusing on food and local farm life

The College makes a special effort to acclimate first-year students, sends many of its juniors abroad, and toasts its seniors. Now there's a distinctive opportunity for sophomores, too, in the form of a program that connects them to food and the farming life of Knox County.

Inaugurated this year, the Sophomore Experience is an offshoot of the Food for Thought program and was cooked up by faculty members impressed by their own experiences in a summer seminar exploring food-related issues.

"We thought it should be something extended more generally to the student body," said Howard Sacks, who conceived Food for Thought and is a professor of sociology and senior advisor to President S. Georgia Nugent. "We wanted to try something new."

After settling into college life during their first year, sophomores are ready to connect with the people and culture beyond campus and village, Sacks said. And they can take advantage of interaction outside the classroom with nine faculty members who join them along the way, exploring the way food is produced, bought, and consumed.

All sophomores were invited to write a succinct essay making a pitch to join the year-long program, and seventeen students were selected based on "some fabulous responses," said Sacks. The program doesn't involve coursework or credit. Rather, the students take field trips to farms and a farm market, share in the preparation of some meals, and meet for discussions based on visits with local food producers as well as readings, including The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

A visit to the Mount Vernon Farmers' Market yielded the ingredients for a meal featuring bean salad and quiche, said Anne Kruk '10 of Lima, New York. "It was fantastic," she said. "I come from a rural area, and I have a strong interest in rural agriculture."

Sacks envisions an ongoing program that may be a model for other departments and faculty who can take advantage of common interests and shared activities.