KOKOMO, Ind. — A gourmet meal served on fine china is not a typical meal enjoyed by a college student.
For 14 Indiana University Kokomo hospitality and tourism majors, however, it is part of a defining experience — the Sophomore Sojourn.
The sojourn provides second-year students an opportunity to apply and integrate learning off campus, while building relationships with classmates and faculty.
“We’re proud of the education students get in our classrooms, but we also realize that some of the most meaningful and memorable experiences are the ones they have out in the world,” said Mark Canada, vice chancellor for academic affairs. “What better way to experience hospitality and tourism at work than to see a splendidly set table, feel the china, hear the clink of the glasses, and smell and taste extraordinary food? It’s a learning experience for all five senses.”
Campus leadership chose to implement the program in the second year, to provide a milestone students could look forward to and anticipate, which would give incentive to continue progressing toward completing their four-year degree.
“Looking at retention rates, that’s often where we lose students,” said Heather Kennedy-Eden, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism. “Freshmen have orientation and their learning communities. Juniors usually have internships, and seniors have commencement. Sophomore year was lacking a significant event, one that would help them meet students within their major, and solidify relationships with their professors.”
Hospitality and tourism hosted the first sophomore sojourn, an etiquette lunch at Kokomo’s Crystal Tea Room. Students sampled green salad, quiche Lorraine, tomato basil soup, chicken salad croissants, and pumpkin cream cake, served on formal china, with all the silverware that accompanies fine dining.
They learned how to drink tea properly, to use a fork to scoop, not cut or poke food, and that sandwiches may be picked up with hands because that’s how they were designed to eat.
Kennedy-Eden said the etiquette lunch provided a valuable professional experience for the students, who may work as event planners or in related careers.
“If you’re going to be in charge of an event, you have to know how to set a table, and how the meal should be served,” she said. “We learn this in our classes, and this allowed them to put it into practice, working with an expert.”
The lunch was not just an exercise in table manners, however. It was also a chance to build relationships with classmates and faculty.
“Class time isn’t the best time to get to know the other students, or your professors,” she said. “It gave them a greater bond, because they did this together.”
Future sophomore sojourns include a visit to the Field Museum in Chicago for biology majors, attendance at a professional conference for nursing students, and a trip to the Indianapolis Zoo for psychology students, led by a faculty member who specializes in animal behavior.
Christina Downey, associate professor and psychology department chair, noted that the trip will be available at no cost to all sophomores in the major, and gives an opportunity to interact with faculty outside the classroom
“Traveling off campus allows all of us to see each other in a different light,” she said. “It’s a chance to speak more casually, and for students to feel empowered to seek mentoring relationships with faculty. We all know how impactful travel is, to connect in a different sort of way.”
It also is a way to show potential careers in their fields of study early in their college experience, so students may select the classes to lead to those that interest them.
“It gives students a language for what they are doing, and who they want to be,” she said.
The sophomore sojourn is just one component in “The IU Kokomo Experience,” with a goal of giving each student a transformative educational experience, said Canada.
“Because of the kinds of extraordinary opportunities we will provide to them, graduates of the Kokomo Experience will be able to collaborate on teams, apply their knowledge to real-world problems, integrate knowledge from various disciplines, and take initiative,” he said. “They also will have a constructive mindset, the kind that welcomes challenges and engages with the world.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.