In its sixth consecutive year, Career Exploration and Development (CXD)’s Sophomore Bootcamp expanded its growing workshops, networking events and panel discussions offered to include identity meetups. Identity meetups represented first-generation students, students of color and international students and consisted of three separate panels of juniors and seniors who answered questions about navigating personal identity when furthering one’s career path. CXD also created a brand-new Sophomore Bootcamp coach position in reaction to weather-related arrival delays.
According to Arianna Rubianes ’26, who attended the first-generation meetup, the student panel helped her understand the resources available for first-generation students to succeed.
“All of the students on the panel had recommended great scholarships, fellowships, research opportunities and other Bowdoin-funded events that I had never heard of before,” Rubianes wrote in an email to the Orient. “As a first-gen student, at times it can feel really difficult to find these opportunities because I don’t have the same connections or knowledge about higher education and all of its resources that many of my peers do.”
Rubianes wrote that she particularly enjoyed how the panel discussed the difficulties of facing imposter syndrome and guilt at Bowdoin but felt that the panel could have been merged with other events that discussed similar issues.
“I had never heard other students talk about these difficult topics, other than my other FGLI [first-generation, low-income] friends at Bowdoin, so it was really nice to hear that other peers were dealing with similar situations,” Rubianes said. “The one suggestion that I would offer is to combine both the first generation and POC panels for future events, because I know a lot of my peers who fall in the intersection and had to choose one panel over the other,” Rubianes wrote.
Noah Zuijderwijk ’25, an international student on the panel, said that international students often face unique challenges which other students may not be familiar with. He said that students’ questions mainly surrounded how their identity affects applying to jobs and life after Bowdoin.
“What do you market yourself as towards employers and recruiters?” Zuijderwijk said. “There’s a specific kind of skill set that goes along with being an international student, [with] leaving your home culture, entering the US culture, dealing with culture shock, and then also functioning in your second language.”
Every year, CXD conducts pre- and post-bootcamp surveys to garner student feedback. According to CXD’s Senior Associate Director of Skill Development and Programming Bethany Walsh, 72 percent of students who filled out the post-bootcamp survey and attended an identity panel found them useful.
“The enjoyment score was higher this year,” Walsh said, “which was really great to see because we really tried to think about making it a less stressful [and] more enjoyable experience.”
Walsh also said she is looking to add new identity panels in the coming years and intends to meet with student leaders to receive additional feedback beyond the survey.
In addition to the identity panels, Walsh said that CXD modified workshops to include information on the use of artificial intelligence—both as a tool and a hindrance to the job application process—and updated their slate of Adventure Time Workshops, which allow students to learn more about a specific career or skill.
CXD also accommodated the delayed on-campus arrivals of at least 40 students due to winter weather affecting travel and canceling flights the day before Bootcamp was slated to begin.
“We whipped up a group of special coaches to catch up students as they got back to campus just because you can’t control when your canceled flight is going to arrive, so we tried to create a pathway for them to still get the most out of Bootcamp,” Walsh said.
Walsh expressed that this year’s Bootcamp was yet another exciting opportunity to test new ways to engage students with career preparation.
“It’s been a long time coming over the Covid years,” Walsh said. “We were able to really have the Bootcamp we really always wanted. It’s taking something that everyone has to do, is pretty stressed about, has no time to really work [on], and trying to make it less stressful and more about building community.”