USC Connect fair brings down classroom walls
By Craig Brandhorst, email@example.com, 803-777-3681
“What kind of internships can I do if I’m studying business or engineering?” “Which study abroad program would work best for me if I’m majoring in social work?” “I’m interested in elementary education. How can I get involved with a community service project that will help prepare me for my career?”
Hundreds of students, the majority freshmen, swarmed the Russell House Ballroom on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 21), seeking answers to questions like these at this year’s USC Connect Fair.
The university’s ambitious program to integrate student coursework with beyond-the-classroom educational experiences, USC Connect launched in 2011. Organizers are ramping up programming this fall in a coordinated effort to get students, faculty and staff more involved in the initiative, which will see an increasing campus presence going forward.
Students entering the crowded ballroom Monday were greeted at the door by student representatives from USC Connect and given information about how to navigate the more than 30 informational tables inside. After that, they were free to interact one-on-one with faculty from 12 different colleges and schools, as well as with representatives from a wide range of campus offices. Signs labeling the five “pathways to success”—research, internships, global study, community service and peer leadership—steered students toward those tables where they might make the most valuable connections.
USC Connect Executive Director Irma Van Scoy and her colleagues worked closely with the residence halls to make sure students — particularly freshmen — knew about the fair. They also made sure to have the right blend of people on hand to answer student questions.
“We have a great group of people representing both academic and student affairs, and that to me represents what USC Connect is all about,” Van Scoy said as students crisscrossed the floor behind her, taking flyers about study abroad programs and chatting with university representatives about campus recreation, leadership programs and career services.
“And as I’ve walked around talking to some of the students, one thing that I’ve heard is that they’re excited that faculty members are here,” Van Scoy added. “Yes, we want to socialize students and help them adjust during Welcome Week, but we also want to help them get ready for classes.”
A chance to reflect
Tena B. Crews, acting associate dean of academic programs in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, has worked with Van Scoy’s office from the outset and spoke about how the initiative builds on programs that exist across campus. HRSM, for example, already requires practicums and internships of all its students and offers opportunities for students to study abroad. The goal now, Crews explained, is to encourage students to reflect meaningfully on those beyond-the-classroom experiences.
“Sometimes we have to prompt students to reflect,” Crews said. “Some people aren’t big picture people, but they need to make those connections, and that’s what USC Connect does.”
Sophomore exercise science major Adam Mayer, who serves on the USC Connect student representative board as vice president for faculty outreach, echoed Crews, saying he has already benefitted personally from the initiative—and not just by virtue of his day-to-day involvement with the program itself.
“Since I got involved with USC Connect last year I’m already reflecting on how the different things I’m doing relate to my coursework,” said Mayer between conversations with students entering the room.
“My goal is to study abroad, so hopefully I can take what I’m learning in the classroom and apply it when I go abroad, then take what I learn when I’m abroad and apply it in the classroom,” Mayer went on. “That’s one of the main reasons for USC Connect, to show that not only is there a purpose to going to class but that there’s also a purpose to those things you do outside the classroom as well.”
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