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Leadership and Service Center

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Pillars for Carolina

This five-day summer program is designed for first-year students who want to explore Carolina and learn about student life before arriving on campus for the fall semester.

Get a head start on making Carolina home.

When you participate in Pillars, you'll enjoy an unforgettable week of service, leadership and traditions while making lifelong friends. Registration opens in the spring and remains open until the program has reached full capacity.

Students who participate in the five-day Pillars for Carolina program, which was founded in 2011, graduate from the experience feeling more confident about life in the classroom, with a greater knowledge of campus and gain new friendships with student mentors, faculty and staff members.

How Pillars Helps New Students

  • Develop your personal leadership skills
  • Learn about opportunities to get involved
  • Enjoy bond-building on- and off-campus activities
  • Volunteer with Cocky’s Reading Express, a student government campus literacy project

Common Questions about Pillars

How much does Pillars for Carolina cost?

The Pillars for Carolina program costs $350. This cost includes four nights in university housing, all meals, and any other costs associated with the program.

When can I register?

Registration for Pillars 2018 will open January 8 at 1 a.m. Space is limited!

When will the 2018 program be held?

Session 1: July 17-21, 2018
Session 2: July 24-28, 2018

What is a Pillars XM?

A Pillars XM is an eXtended orientation Mentor who is passionate about the Gamecock experience and working with incoming students. These mentors help facilitate program activities and lead small group discussions. They also assist students with questions or concerns. Many XMs also serve as a mentor throughout an incoming students’ first year.

Where do students stay?

Students will be housed at a residence hall on campus.

How will students benefit from participating?

First-year students gain prior experience to college life before arriving in the fall. Students learn about valuable resources that are offered on campus and begin to create a network of friendships with fellow students who will also be attending in the fall.

Is Pillars the same as New Student Orientation?

Pillars for Carolina and New Student Orientation have different purposes and many students opt to attend the programs back to back. Pillars works with the Office of Orientation to ensure that both programs can be attended in a single week. Should you attend New Student Orientation before or after the Pillars week, Pillars staff members will direct you from one location to the other.

What time is check in?

Attendees can check in between 3 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

What time is check out?

Check out is 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

What should I bring?

We recommend the following:

  • Clothing for 5 to 6 days including modest t-shirts, tank tops and shorts. Columbia's average high temperature in July is 95° and students will be indoors and outdoors.

  • Bring a Garnet or Black T-Shirt for the opening ceremony and 1 Dressy Casual Outfit for the closing ceremony. 

  • Comfortable athletic shoes that can be worn during both community service and a range of athletic activities.

  • Raincoat or umbrella in case of bad weather.

  • Sunglasses or hat for outdoor activities.

  • Personal toiletries including shampoo/conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, etc.

  • Bed linens including a pillow, and a sleeping bag or twin XL sheets and a blanket.

  • 2-3 bath towels for the week.

  • Swimsuit, beach towel and sunscreen for free time at the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center outdoor pool.

  • Insect Repellent for use during outdoor community service projects.

  • Personal health insurance information in case of illness or emergency. 

  • Any regular medication you take or carry with you in case of an emergency,

  • A reusable water bottle to help you stay well hydrated.

  • Your charged phone with a chargerYour XM will be in contact with you throughout the week. Keep your phone charged in case they need to send you a message.

  • Supplementary snacks for in-between your 3 provided meals per day.

  • Some extra cash for shopping near campus on Main Street, at the University Bookstore, and at food vendors off-campus if desired.

What airports are close to Columbia?

1. The Columbia Metropolitan Airport is about 15 minutes away from the USC campus.

2. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is located an hour and a half from Columbia. Shuttle services are available first-come, first-served between Columbia and the CLT airport via Columbia Charlotte Shuttle and the cost is $55. Reservations are required.


Leadership Team


Lauren Flintom

Lauren Flintom

Student Director

Hometown: Durham, NC

Year: Junior

Major: Finance/Management/GSCOM

K.C. Ward

K.C. Ward

Director of Programming

Hometown: Knoxville, TN

Year: Junior

Major: Exercise Science

Mary-Paige McLaurin

Mary-Paige McLaurin

Director of Marketing

Hometown: Greenville, SC

Year: Junior

Major: Sport & Entertainment Management

Caleb Kussro

 Caleb Kussro

Director of Staff Development

Hometown: West Columbia, SC

Year: Junior

Major: Exercise Science

Morgan Howard

 Morgan Howard

Director of Staff Development

Hometown: Orange, CT

Year: Senior

Major: Experimental Psychology

Home Manninen

 Hope Manninen

Director of Logistics

Hometown: Fredericksburg, VA

Year: Sophomore

Major: International Business/GSCOM

Amber Jackson

 Amber Jackson

Assistant Director of Marketing

Hometown: Spartanburg, SC

Year: Junior

Major: Public Relations

Ross Marra

Ross Marra

Assistant Director of Marketing

Hometown: Bridgeport, WV

Year: Sophomore

Major: Accounting

Zach Speaks

Zach Speaks 

Assistant Director of Operations

Hometown: Charleston, SC

Year: Sophomore

Major: Mass Communications

Brad Robinson

Brad Robinson

Special Projects Coordinator

Hometown: Greer, SC

Year: Freshman

Major: Nursing