Skip to Content

Office of Access and Opportunity

  • MLK standing with armed raised with two microphones in front of him

USC Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium

The University of South Carolina honors the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. 

In January 1983, the USC Black Alumni Caucus sponsored the first university program. The group continued to sponsor the event, held in Rutledge Chapel, until 1986. In 1986, the program was expanded and moved to the Russell House Ballroom featuring King’s daughter, Yolanda King, as keynote speaker. In 1999, then-President John M. Palms canceled classes and declared the day a university-wide day of service, and that tradition continues today.

Register for 2024 MLK Breakfast

Register to join us for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Breakfast and presentation of the Social Justice Awards.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Russell House Ballroom

7:30-9 a.m.

This is a free event for USC students, faculty, staff and community members. 

Previous Social Justice Award Winners

Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke

Cooke is the Augusta Baker endowed chair in the School of Information Science. In a field where more than 85 percent of the professionals are white women, Cooke stands out. And that observation inspired her desire to help diversify the field of librarians to make the profession more equitable and better reflective of the communities librarians serve. Cooke is a leader on campus through her research and classes focusing on diversity and social justice, with a goal to develop a cadre of people who can go out and do social justice work and bring others along on the journey.

Toby Jenkins

Toby S. Jenkins

Jenkins, associate professor and director of the Museum of Education, grew up in Columbia and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina, before leaving her hometown for universities and experiences all around the globe. At every stop, she was an advocate for diversity in higher education, for forging inclusive communities and for making sure college students find a welcoming home on campuses. She is considered a national expert on cultural inclusion and the student experience in higher education, focusing particularly on the innovation and transformation of university cultural centers.

Jay Urich

Jay Urich

Urich, Gamecock football student-athlete, carried a sign proclaiming "'Matter' is the Minimum" at the Black Lives Matter protests in Columbia in the summer of 2020. It was a moment that united people across the state, including the rival football teams of South Carolina and Clemson. And it’s a moment Urich has built on since then, including starting a nonprofit, Original Design, which aims to provide resources, opportunities and supportive relationships to help underserved children around the state. The organization plans to offer camps for 10- to 12-year-olds that focus on faith, public health and sports, with the goal to help children live healthy, honorable lives.


Faculty Winner - Daniella Cook, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
College of Education

Faculty Winner - Spencer Platt, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
College of Education

Staff Winner - Aisha Haynes
Assistant Director
Center for Teaching Excellence

Student Winner - Kyanna Samuel
Undergraduate student
majoring in early childhood education

Faculty Winner - Dr. Rajeev Bais
Clinical Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine
School of Medicine
Director, Carolina Survivor Clinic

Staff Winner - Maureen Grewe
Director of Student Conduct
Department of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity

Student Winner - Chelsea Jimenez
Undergraduate student
Senior majoring in early childhood education

Student Winner - Lyric Swinton
Undergraduate student
Junior majoring in sport and entertainment management

Faculty Winner - Kenneth Campbell, M.S., Ph.D.
Associate professor
School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Faculty Winner - Michele Myers, M.S., Ed.S., Ph.D.
Clinical Associate Professor
College of Education 

Staff Winner - Sarah Keeling, M.Ed., Ph.D.
Student Services Manager
School of Library and Information Science

Student Winner - Dizha Green
Undergraduate student
Senior majoring in early childhood education 


MLK Symposium Events

There are currently no events to display.

View the Calendar

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.