Van Scoy to lead $2.4 million program that seeks to bridge gaps
Irma Van Scoy is the new executive director of USC Connect, a $2.4 million program set to begin this fall that seeks to bridge the gap between in-class learning and extracurriculars.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools approved the 5-year project for Columbia and its four four-year regional campuses in March. USC was required to submit a plan to enhance student learning as part of its once-in-a-decade SACS reaccreditation. After five years, SACS will re-evaluate the project and the university can make the decision to renew it or not.
Van Scoy, who served for 11 years as associate dean for Academic and Student Affairs for USC’s College of Education,will be paid $113,000 in her new position, a raise of about $10,000 from her previous job. The project’s budget will also create positions for an administrative assistant and an assessment coordinator. The majority of the money will go toward informing students, mainly via technology, of the plethora of possibly interesting and resume-building opportunities the university offers.
“USC Connect is all about creating an environment and support for students so they can select meaningful and helpful beyond-the-classroom experiences and really integrate that with their academic programs,” Van Scoy said.
She added that, while the program will take time to ramp up, “all the pieces are moving.”
Helen Doerpinghaus, vice provost and dean for Undergraduate Studies, said that this fall the USC Connect website would be fully functional, an “electronic portfolio” would be available on Blackboard and the university’s much-maligned calendar would be revamped. This spring, a database should be in place that tracks student involvement in “beyond-the-classroom experiences,” such as student organizations, guest lectures and internships.
“One of the important parts of USC Connect is recording what happens beyond class and reflecting on it so it’s not just kind of a throwaway experience that doesn’t mean anything,” Doerpinghaus said.
Doerpinghaus suggested students would receive recognition from the university for their beyond-the-classroom experiences, ranging from certificates to entirely new minors in areas such as leadership. She identified four pathways students could follow: undergraduate research, international experience, service learning and leadership. Students don’t have to follow one pathway, but much like earning a degree, dedication to one subject will earn them prestige.
“If a student wants to come here and focus on one pathway, they can earn a designation, so that’s going to be a very tangible expression,” Doerpinghaus said. “It will give them a chance to explore and achieve in a noncurricular pathway.”
Doerpinghaus said USC’s $2.4 million investment was comparable to what other universities spent on their Quality Enhancement Plans. Van Scoy said the university originally wanted to spend more.
“We have to be realistic about circumstances,” Van Scoy said.
Van Scoy described leaving her long-held position to lead USC Connect as “bittersweet.”
“I love the College of Education,” Van Scoy said. “I’ve been here for 21 years, and I’m very proud of what we do.”