The CGS Sophomore-Year Experience
By Gabrielle Drillis
College is a time of limitless opportunity – but for many students, it can be daunting to figure out how to make the most out of their four years on campus. How can students plan their class schedules to fulfill their major and BU Hub requirements? What career development resources does Boston University offer? What can students do outside of the classroom to enrich their lives socially, intellectually, and personally?
The College of General Studies advising team recognized the importance in providing students with these essential answers. Academic Advisor Matt Bae (’10, COM’12, Wheelock’17) led the team in creating SY201: The CGS Sophomore-Year Experience. The 1.0 credit course, offered each fall, is dedicated to helping CGS sophomores discover all the opportunities and resources available to them at BU, find their own personal strengths, and build a rewarding and well-rounded college experience.
The SY201 curriculum strives to provide students with a robust set of skills they can use in all aspects of their lives, from academics, to work, and even personal relationships. One of the many ways this is done is through interactive activities that prompt students to engage in self-reflection, problem solving, teamwork, and hands-on experiences.
Throughout the semester, students take a deep dive into the world of introspection to help build their confidence and knowledge of the world around them. To accomplish this, Bae has designed the course to rely heavily on discussion-based activities that require students to interact with one another through various mediums, such as group work, in class-readings, and writing exercises.
“My hope is that a course like CGS SY201 can help students see success in college as a combination of many factors, not just academics,” Bae said. “BU is a very big institution with so many opportunities and resources, which I know from personal experience can feel both exciting and overwhelming. CGS SY201 is a space where students could share their existing knowledge of the university with each other and also express their thoughts and questions without judgment with the end goal of making BU feel more accessible to everyone.”
The idea for SY201 came out of a conference Bae attended in 2019 that was centered around the first-year experience and how colleges and universities can support their first-year students. Leading up to the conference, Bae had been an instructor for FY101, a 1.0 credit course offered to all first-year students at Boston University, and thoroughly enjoyed his experience. During one of the conference sessions, instructors from the University of South Carolina shared data on the effectiveness of offering a course designed for second-year students.
“This really stood out to me because we were at a point where [CGS] was going to transition to only admitting students in January, so [we were trying to figure out] what can we do to support our students, seeing there is a need to support sophomores,” Bae said.
He carried this idea with him back to Boston University and spoke to CGS Associate Dean for Student Academic Life Stacy Godnick about the possibility of offering this type of course at CGS. After months of research, meetings, and promoting the idea to students, SY201 launched in the Fall 2022 semester.
Because CGS students enter in January and then spend their summer semester either in London or New England, their familiarity with the University is often not fully developed by the start of their sophomore year. According to Bae, many second-year students exhibit the same needs as first-years, so prioritizing their questions and concerns is vital to ensuring they succeed. The curriculum is designed to answer many of the key questions students may still have when they arrive on campus for their sophomore year.
“Each week we would peel back the layers of [Boston University],” said Bae.
By the end of the semester, students will have gained a robust understanding of BU and its resources. This includes comprehension of the opportunities offered through the Center for Career Development and other employment and career workshops hosted throughout the academic year.
Student Kiana Arzan (’23, Questrom’25), who took the class in Fall 2022, found this particularly helpful, saying, “I used a lot of the resources that Matt introduced to us, including the Center for Career Development, and I also learned and found a lot of great new spots on campus that I would never have found without SY201.”
Academic experiences, such as research, internships, and extracurriculars are also covered in the course so that students can begin building upon their current involvement. Additionally, students will expand their personal networks through meaningful interactions with their classmates and be taught how to access various wellness and mental health resources through Student Health Services and student-run organizations.
“We did a lot of deep dives into the sophomore-year experience and in the end it empowered students to tackle what is next,” Bae said.
The course also prepares students for meeting their BU Hub requirements. The Hub is a university-wide general education program that requires students to take classes that fulfill a variety of graduation requirements. While students fulfill a majority of Hub units through the CGS curriculum, some credits remain unfilled. SY201 helps students learn how to navigate fulfilling these requirements. A week of SY201’s curriculum is dedicated to a BU Hub workshop where students not only learn what the Hub is, but how to apply the knowledge they gain through it to their current and future experiences.
The In-Class Experience
Keeping the work within the classroom, during the once-per-week 75-minute class session, has been an integral part of ensuring that the class is useful and accessible for students.
“The course was structured so that each week we tackle a different aspect of the sophomore year experience,” Bae said.
Topics covered throughout the semester include academic advising, the high-impact out-of-the-classroom experiences that enhance students’ education, such as study abroad and undergraduate research, and assessing your own strengths, identities, and privileges.
Many of the lessons challenge students to answer questions that they may have not thought about in the past and then discuss those experiences with their peers. While talking about emotions, aspirations, and, sometimes, even embarrassing moments can be a bit awkward with a group of strangers, students shared overwhelmingly positive feedback about Bae’s assignments.
Previous SY201 student Isabella “Izzy” Santana (’23, CAS’25) said, “[SY201] provided insight into the importance of the unique experiential learning in CGS while simultaneously providing insight into oneself through reflective journal entries.”
SY201 does not calculate grades the way a traditional course does. No quizzes or exams are given; instead, students are evaluated based on their participation, efforts, and enthusiasm.
Isabella Teixeria (’23, CAS’25) a previous SY201 student, said the Hub workshop was one of the most valuable lessons from the class.
“The BU Hub applies to everyone; yet, I feel like it’s a big, ‘scary’ thing that few people understand how to navigate. With this class, Matt made it understandable and relieved a lot of anxiety surrounding the BU Hub,” she said.
For Bae, helping students decrease their anxiety surrounding their BU experience is another reason for his passion for SY201. College should be a time of exploration, confidence building, and making connections, he said, not worrying about all the administrative and “behind-the-scenes” questions.
“I wanted students to walk away from the course feeling connected to their peers and to the university with the hopes that this familiarity and comfort will allow them to better focus on the goals that are most important to them,” Bae said.
Registration for SY201 opens April 23, 2023 for rising sophomores. The course is offered each fall semester as a 1.0 credit, Pass/Fail class. If you are interested in enrolling, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Academic Advisor or Matt Bae at email@example.com for more information.