Most days, you can find Michelle Bryan sitting in an abandoned stairwell at the far end of the Wardlaw building, surrounded by peeling yellow paint.
"I will sometimes just disappear, and I'll be in those corridors to nowhere," Bryant said. It gives her a chance to escape and focus, and for Bryan, there are many things to think about.
After four years as an Associate Dean and Chief Equity Officer for the College of Education, it was announced in September that Bryan would take on a new role as the Assistant Vice President of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) under the VP of the Office, Julian Williams.
"The job's bigger now. But from my perspective, it's a chance to have a bigger impact," Williams said. "(Michelle Bryan) made an amazing difference in the College of Education, to where, now I think that the College of Education is one of the leaders in terms of our academic units that are prioritizing equity in their work, their scholarship, their research, their hiring. And now, Dr. Bryan will have the responsibility to help create that type of environment across the campus."
For Bryan, this responsibility means combining two things she loves: research and building relationships.
"I'm a qualitative researcher, I genuinely enjoy other people. I enjoy knowing what makes them tick," Bryan said. "So I think it is this job, just on a university level rather than a college level. And that, that excites me because it just means that I get to work with more folks."
Bryan's experience in the College of Education has allowed her to connect with the faculty on campus and build a community that fosters diversity and equality.
"She's been in the classroom, she's been a researcher before, she's worked directly with Deans, as well as our academic diversity officers," Williams said.
Bryan has used this experience to encourage faculty to get out of their comfort zone.
One result of these efforts was an Equity and Justice Symposium that held its inaugural year this month and brought together faculty members and guests for discussion.
"I met almost every single faculty member because I wanted to know them, but I also wanted to know about their research and their teaching, because part of my responsibility was to support those efforts as they pertain to DEI," Bryan said.
Bryan wants to unite faculty members across departments in hopes they'll gain ideas and support from each other.
"We all have this overarching commitment to equity and justice that's in our mission. And I wanted folks to see that," Bryan said.
However, Bryan and Williams want to expand these advancements beyond just USC faculty and include the entire Carolina community in their goals.
"He and I have this crazy idea that, at least amongst the SEC, the University of South Carolina should be a leader. And I, I know we have the right people to make that happen." Bryan said.
Chairman of the student senate's DEI committee, Jesús Andrés Guerrero hopes to meet with leaders in the DEI office in the future and see them speak more to organizations for minorities on campus.
"I guess the most important thing, that no matter how many policies we put in, no matter how many recommendations we make students, no matter how many of those inclusion videos that we show freshmen," Guerrero said. "That's not going to change someone's outlook on anything until they've actually had a conversation."
As Bryan works toward bettering USC, she emphasized her hope to get students more involved.
"I want to see them. And so once I figure out where my office is, I will make sure that my doors open to them. I think we don't transform this institution without the students. I think the students, both our faculty and our students, I think underestimate the power that they actually have for transformation," Bryan said.