President's message for the start of the fall semester

August 21, 2018

Welcome back Gamecock students!

For freshmen, transfer and visiting students, welcome to your new home away from home. I am sincerely pleased that you have given us your confidence and, please know, I have every confidence in you.

Patricia and I are often asked how we feel about all of you returning...about the loss of quieter times, longer lines at checkout counters, and especially the greater difficulty in finding parking around town. That's actually easy to answer; we find the first weeks of the semester to be, easily, our favorite time of year. You are the reason why, and I surely hope you will stop me for a high-five, selfie or conversation any time we see each other.


I want our university to stimulate your greatness.


If you are a freshman at Carolina, this summer you were lucky to have been asked to read a book called "A More Beautiful Question." I loved it because I'm always looking for ways to spark creativity, imagination and innovation in my leadership team, and in our students. The author, Warren Berger, suggests that the road to innovation and personal improvement is to become a good questioner. I like that because it's simple and it's something that younger persons tend to excel at. "Why is the sky blue...why this and why that?" young children ask incessantly. Yet, as they advance in school, they tend to ask fewer and fewer questions. I think that's because teachers tend to reward those who answer more than those who question. Eventually, the mind is shaped in a way that improves our ability to perform on exams rather than to develop our curiosity.

Some of the greatest inventions and discoveries were developed by curious, questioning people —  from Leonardo da Vinci to Grace Hopper to Steve Jobs. I know, I know...Steve Jobs dropped out of college, so it can't be college that stimulated his greatness. But I want our university to stimulate your greatness. Seriously, I care less about the grades you get than about the mind you develop.

So here are a few suggestions about how to succeed at developing your full potential: prepare the night before a class to ask a pertinent question the next day; think critically about the news or stories you see pop up on your screen — question them and form your own opinions; participate in the contest this semester which uses the framework of your summer reading to generate a question and proposal about USC or the college experience; and my favorite...make time for daydreaming. That's right, daydreaming. I don't know why society tends to disparage it, because I find it to be a particularly good way to explore some deeper thoughts or to connect with ideas that may not have seemed to matter at a different time.

I hope this advice helps you as you begin class this semester. Once again, welcome back to what I believe will be a fun and important year in your life. It will also be fun for me and another important year in the life of our university...and you are an essential part of it. Oh, one more daydreaming in class!

Harris Pastides