SPARTANBURG, S.C. – During her sophomore year at Wofford College, Bria Johnson found herself having a tough time choosing a major. Most students declare an interest by the end of their second year, and time was running out. Thankfully for her, she found the college’s Sophomore Experience, a two-day January conference designed to help students find a direction.

“Like many people, one of my problems was that I found myself liking everything that I had done to some extent,” says Johnson, of McDonough, Ga. “Based on my classes, I felt like I could major in religion or biology or history or economics or really anything. I knew that I couldn’t do everything, but I was unsure how to narrow my choices.”

A friend told Johnson about the Sophomore Experience, presented by The Space in the Mungo Center, Wofford’s professional development center, which created and hosts the program. “It didn’t take much convincing for me to sign up,” she recalls.

Along with 100 other sophomores, Johnson spent a weekend learning to assess her strengths to determine which career path would maximize them. She spent time thinking about her values and how her choice of career should align with them. Working in teams, she and the other students practiced networking and negotiating, two key skills necessary for finding the internships many employers now demand on a post-graduate resume. She had fun, too, enjoying dinner at Greenville’s High Cotton restaurant and listening to guest speakers who told stories of professional and personal success.

“By the end of the weekend, I had decided to major in economics,” Johnson says. Fast forward one year later, and Johnson has added a second major, intercultural studies. She’s also secured an internship and is working with a mentor to help guide her toward what she hopes will be a career with IES Abroad, a non-profit study abroad organization. “Overall, I feel less stressed about my future.”

Johnson’s experience is typical, says Jennifer Dillenger, director of Career Services in The Space. “Sophomore year can be incredibly stressful. The first-year excitement has faded and things begin to get more serious. Classes get harder, and they start to face decisions like choosing a major. It can feel like that one choice will determine the course of your entire life.”

Wofford wanted a way to help students like Johnson make informed decisions about their major, but Dillenger says students who already have chosen a major also can benefit from the Sophomore Experience. “Another aspect of the weekend is what to do next – how to find an internship or how to turn that major into a career that will, hopefully, make them happy.”

According to Dillenger, the pressure to choose a major based solely on financial considerations can be enormous, and students often don’t realize that it’s possible to major in a subject they love and still find a “good” job. “A large part of the weekend is devoted to showing them that their major doesn’t define them,” she says. “You can study religion or art history or English and, with the right experiences under your belt such as internships or the consulting projects we offer through The Space, land a job doing almost anything.”

The Sophomore Experience is just one program of many offered through The Space, Dillenger notes. “If they’re paying attention that weekend, they should come away with more questions than answers. The Sophomore Experience is just the beginning. We hope that, like Bria, students will come in to The Space and get connected to the other programs that will help them further develop their professional skills.”

This year’s Sophomore Experience will take place on Jan. 4 and 5 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Greenville. Dillenger expects about 100 students to register for the event. Guest speakers will include Rob Glander, CEO and president of GWC Warranty; and Nate Harceg, a 2011 Wofford graduate and assistant marketing manager for Walmart Stores Inc.

Here is the Sophomore Experience schedule (subject to change):

Saturday, Jan. 4:
Noon-1 p.m.: Check-in 

1-2 p.m.: Opening

2-3 p.m.: Strengths Exploration (Jennifer Dillenger)
3-4:15 p.m.: The Search (Scott Cochran)
4:15-4:45 p.m.: Break with Refreshments

4:45-6 p.m.: An Extreme Approach (Nate Harceg ‘11) 

6-6:30 p.m.: Break

7 p.m.: Dinner (High Cotton: 550 South Main Street)
9:30-10:15 p.m.: Networking (Scott Cochran)

Sunday, Jan. 5:
7:30-8:30 a.m.: Breakfast Buffet 

8:30-9:45 a.m.: “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Cowboy” (Rob Glander)
9:45-10:15 a.m.: Break/Check-Out

10:15-11 a.m.: Track I: Major Choice

10:15-11 a.m.: Track II: Next Steps

11 a.m.-Noon: Negotiation Introduction and Partner Exercise (Scott Cochran)
Noon-1 p.m.: Lunch
1-2:30 p.m.: Negotiation Exercise (The Space Team)
2:30-3 p.m.: Closing (Scott Cochran)