Trey Gordner, a 2013 graduate of UofSC, has started his own company, earned his master’s in urban planning and now lives in Hawaii with his wife working as a fellow for a fellowship that is the first of its kind.
His path to government is interesting, having graduated as an international business and management major. It wasn't until he started working closely with libraries through the company he created that he realized his love for helping communities. The only thing he regrets is not discovering his passion sooner.
"My life would have been so different if someone on campus had come and put their hand on my shoulder and said, you know, Trey, you're really not a typical business person," Gordner said. "There are other ways to make a difference. Why don't I introduce you to all of these people who are in public service?"
Gordner is beginning his career in government as a U.S. Digital Corps Fellow for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program was launched last year as a way to recruit early-career technologists and develop their skills in areas such as software engineering, product management and cybersecurity.
The fellowship has given Gordner an inside view of how the government works and given him impactful mentorship opportunities. He said the community of fellows reminds him of his time at UofSC as a McNair Scholar.
"There are echoes of that program in what I'm doing now. Because there are 38 of us in the first cohort of this fellowship program: there are recent graduates of undergrad, graduate, Ph.D. programs coming from all over," Gordner said. "So it has that same feel of smart people with eclectic interests, getting together and becoming friends."
Gordner said he fondly remembers days spent with his scholar friends and that their support helped him get where he is today.
"A lot of those people at the time were very mission-oriented—many of them with public focus," Gordner said. "It was an inspiring group to be part of. And I think that feeling of camaraderie with bright, inspiring people, more than anything, guided me in the direction that I'm still following."
UofSC’s Top Scholar program showed Gordner the importance of recruitment and talent development, but it also taught him how to tell a story. It allowed him to showcase how his path from student government to creating his own business made him a perfect fit for a competitive fellowship.
"All of those steps are meaningful; none of those things are a waste of time. It's about learning. Learning more about yourself, what you're interested in, where the best place is for you. And that is not a process that ends with picking your major. It's not a process that ends with graduation," Gordner said.
Though he wishes he could have discovered his love for government earlier, Gordner is happy with his path to the U.S. Digital Corps and encourages other students not to feel restricted by what they think their plan is.
He hopes to be a tap on the shoulder for other students.
"You don’t need to know what you want to do with your life the moment you set foot on campus. You certainly don't need to know before you graduate. You have to have a good eye for what inspires you. You just have to have a plausible idea and a path to find out if it's the right thing for you or not," Gordner said.
Interested students are encouraged to learn more about the U.S. Digital Corps. The university's National Fellowships and Scholar Programs office is available to provide support for any current students or alumni applying for these awards.
About the Author
Sydney Dunlap is a sophomore in the South Carolina Honors College majoring in journalism. Originally from Greenville, S.C., she plans to pursue a career that combines her passion for writing and photography.