On a beautiful afternoon in Rutledge Chapel, April 3, 2018, I began the journey of a lifetime and was sworn in as student body president. I didn't know exactly what the year ahead would look like at the time, but it turned out to be an incredible period of transformation for our university – full of unexpected twists and turns, all of which shaped the institution's trajectory.
One of the most memorable transformations was the renovation of the Russell House. We said goodbye to the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurant fusion (RIP) and welcomed a full-service Chick-fil-A and other exciting new restaurants.
We also welcomed several special guests to campus during the 2018 to 2019 school year. President Bill Clinton visited to celebrate the Richard W. Riley collection opening, and the King and Queen themselves (a.k.a. Jay Z and Beyonce) performed at Williams-Brice Stadium in front of a packed crowd.
In the sports arena, we were one year out from historic runs by both basketball teams, and we were on the heels of a nine-win Gamecock football team that was, many thought, on the brink of greatness in the SEC.
The 2018 football season was not as successful as we hoped. However, we did launch two successful programs: mobile ticketing and guest ticketing. Both initiatives re-invented student ticketing and led to a more efficient way for students to enjoy Gamecock athletics.
The annual weather event tradition continued, and we bunkered down for Hurricane Florence, which, thankfully, never turned into anything more than a light drizzle and a few much-needed days off from schoolwork.
And how could we forget the USC brand refresh, which went ... interestingly.
It was also a year Student Government launched several programs:
- Carolina BeYOUtiful, which focused on mental health & body positivity;
- Swipe Out Hunger, focused on food insecurity;
- The Big Event, a day full of service promoting social sustainability.
In addition, there was a push for increased inclusion and equity. The groundwork was laid for the President's Commission on University History. A university-wide advocacy effort was also launched to increase state support for the university, leading to a tuition freeze — an essential first step in making college more affordable and accessible.
One of the biggest surprises was the announcement that our beloved president, Dr. Harris Pastides, was retiring. An announcement that led to a contentious presidential search, which initially ended in a failed search — until the board of trustees changed course and conducted a vote that summer. Throughout this process, we saw student activism ignited, and the power of the student voice was on full display.