The Daily Gamecock

$2.5 mllion USC Connect to link classroom, extracurriculurs

USC Connect aims to increase student engagement on, off campus

USC plans to spend around $2.5 million over the next five years on a program meant to increase student participation in extracurricular experiences, including guest lectures, community service opportunities, international experiences and internships.

As part of the university's once-in-a-decade reaccreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, USC must submit something called a Quality Enhancement Plan. The university has dubbed its plan "USC Connect" and says it will link students to opportunities that align with their interests.

USC Vice Provost Helen Doerpinghaus said SACS requires a "sizable investment" over five years, which she estimated at $500,000.

USC officials chose to invest about $2.5 million — or approximately five times that amount.

The program will establish a new Quality Enhancement Plan office, a full-time director, a half-time assessment position and an administrative assistant. Doerpinghaus said SACS requires USC sustain the program for five years, after which the university will chose whether to continue it.

"If we see our students are learning more, getting better jobs and having a more beneficial experience at Carolina then we would continue it, of course," Doerpinghaus said.

Students will have the opportunity to select experiences that will build on what they're learning or what they're interested in learning, Doerpinghaus said.

"That could be something that has to do with their major," Doerpinghaus said. "It could be a variety of things. Students will be able to look at opportunities available on campus and in the community and select what fits them."

According to Irma Van Scoy, associate dean for Academic and Student Affairs, the online aspect of USC Connect may contain a variety of features including a "gaming" system where avatars of students would open doors to new opportunities. Van Scoy, who chairs the QEP Proposal Committee, said she hopes for an intelligent suggestion system and an overhaul of USC's much-bemoaned calendar.

"We don't have anything like that right now," Van Scoy said. "We have a bunch of different offices that each have their own website, and unless you search the Web a lot, you don't even know what is out there."

Doerpinghaus said faculty, staff and students have been involved in the development of USC Connect over the past two years. Students will be introduced to the program during orientation, the First-Year Reading Experience and University 101.

"Capstone and the Honors College require beyond-the-classroom experiences, [and] Greek organizations do as well," Doerpinghaus said. "We think a lot of this is already going on; it's just a way for students to enjoy it more and record it so that when they get ready for their next steps after college, they can show what they've done."

Some students, however, say that with beyond-the-classroom experiences already available, there is no need for USC Connect.

"I think, personally, if they want to do something they're going to do it," said Tierelle Nesbit, a first-year psychology student. "The thing about college is you go in to find new experiences, so basing it off of interests you have coming in doesn't give you the opportunity to spread out because you're matched up with things you already like. Plus, it sounds like a lot of money."

But other students said they supported the program.

"I definitely think that would be really helpful because a lot of cool things I just find out by posters all around," Tyler Hutchinson, a first-year experimental psychology student. "But if there were something that told us where to go and what was coming, that would be helpful."