University of South Carolina

Linking Afghanistan and Columbia; Military dad there for daughter’s big day – by Skype

By Megan Sexton, msexton@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-1421

The request from an Army company commander in Afghanistan made its way to Jessica Ackerman’s desk in the College of Social Work early this spring. A member of the commander’s unit would miss his daughter’s hooding ceremony, and he wondered if there was a way the soldier could watch from his base in Afghanistan.

For Ackerman, the administrative assistant in the dean’s office, the decision to help was a no brainer. “What the armed forces do for us every day, they send their men and women out there, they die for us, they work so hard. Doing something so small is the least I could do.”

She quickly contacted Dave Rodriguez, network manager in the College of Social Work. As a former Marine and a dad with two young daughters, Rodriguez understood the importance of helping make the connection. Sgt. Maj. Horace Tyson would be able to watch his daughter, Kandice Turner, at the master’s in social work hooding ceremony.

“I was deployed in Saudi Arabia. I know how it is,” said Rodriguez, who has worked at USC for about 10 years. “It was something I would definitely have wanted someone to do for me. I have two daughters (ages 5 and 3). I can just imagine how he feels.”

“I told them I’d do whatever they wanted me to do,” Rodriguez said.

So Rodriguez went to working organizing a Skype session between the ceremony at the Township Auditorium and a base in Afghanistan. He also arranged for Tyson to receive a high definition video of the hooding ceremony.

“We got it all set up that morning. We had some time, so I found his daughter before the ceremony so they could have a 10-minute conversation by Skype before the ceremony,” Rodriguez said. “He got to tell her how proud he was of her. It was pretty cool.”

For Dean Anna Scheyett, the employees quietly taking the steps to make this connection happen is an example of what the College of Social Work is all about.

“In social work, two of our core principles are service and the importance of human relationship. Along with teaching this in our classes, we try to live it out across the College of Social Work,” Scheyett said. “We also honor and value the sacrifices made by our deployed military members. So the fact that Dave and Jessica knew how important this event was to a father and daughter relationship, and did the service by making the Skype link to Afghanistan quietly and without fanfare, speaks volumes. It speaks to their kindness and generosity of spirit, and it speaks to the culture we try to live here at the College of Social Work.”

For Turner, whose father left for Afghanistan in late February, the chance to talk with her dad made the big day even better.

“I talked to him on the phone the day before and he told me something had been in the works but he said he didn’t think it would work out, so I wasn’t expecting it,” Turner said. On Skype, “He told me how proud he was. We were joking around and having a good time.”

Turner said her father talked to her mother, Teresa Tyson, after the hooding ceremony. “He said he watched the whole thing. He told my mom, ‘When I saw her walk across the stage it was this overwhelming feeling. I was so proud of her.’ ”

Turner received some more good news this week. She was offered a job as a community social worker with the Department of Social Service in Charlotte.

News and Internal Communications

Posted: 05/10/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 08/10/12 @ 4:32 PM | Permalink