Duane Bonifer  |  Published July 31, 2023

‘A Really Great Opportunity’

SOFIA gives first-year students an opportunity to experience campus life early while being immersed in a research project.

Participants in the 2023 SOFIA program gather at the Trubeck Amphitheater on July 30. Participants in the 2023 SOFIA program gather at the Trubeck Amphitheater on July 30.MONMOUTH, Ill. – The 2023-24 Monmouth College school year unofficially got underway on Sunday afternoon with the arrival of nearly two dozen members of the Class of 2027 and nearly a dozen returning students.

The 35 students are part of this year’s Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activities program. Known as SOFIA, it is a three-week period in which select new students work on in-depth research and inquiry into a wide range of subjects from the sciences to the arts. The projects are overseen by a faculty member and a returning student, who serves as a group mentor.

Mohammad Alsheikh ’27 was among the first new students to arrive Sunday on campus. He left his Chicago home with his parents and three sisters around 5 a.m. to check into his room in Winbigler Hall. Alsheikh said that he was more than ready for the move.

“Thanks to my mom, we literally spent the whole month before preparing to move in,” said Alsheikh.

Meet the 2023 SOFIA students.

Alsheikh, whose SOFIA project is building a computer with computer science professor Robert Utterback, said he was attracted to the research program because “these are three weeks I get to explore the campus deeper and get used to it.”

Payton Crims ’27 of Alsip, Illinois, said an early arrival also appealed to him.

“I was attracted to this program because it gives me an experience that will make it a little easier to adjust to college and work things out,” said Crims, whose SOFIA project is the “Monmouth Constitutional Convention” under political science professor Andre Audette. “The nerves of starting college are a little less now.”

‘Extremely beneficial’

Getting to start research right away appealed to Julianne Drum ’27, who arrived early Sunday afternoon from Iowa City, Iowa, with her parents Josh and Carrie.

“It also just seemed like a really great opportunity to be part of research even before the start of my freshman year,” said Drum, whose SOFIA project is “Mental Health and Academic Success: Prioritizing Mental Health on College Campuses,” led by psychology professor Sydney Greenwalt.

SOFIA can play a “huge” role in preparing students for college life, according to Megan Dailey ’25 of Pendleton, Indiana, who participated in the program as a freshman.

“It was extremely beneficial for me,” said Dailey, who returned this year to serve as a mentor on the “Ancient Technology and Engineering” program under classics professor Bob Holschuh Simmons. “It helped me learn how to communicate with my professor and prepared me for the classroom when the school year started.”

Coming soon

The arrival of SOFIA students on Sunday was the first of a dozen dates when Monmouth’s new and returning students will move into residence halls. Up next: members of the football program arrive Aug. 9; most of the remaining fall sports athletes arrive Aug. 17. New Student Move-In & Orientation begin on Aug. 19.

“The campus will fill up gradually over two or three weeks until it is teeming with the energy that students bring back with them,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Karen Ogorzalek.

Check out the Welcome Week home page.

One of the highlights of those activities will be the matriculation ceremony, which will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 19 on the Wallace Hall Plaza. First-year students will attend their first “Inquiry and Identity” class on Aug. 21. Freshman Walkout is also on Aug. 21, when the College’s new students gather at 3 p.m. at Dahl Chapel and Auditorium and then are escorted down Broadway by Monmouth Police to tour the city’s downtown businesses and organizations. The first day of classes for all students is Aug. 23.

“We have a full week of activities planned for students during Welcome Week,” said Vice President and Dean for Student Success Michelle Merritt. “We want our students to discover everything Monmouth has to offer, and engage with and build connections with faculty, staff and fellow students. By the end of the week, we want them to feel a genuine belonging to their new community and be proud they are a Fighting Scot.”

See More …

Check out more than 90 pictures from the first day of SOFIA.

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