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National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

Meet the Staff

Novella Beskid

Novella Fortner Beskid

Assistant Dean for National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

Education/Major(s): Wofford College, BA in English and Sociology;
University of South Carolina, MEd in Student Personnel Services, Higher Education

About Me:  Married to Jim Beskid, also a Wofford alumni. Together we are proud parents to two young adults which makes family time together one of my favorite things.  Having worked at USC for more than three decades, the Carolina family is also important to me!

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Horseshoe

Length of Time at USC: 30+ years. Began in January 1984 as a graduate student and have been here ever since!

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Best memory is Pope John Paul II’s visit to USC in September 1987 as a part of USC’s ecumenical year. Being a part of the staff support for the event and attending the program on the Horseshoe and the mass at Williams Brice Stadium was an unforgettable experience. Best part of daily life as a Gamecock is helping students crystalize their dreams and start on the path to achieving them, which is an honor and a privilege.

Jan Smoak

Jan Phillips Smoak

Director of Scholar Programs

Education/Major(s): M. Ed. in Student Personnel Services and BA in Journalism, both from the University of South Carolina; Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), Carolina Yoga Teacher Training.

About Me: A born and bred Gamecock and newspaper major, I love to communicate. I was very involved in campus life – Greek life, The Daily Gamecock, and what is now called Garnet Circle (Student Alumni Association). After earning my bachelor degree, I stayed on campus for graduate school after realizing a career in higher education was my calling.  I have only traveled abroad twice – to Cozumel, Mexico, and to France and Italy, but the latter trip gave me great insight into why our scholars enjoy international travel. I have several roles: University administrator, yoga teacher, mom, and wife to a UMC pastor to name a few. I enjoy reading, coffee, chocolate, being outdoors, and supporting our students.

Favorite Spot On Campus: My one-mile walking route starting and ending on the Horseshoe, and Colonial Life Arena during women’s basketball season.

Length of Time at USC: 21 years! Because of the students’ intelligence and diversity, I never tire of my university work.

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Gamecock Basketball 2017 Final Four and a WBB National Championship!

Jennifer Bess

Jennifer (Jen) Bess 

Director of National Fellowships

Education/Major(s): BA in Religion from Dartmouth College; MA in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton

About Me: I’m originally from Chicago, where I grew up with two younger brothers. I’ve been an academic advisor, a campus minister, and a high school teacher.  When I'm not hanging out at home with my dog Killian, I like to be off traveling the world. I enjoy long distance walks, including the West Highland Way, and have completed two pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Feel free to ask to see pictures!

Favorite Spot On Campus: It’s really hard to beat the Horseshoe.

Length of Time at USC: Since January, 2012

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I’m pretty fond of the day I walked out of my office after work and straight into a Hootie concert on the Horseshoe!

Tim Smith

Timothy (Tim) Smith  

Scholar Programs Coordinator


Education/Major(s): Rutgers University, BM in Music Education; Messiah College, Master of Music in Wind Conducting

About Me: I arrived in Columbia from New Jersey, where I was the director of the Rutgers University Marching Band and member of the Music faculty for 18 years. Working on a large college campus is where I developed a passion for advising students as they navigate their way to success. I feel very at home working at a large university, love college sports and I’m thrilled to have joined Gamecock Nation! I love listening to all kinds of music, cooking, and working on our house. My wife and I love the outdoors, so we hike, run, bike, and take walks with our dog, Jethro whenever we have the chance.

Favorite Spot On Campus: For me this is a tie. It’s hard to beat the energy in Williams-Brice Stadium on game day (Sandstorm is awesome!), and the beauty of the Horseshoe is amazing.

Length of Time at USC: Since September 24, 2018

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I’ll never forget my first Gamecock Football Game. Best part about being a Gamecock is being able to see and feel the powerful sense of community on the USC campus every day.

Abbey Smith

Abbey Smith

Scholar Programs Coordinator


Education/Major(s): University of South Carolina, BA in English Literature; University of New Orleans, Master of Arts in Teaching – Secondary Education

About Me: I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. When I came to Columbia for undergrad, in my mind, I was moving up north! After graduating from the South Carolina Honors College in 2015, I completed my masters while working in student support at the University of New Orleans. I spent several years in the classroom teaching high school English before returning to higher ed. In my free time, I enjoy exploring nature, working with animals, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Honors Residence Hall—I lived there for two years and visiting now brings back so many good memories! Fun fact: that’s where my husband and I met.

Length of Time at USC: Since January 2020

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: One of my favorite memories is shocking my family when I – a girl who had never voluntarily watched football before college – coordinated with my friends to “paint up” for the Georgia game.

Payge Jennings

Payge Jennings

National Fellowships Coordinator


Education/Major(s): BA in Communication Arts from Salisbury University; MA in International Training and Education from American University

About Me: I moved to South Carolina from a small town outside of Annapolis, Maryland where I was born and raised. In my free time I enjoy trying out new restaurants and coffee shops, playing raquetball, and obsessing over all things Disney and Star Wars.

