Dean Westphal Focuses on Combating the Sophomore Slump

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This year, sophomore Swatties who keep up with their campus mail and emails have been receiving many invitations to sophomore-specific events, from a collection with President Chopp to an event where students visited their previous rooms. These events all sprang from Class of 2012 Dean Myrt Westphal’s new goal to reach out and help the sophomores of this year.

After coming back from a recent conference entitled “Strategies for Sophomore Success,” Westphal was inspired to focus on helping the sophomores adjust to post-freshman year at Swarthmore and avoid the sophomore slump.

Since there are no actual statistics on the prevalence of the “slump” at Swarthmore, Westphal draws most of her evidence of the sophomore year slump from anecdotal evidence and feedback from students.

“I think that sophomore year is a year that gets neglected … sophomores need to make a lot of important decisions and I’m here to help them think through those choices,” Westphal said.

With these goals, Westphal has designed a series of events that include fun activities that invoke a “spirit of camaraderie” and serious informational events. Past events include a Career Services Open House event for sophomores, a lecture on “Financial IQ,” SAM study breaks for sophomores, and others previously mentioned.

As for the success of these events, Westphal suggests that one way to measure these events’ success is to see how many people come to these events. She estimates that Career Services received 35 new contacts at its Open House, 40 students attended the Financial IQ lecture, and around 70 or 80 students attended the Sophomore Collection with President Chopp.

Westphal has also communicated with faculty about the sophomore slump phenomenon. She explained, ”Diane Anderson [the Acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs] and I wrote a letter about the sophomore experience to the faculty so they are aware of what’s going on and what role they can play.” Overall, the responses from faculty were positive, with one professor mentioning that she wished her child in college had this type of support system.

Because there is no history of events targeted specifically at the sophomore slump at Swarthmore, Westphal needs to design everything from scratch. Other challenges include finding funding and picking good dates for typically busy Swatties.

Upcoming events on sophomores’ calendars include an Open House at the Off-Campus Study Office on October 22nd and a dinner on October 27th. Of course, Westphal is always trying to organize more activities and events for sophomores, such as publicizing a 4-5 page sophomore study guide, helping students when the sophomore paper comes along, and possibly instituting a student sophomore council.

While it is difficult to measure the full success of these sorts of events and special attention, Westphal said, “I feel happy and proud of what has gone on and I’m glad that I’ve really made the effort. And it doesn’t have to reach out to the entire sophomore class. As long as I touched a couple dozen sophomores, that’s good enough for me.”

Westphal remains open for any type of feedback on past events and possible ideas for future events. She can be reached at

The Phoenix