Sophomore Wayfinders

Wil Kautz and Saloni Sanwalka look at the Woven Chronicle by Reena Saini Kallat. Photo by Andrew Brodhead

Sophomore Wayfinders

Forging Your Own Path…in Community 

Coordinated by the office of Academic Advising, the Sophomore Wayfinders is an optional program offered to second-year students. We focus on the knowledge, skills, and resources you need to get the most out of your time at Stanford. All current first-year students—frosh or transfers—are welcome to join us.

It’s not a class. There are no attendance requirements or formal assignments with deadlines, no grades (and no academic credit). What you get out of it depends on what you put into it, and you are encouraged to calibrate your participation to best suit your needs.

We provide activities where you can explore what you want your Stanford experience to be and tools for individual, personalized reflection and assessment. We’ll host information sessions, where you can explore options and opportunities, so you can choose the ones that are right for you. We also offer special optional workshops where you can learn new skills and roundtables where you can meet and learn from faculty, staff, and alumni whose interests or experiences align with your own. We’ll match you with a Wayfinding Guide, a faculty or staff mentor who can serve as an informed, engaged thought partner as you weave together the different parts—academic and intellectual, personal and professional—of your Stanford journey.

As a Sophomore Wayfinder, you will:

  • gain a better understanding of yourself—your values, interests, strengths, and goals—so you can use that understanding to inform your planning and decision making.
  • discover options, opportunities, and possibilities that are a good fit for you.
  • connect with Stanford faculty and staff, strengthening your connection to the campus community.
  • learn valuable skills that can be applied to your academic, personal, and professional development.
  • engage with a community of your peers about your Stanford education and experience.

Join us


Pictured above: Students Wil Kautz and Saloni Sanwalka look at the Woven Chronicle, 2011–16 by Reena Saini Kallat (India, b. 1973). Circuit boards, speakers, electrical wires, and fittings; single‑channel audio; approximately 11 x 38 ft. © Reena Saini Kallat. Photo by Andrew Brodhead.

Your Wayfinding Workbook

The term wayfinding encompasses all of the ways we orient ourselves as we make our way from place to place.
It includes:

Orientation: getting your bearings Where do I want to go, who do I want to be, and what do I want to accomplish?

Route Decision: weighing possibilities How do I want to get there?

Route Monitoring: reflecting on your progress Am I still on the right path to get me to where I want to go?

Destination Recognition: reaching your destination What else, and what next?

As a Sophomore Wayfinder, you’ll receive a Wayfinding Workbook, collaboratively created by the Stanford Life Design Lab and BEAM Career Education with a little help from Academic Advising and other campus partners.

Your Wayfinding Workbook includes creative exercises that focus on academic exploration and intellectual identity; choosing and declaring a major; professional preparation and development; reflection and personal assessment, and more. The second year is different for everyone, and your Wayfinding Workbook is designed to help you do this individual reflection, planning, iterating and prototyping. Some parts may be more meaningful or useful to you than others, so you can take what you need from it, when you need it.

We’ll host optional, facilitated workshops focusing on particular activities or prompts from your Wayfinding Workbook, so you can explore them in greater depth and then discuss what you’ve learned, and what it means for you.

Mentoring: Your Wayfinding Guide

When you sign up for the Sophomore Wayfinders, you’ll fill out a profile that we will use to assign you to your mentoring group. Each group will have a Wayfinding Guide (or a pair of Guides) who are matched to your group based on your shared interests and indicated preferences.

The Wayfinding Guides are available to engage—individually with you, as well as within your mentoring group—in an ongoing conversation, helping you clarify and articulate your values, priorities, and goals. They can serve as a sounding board and thought partner as you navigate Stanford and can encourage you as you explore new interests and ideas.

Additionally, some of our Wayfinding Guides will host lunchtime meetups or coffee breaks so you can cultivate your connections within our Stanford community. This is a great, informal way to meet faculty, administrators, and academic staff from throughout campus.


Meet some of our Wayfinding Guides

Marcelo Clerici-Arias

Lecturer in the department of Economics

Emily Shewmaker and Emily Fay

Associate Director of Programs and Grants (VPUE) and Student Services Manager in the department of Psychology

Dustin Schroeder and Devon Ryan

Asst. Prof. of Geophysics and Communications Manager for the Woods Institute

Chris Field

Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies


You will be invited to a series of optional workshops targeting issues that are particular to the second-year experience and introducing you to people whose stories may help light your way.

In My Story workshops, we’ll invite Stanford alumni and faculty to share their stories and answer questions about how and why they made the choices they did…and what they wish they’d known when they were sophomores. 

We’ll offer specialized BEAM Career Education workshops on personal assessments, as well as special topics like informational interviewing and finding the right summer learning experience.

Stanford Life Design Lab workshops will draw on exercises from your Wayfinding Workbook, giving you a playful, interactive experience where you’ll think through options and iterate…and share your insights and questions within a facilitated framework.

Workshops are promoted regularly throughout the year—just sign up for the ones that interest you!


Your Questions Answered

Who can join Sophomore Wayfinders?

Any first- year student is welcome to join—traditional frosh or transfer students.

When does the program start?

We’ll begin offering (remote) programming in July 2021. Your Sophomore Wayfinding experience will end at the conclusion of spring quarter, your second year.

Do I have to apply?

No, but you need to fill out your profile form so we can match you with your Wayfinding Guide and assign you to a mentoring group. Workshops and other program resources are limited to students who have joined the Sophomore Wayfinders.

When is the sign up deadline?

First round sign ups are due by Wednesday, June 30th. Second round sign ups are due by Thursday, September 30th.

When will I be matched with my Wayfinding Guide?

The last week in August.

What am I expected to do?

Look through your workbook and see what inspires you. Meet with your Wayfinding Guide(s) and talk through some of the conversational prompts in your workbook. Attend a workshop that interests you. If you like it, attend another one. Attend a coffee break and meet some faculty, researchers, or other campus leaders. Let your Wayfinding Guide(s) know what you learned, and talk it over with them. If it is helpful, do more; if not, do less.

Why should I sign up? What will I get out of it?

Does this sound like something you might enjoy, and benefit from? Then sign up!

What you get out of Sophomore Wayfinders depends on what you put into it, so the question is: what do you want to get out of it? You can talk with your Wayfinding Guide about what you’d like to learn or accomplish, then chart a course that will get you there.

How is this different from Frosh101 or Designing Your Stanford?

Sophomore Wayfinders isn’t a class—it is a self-directed, self-paced, customizable, co-curricular program. Part of the challenge of the sophomore year is that so much of the experience is individual. This initiative is designed to address that individuality in a programmatic way, and in community with others.


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