Ahead of the fall 2023 semester, USC's LGBTQ+ Alumni Council announced that it is creating an endowment scholarship for students who are dedicated to encouraging inclusivity on campus.
According to a statement released on the USC Alumni website, this endowment scholarship is the first of its kind in for both the university and its Alumni Association. Aid recipients will not be restricted to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, according to Scott McDonald, the Alumni Association's senior director for alumni affiliate groups.
The council has raised almost $8,000 of its $25,000 goal, which must be achieved within five years in order to give the scholarship to a student. McDonald said that the council's goal is to reach at least $10,000 by the end of October. He said that most of the donations so far have come from USC alumni, but he hopes to receive help from the local community with outreach events during Homecoming and LGBT History Month.
While the exact application criteria will not be set until the first application is officially released, a scholarship of $2,000 will eventually be given to a third-year student to use across their final two years of undergraduate study. Because the scholarship is endowed, when the donation pool reaches $25,000, the money will need to sit in an account for one full calendar year in order to collect enough interest to be given to a student. After this process, a fixed percentage of the endowment can be given to a student every year while keeping the principle fund intact for years to come.
“Anytime we can push more inclusion on campuses, it’s beneficial to us and the campus community as a whole, especially as things kind of feel more divisive,” McDonald said.
Student applicants will be required to write an essay explaining their contributions toward a more inclusive campus environment, which will then be reviewed by members of the council and the Department of Student Affairs, according to McDonald and council chairman Brian Murrell. Applicants must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA along with a letter of recommendation from a USC faculty or staff member to qualify.
The project comes three years after Murrell helped establish the council with a decade lobbying USC's Alumni Association in favor of its creation. According to Murrell, USC was one of the last schools in the SEC to establish a council for LGBTQIA+ alumni.
“LGBTQ+ people are marginalized,” Murrell said. "There’s a lot of people that are doing great things on the campus, and I believe they ought to be rewarded for that, for their bravery.”
Murrell said his primary focus as the chairman is getting the endowment scholarship fully funded in the very near future, and he hopes that creating the scholarship will help make USC more inclusive than he believes it is now.
Mira Flyorova, a second-year philosophy and linguistics student, is the founder and president of USC’s Council of Advocacy for Transgender and Queer Athletes, an organization that promotes equality for LGBTQIA+ student-athletes at USC in both educational and administrative spaces.
“It actually pushes for and supports LGBTQ advocacy in substantial way,” Flyorova said of the alumni group. “I think that’s a really good thing.”
While her organization is only a year old, Flyorova said she hopes to strengthen connections with other multicultural and LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups on campus to help promote a more diverse environment at USC.
More information about donating to USC's LGBTQ+ Alumni Council scholarship can be found on the USC Alumni website. Every donor who gives over $10 will receive Gamecock pride merchandise.