President's pre-graduation message to students

April 20, 2018

Dear Carolina Students,

A couple of months ago it seemed like the end of the semester was so far away and now, in a blink of an eye, you may well be needing just a little more time to get everything done. "Where has the time gone?" is something I hear from students all the time.

For seniors and for graduate students ready to receive your degrees, I can only imagine the mixed emotions you are experiencing. I wish I could guarantee you that the next stage of your life will be even better, because I hope that it is. Some of you are going to work, others to advanced study, and still others to a transitional period where you will discern your next moves. Of course, you will miss your friends; they were an important antidote to occasional loneliness, and they likely provided support to you when college became stressful and demanding.

Let me mention something that may be far from your minds right now, as it should be. It's that making and keeping friends in life beyond college is sometimes difficult and will require effort from you. In college, it seems like friends just the dorm, in class, in a club meeting, but in the "real world" it isn't that easy.

In a great book from a few years ago, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam describes the decline in participation in social and civic life in America over recent decades. He describes the phenomenon of social isolation, something that you rarely experience in college. He describes neighborhoods where residents often don't know each other and workplaces where colleagues rarely see each other outside of work. I recommend that you try to engage with new acquaintances right from the start, perhaps by showing interest in things beyond work.

Casual interactions, brown-bag lunches and water cooler conversation about your weekend or a good movie you saw can matter a lot. Your work colleagues don't have to become your best friends but they can soften the risk of loneliness, especially if you relocate to a new city.

One more thing for those preparing to start your career. Let your supervisor know that you are a valuable asset. Be interested and engaged in strategic planning beyond the scope of your job description. Learn as much as you can about your new organization and offer suggestions from your point of view. You may be a solo voice representing that perspective. Be curious and be interested, and let it be known that you are. I love having engaged and curious employees and co-workers around the office, including our interns Hunter, Hannah, Kacey and Cole. Curiosity is a key ingredient to workplace success, to making friends and to enjoying work.

Finally, seniors, I don't want to make the next few weeks any harder than they already are, but I want you to know that I will genuinely miss you. Even if we haven't met, I count you among those who have contributed to the positive atmosphere and culture of our university. You are the reason I love my job. You and your fellow graduates have been my "curious colleagues" and while life may never be the same, at least I'll have a new group of freshman to meet and get to know, just like you will have new colleagues. Let's both look forward to that.

So, please stay focused and work hard through the end of the semester. For those of you taking summer courses or returning in the fall, I hope to see you soon. For those moving on, I'll see you at graduation. And remember that Homecoming Weekend next fall is October 25-27. I also hope to see you then and hear about your exciting new world beyond college, and about your new friends.


 Harris Pastides

USC graduation cap