Whatever path students choose, USC is here to help

It's a great pleasure to reconnect with our returning students and to welcome the class of 2018 to their new home. As we begin to blend as a Carolina family, it's a great time to recommit to our inspiring Carolinian creed. I particularly like the section which states, "The community of scholars at the University of South Carolina is dedicated to personal and academic excellence. Choosing to join our community obligates each member to a code of civilized behavior." I am delighted that each of you decided to join our community and to embrace our creed.

The University of South Carolina has a championship attitude—we are determined to excel in everything we do. That's why you are attending the only university in the state that holds the Carnegie top-tier designation for very high research. Our Honors College continues to hold the No. 1 ranking in the nation, and Carolina's No.1 undergraduate international business program and international MBA program are globally recognized. In fact, we have more than 47 nationally ranked programs of study. These are the rankings that will open many doors for those who are willing to work hard.

Research tells us that the first six weeks on campus set the tone for the future. Many of you will be learning how to balance new freedoms with new responsibilities. I have three solid suggestions that will get you off on the right foot. First, stay physically active. Take advantage of our exceptional wellness and fitness centers as activity bolsters creativity. Second, take advantage of the healthy foods choices that are available throughout campus. And third, get some sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common cause of mental fatigue, emotional duress and even compromised immunity. If you'll commit to exercise, healthy foods and a good night's sleep you can be at your very best.

USC Health Services has much to offer our students, faculty and staff. I would encourage each of you to visit their website where you will find everything from information about immunization to counseling for depression to 24/7 resources in the event of sexual harassment or assault. During University 101 classes, freshmen will be discussing the responsible use of alcohol and also examining the dangers and consequences of risky behavior and poor judgment that could result in self-destructive behavior or behavior endangering others. As Gamecocks, we have an obligation to stand up and speak out when we see a member of our community engaging in dangerous or inappropriate behaviors.

Our best defense, however, may be found in participating in programs like USC Connect, where students are engaged in meaningful service learning, international experiences, internships, undergraduate research, leadership and more. While, ultimately, you are responsible for your own actions, we are here to do whatever we can to help you make wise and appropriate choices so that you will thrive during your Carolina years. I look forward to a strong, productive and happy year ahead as you strive for personal and academic excellence. Again, welcome home.