I cannot believe that we are more than halfway through the fall Semester with final exams quickly approaching. This semester has continued to fly by. From Homecoming celebrations with T-Pain to late nights studying in T-Coop for midterms, the first half of this semester has passed us by in the blink of an eye.
Over the past month, I have been working tirelessly to deliver tangible changes that the student body would like to see on campus, specifically from the Imagine Carolina feedback that was collected. To those who came and shared your student experiences, I want to personally say thank you. I hear you, I hear your concerns and I feel them with you.
In my capacity as Student Body President, I have been advocating for academic advising, mental health, parking and an expanded student union. This has included programming, presentations with university administration, sharing insight into board of trustees meetings, taking trips to other institutions for furthering research, and hearing first-hand from the students about issues they feel are most important.
These are concerns that students continue to bring up year after year, and are the issues that Student Government continuously works to address. While I know that I or Student Government are not going to single handedly fix all of these issues, I believe collectively that we have made some significant progress in these areas.
Outside of paying tuition, the only thing that is required of students each semester is academic advising for class registration and degree progression. I am incredibly passionate about reforming Academic Advising at USC, as I have personally experienced difficulties with my own advising. These experiences, coupled with the input that we receive from the student body, have pushed me to advocate for improvements in this important process.
Over the past few months, I have given many presentations in support of standardizing our decentralized college advising model. I am advocating for a strong 4-year advising model to reduce fragmented advising in addition to improving our audits and advising technologies. It is my goal that through collaboration, we can standardize and continue to improve our academic advising to ensure that each student is guaranteed a full time professional advisor.
During National Mental Health Awareness Week, Student Government organized our annual week-long programming initiative of Stigma Free USC. This was put on to support students’ mental health and help them regain control of mental health through various wellness activities and promotions of on-campus resources, including the university’s new Thrive @ Carolina digital wellness hub and counseling resource. We also worked with Mental Health Initiatives to plan and execute a mental health summit.
Reconnect and Restore 2022, the Mental Health Summit, was a collaboration of multiple departments and organizations on campus to provide an opportunity for discussion about national and campus trends in mental health, strategies for improving student mental health and resources for how we can all be better mental health advocates. On the day of the summit, students were able to join and contribute to the conversation surrounding mental health at the University of South Carolina, hearing from various speakers and contributing ideas for progress.
Parking and transportation
One of the ways that I have advocated for the student body is by meeting with the Office of Parking & Transportation. It has been several years since student leaders have met with this office, and I am so honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to open the door and work with Parking and Transportation to provide ideas for increased communications and improvements of services for students.
This is such an important issue to so many students, so I want to do everything I can in my capacity as Student Body President to address it.
Within Student Government, we are continuing to operate the Airport Break Shuttles, promoting the On-Demand Shuttle, continuing to work with The COMET and looking into the full picture of transportation on campus through working on potential projects of providing Uber discounts to students and the expansion of BlueBikes and electric scooters.
Expansion of the student union
Another initiative that I have been working on is advocating for the expansion of our student union, the Russell House. This is another one of those long term advocacy projects that has been continuously worked on by previous Student Body Presidents, though this lost traction during the pandemic.
I am actively establishing a committee of students alongside D’Asia White, President of Carolina Productions and Chair of the Russell House Advisory Board, to address and reaffirm data collected to assess the current needs of the students and advocating for an expanded model of the Russell House to meet those needs.
From the creation of the Russell House in the 1950s, the last physical expansion of the building took place in the 1970s. The size of enrollment and needs of our students has grown exponentially over the last 50 years. It is my hope that we can re-engage a student group to spearhead the communication efforts to the administration and to the student body the importance of this project to serve future generations of USC Students. I have traveled to several universities touring different student centers including Georgia Tech, Emory, the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of the highlights from the month. When asked at Imagine Carolina what the best thing about USC was, it was a resounding reply of “opportunity and community.” We continue to see the amazing opportunities that USC provides for its students, and saw this with our recent Homecoming events!
A specific example of this occurred when Gail Bush Diggs, USC Class of 1977 Homecoming Queen was finally “crowned” and given her scepter at the recent Homecoming Football game. Gail was the second African American Homecoming Queen at USC and never received her recognition. Hannah White, Student Body Vice President ‘21, brought to light this story through her film The Backbone and this year’s Homecoming Commission was able to recognize this past transgression and celebrate Gail.
In addition, we are celebrating many anniversaries and milestones on campus, one of which being the 50th Anniversary of the University 101 Program, which is recognized nationally as the #1 ranked first year university program and serves as a national model for other institutions' first-year seminars. Finally, USC is back as we retired the “of” in “UofSC” and returned to the gate and trees as USC.
As we progress throughout the semester, I want to encourage you all to keep up your hard work because it doesn’t go unnoticed. I know it may be difficult dealing with burnout and a tough load, so please make sure to first and foremost take care of yourself. The university offers mental health services to best meet your needs. Students can call 833-664-2854 for free, 24-hour access to a counselor.
As always, feel free to contact me with any of your concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or come see me at the Student Government Office located in Room 227 of the Russell House. I will be holding an open house and open office hours so please join me for coffee and conversations. It is my goal as Student Body President to be the best advocate and representative for all of you at USC.
Together, I know that we can finish this semester strong.
Forever to thee,