Favorite Spot On Campus: Greene Street. It is where I run into students most!

Length of Time at USC: Since February 2019

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Being a part of the Gamecock Racquetball Club has been the highlight of my UofSC experience.

Ethan Knight

Ethan Knight

National Fellowships Coordinator


Education/Major(s): Texas A&M University, MA in English; Western Illinois University, BA in English and Theatre

About Me: I’m originally from the Chicago area, but moved to Columbia in 2015 to work on my PhD in English here at UofSC—I miss the food but not the weather! Before working with National Fellowships and Scholar Programs, I also worked as an Assistant Director of First-Year English, and am proud to say that I served as lead editor for the Carolina Reader for English 101 for two years. In my free time, you might find me taking a long walk with my dog Queequeg, trying to convince my wife Olivia to play another round (or two) of cribbage over local craft beers, or kayaking out on Lake Murray!

Favorite Spot On Campus: I love the reflecting pool and fountain in front of Thomas Cooper Library, especially when viewed from the Richard T. Greener statue…but the beauty of the Horseshoe is really hard to beat.

Length of Time at USC: Since 2015

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Visiting campus with my dog, Queequeg, is always a treat. She loves showing off her Gamecocks jersey—and loves the attention she gets from students even more!

Ali Cook

Ali Cook

Business Coordinator

Education/Major(s): BA in Interdisciplinary Studies (emphasis on Sports Administration and Business Information Systems) from the University of South Carolina

About Me: I'm married to Dale and Mom to two awesome boys – Nate and Owen. Our family enjoys participating in Boy Scout and Cub Scout activities together.  I'm Cubmaster for Pack 29. I have attended WoodBadge training through scouting - I'm a good old Eagle!  I’m a third generation gamecock and have a brick on the Horseshoe along with those belonging to my sister, grandfather and great grandfather. While at USC, I was a Carolina Classic and assisted with recruiting football players and other student athletes.

Favorite Spot On Campus: It’s a toss-up between the Horseshoe and Williams Brice Stadium.

Length of Time at USC: 23 years!

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I’ve watched USC Football go all the way from winning their first postseason game while I was a student to beating a nationally ranked team (#1 Alabama at the time) to seeing USC host ESPN’s Gameday on the Horseshoe three times in the last few years!

Taylor Inabinent

Taylor Inabinet

Academic and National Fellowships Advisor

Education/Major(s): University of South Carolina, BA in Experimental Psychology and Criminology & Criminal Justice

About Me: A native of Dillon, South Carolina, I’m a proud Carolina Scholar and South Carolina Honors College alumna. I was a student worker with National Fellowships and Scholar Programs for a year and a half and stayed on after graduation to support NFSP and the Honors College as a national fellowships and academic advisor. Outside of work, I love going on random adventures with my husband, Allen, cuddling with our two cats, Dex and Jinx, adding to my ever-growing library (recommendations welcome!), and searching for the best burger in Columbia.

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Horseshoe on a foggy fall morning – I’m convinced there’s no more peaceful or beautiful place in the world!

Length of Time at USC: I came here as an undergrad in August 2015 and never left!

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: The best part about being a Gamecock is being part of such a passionate community. Passionate about social justice, political issues, research, success in all its various forms, sports, and, most importantly, fellow Gamecocks. I love that everyone’s interests are celebrated and nurtured at UofSC and I’m honored to experience and contribute to our incredible Gamecock family every day.

Eden Prime

Eden Prime

Communications Specialist

Education/Major(s): BA in Philosophy from Palm Beach Atlantic University

About Me: I'm a Columbia native, recently returned home! During my undergraduate studies, I was the student body VP, a writing coach and worked in Development and Community Services. My favorite job during undergrad was leading the editing team of the Living Waters review. In my free time I enjoy cooking, watercolor painting, reading and watching anything Sci-Fi. As a higher education professional, I cherish the opportunity to help students achieve their creative and academic goals so that they can advance their fullest self.

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Horseshoe, of course!

Length of Time at USC: Since January 2021

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Memories of going to McKissick Museum festivals on the Horseshoe as a kid.


Headshot of Kara Brown

Kara Brown

Administrative Assistant

Education/Major(s): University of South Carolina, BA in German and Anthropology

About Me: I'm originally from Georgia and was a transfer student to UofSC where I completed my the last two years of my undergraduate degree in 2015. School work, playing in the Carolina Band, and working night shifts at the Marble Slab that was located in Russell House took up most of my time. After graduation, I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Germany and I returned to Columbia to start "real life." When I'm not at work, I spend my time taking kickboxing and jiu-jitsu classes, hiking, gardening, baking, crocheting, trying new coffee places, and unsuccessfully attempting to snuggle with my cat, Cletus. 

Favorite Spot On Campus: I love any place on campus where there are nice plants to look at, particularly Japanese maple trees!

Length of Time at USC: Since September 2018

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I'm not sure that I could pinpoint one moment but any time playing with the Carolina Band in Williams-Brice is hard to beat. The atmosphere and sense of community are what makes being a Gamecock great, both in and out of the stadium!



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