University of South Carolina

Phil Barlett

Not just a number

Phil Bartlett lives classroom lessons

By Peggy Binette,, 803-777-7704

Phil Bartlett, ’82, can remember standing at the wall of Gambrell Hall in August 1978 as a freshman, looking at the roof of McKissick Museum (the tree line was a little lower then) and feeling overwhelmed by his newly found freedom and with the prospect of navigating campus.

That year Bartlett, a Columbia native, was thrown out of the University of South Carolina on academic suspension. After spending the next year getting up at 3:30 a.m. to work two jobs at a loading dock and a grocery store, he returned to Carolina with a lust for learning and call to duty.

“It’s a typical story in that a lot of freshmen arrive here wide open with so much freedom. There was no one asking me whether I was OK or what was going on. That’s why I like teaching U101. It’s about building a relationship with students,” said Bartlett, who co-teaches a U101 class and has taught a senior capstone course in strategic management at the Moore School of Business since 1999.

Bartlett never stopped learning. He went on to night school to earn a master’s in organizational management and an MBA, while putting his criminal justice degree to work by day as a law enforcement officer and as an active and reserve duty officer in the U.S. Army. His degrees led him to teach at Southern Wesleyan University, Limestone College and USC.

“I found that I loved teaching so much that I’ve always taught after that,” said Bartlett, who extends his deep sense of duty to students and teaching. “We have a duty and an obligation to our students. Education is about someone taking the time to say that you’re not just a number on my roster and I want to know who you are, what you want to do and how I can help you get there.”

Herbert Dongell, a classics professor at Southern Wesleyan, had that kind of impact on Bartlett. He challenged Bartlett to immerse himself in a variety of subjects as a challenge of personal growth.

Bartlett started with a summer devoted to reading everything he could find on the French Revolution. Ever since, he has immersed himself in monthlong, intense studies. There was Dannte’s trilogy, Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato, and the works of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Albert Camus.

He was still thirsty and turned his attention to language. Working through the USC Career Center he found and hired student and faculty tutors. Eight years and nearly a dozen tutors later, Bartlett is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese.

“I remember miserably failing Spanish at Carolina that first year. I wanted to get rid of that failure and learn Spanish,” he said. “After two years, Spanish was getting easy so I added Portuguese.”

With the help of his latest tutor, Carol Yumi de Carvalho, an international business student from Brazil, Bartlett is preparing for an immersion experience he never imagined. Next fall, he will teach his strategic management course and an international development course in Portuguese and English at the Brazil’s University of Federal of Santa Catarina, one of South America’s top universities.

“We often limit ourselves by our age. You can learn to do anything you choose to as long as you’re not afraid to do it,” he said. “I tell students that at USC there are so many things to get involved in and so many things to do. You just have to decide to do it. Camus said that life is the sum of your choices. A line will be drawn in the end; it is all going to sum up to something.”

Bartlett retired from the USC in June. When he returns to Columbia in 2014, he plans to begin his next immersion -- learning Mandarin and maybe American Sign Language.

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Posted: 10/25/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 01/03/13 @ 8:17 AM | Permalink



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