MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are a few of the online social networks that were behind the theme of the third annual Sophomore Conference held at The University of Texas-Pan American Business Administration Building on Sept. 18.
The conference with a theme of social online networks attracted 200 sophomores and provided an opportunity to spread awareness about the pros and cons of online networks. In addition to 21 topics presented about University resources available to students, for the first time, there was a session titled, "Social Networking: Precautions and Safety."
"We decided on our theme because of the popularity of online networking, however, there are also dangers associated with it," said Noelia Hernandez, student development specialist. "We want our students to be cautious so they can be safe while using online networks.
To kick off the conference, Dr. Teofilo Ozuna, dean of the College of Business Administration and Dr. Calvin Phillips, dean of students, welcomed the students. A five-student panel, made up of Sophomore Academic Mentors, Student Ambassadors and a student career service advisor shared their academic and social experiences at UTPA.
"These students were selected for the panel because they have demonstrated involvement in the university and have done well academically as well," Hernandez said.
Students then had the opportunity to hear from more than 18 UTPA department representatives and got to see first hand what services and resources are available to them. Topics ranged from financial aid, career services and psychological self-care to study abroad opportunities, money management, writing skills and public speaking. Health services representatives were also present to discuss the flu season and what safety precautions to follow.
"The purpose of this conference is to bring different faculty and staff to one centralized area," Hernandez said. "We want to provide sophomores with information on resources that benefit them so that they are fully aware of what is available to help them make better decisions, be successful and continue their education here at UTPA."
Students also had the opportunity of winning door prizes donated by local businesses such as, gift certificates from restaurants, bookstores and retail outlets. Hastings Books donated coffee and Hungry Howies provided the pizza. At the end of the day iPod shuffles and gift certificates of large amounts were given away as grand prizes.
"We wanted students to have an afternoon of education and fun, so winning prizes were good endings to a good day," Hernandez said.
To wrap up the conference, Dale B. Winter, officer of the UTPA Alumni Association Board, shared with students his experiences at UTPA and how they helped him be successful. Winter graduated from UTPA in 1974 and went on to own his own business, Office Furniture USA.
Students found this year's conference to be beneficial, learning valuable lessons to last them a lifetime.
"This conference has definitely been a great opportunity for all the people in attendance," said Michael Odum, sophomore psychology major. "I feel lucky to have been able to attend and learn valuable information that allows me to get ahead and take advantage of workshops, like public speaking, which will help me be successful."
Sophomore political science major Morgan Govan felt the same.
"I was really looking forward to this conference, I knew it would be a great experience that would broaden my knowledge," Govan said. "I never really had anyone to look up to when it came to school, so I hope that I can take what I have learned from this conference and use it to help someone else."
The event was hosted by the Divisions of Academic Affairs, Enrollment and Student Services and University Advancement.
"The success of the conference is really a collaborative effort of everyone involved," Hernandez said. "The help from all of our departments, presenters and businesses allows our success to grow every year."
For more information, visit www.utpa.edu/sam/conference.