Imagine Carolina Update

January 18, 2023

Dear Gamecock Community,

As we begin our Spring semester I want to share with you a follow-up report on the undergraduate student retreat, Imagine Carolina, we held last September to learn what is important to you as students. 

Feedback from the nearly 200 students at the retreat was tremendous and gave us insights in several key areas, including: academics and the classroom experience; student life and the extracurricular experience; career and post-graduate readiness; and campus climate. You can read the executive summary [pdf] of the event for more details. 

Based on your input, we are focusing on five areas:

Mental health and wellness: We will direct an additional $1 million to support mental health and wellness. Our commitment to student health and well-being includes strengthening and expanding access to the university’s comprehensive suite of services. These new funds will increase access to 24/7 mental health services and add staff members to the interpersonal violence and ombuds offices, Student Disability Resource Center and the Student Outreach and Care Team, which together create a coordinated network of support for students.

On-campus parking: We want to ensure access to on-campus classes and services. While adequate student parking is currently available on campus, we recognize it is not always conveniently located. We are working to provide additional parking near the center of campus and to increase transportation options for the Fall 2023 semester. Still, we have an urban campus, and there will never be enough proximal parking spaces for everyone all at once. I encourage you to plan ahead and take advantage of other options. Use our remote parking and transportation opportunities. Walk between destinations when you can, or use the free shuttle buses available to you as students.

Wi-Fi connectivity: Critical technology infrastructure upgrades are ongoing. Classroom, living space and Wi-Fi upgrades will improve wireless connectivity and technological infrastructure across key areas of campus. We are investing $3 million in classroom equipment upgrades and $6.5 million in wireless network upgrades to enhance connectivity across campus. New equipment will support classroom teaching and learning, and wireless network upgrades will accommodate higher bandwidth and increased wireless capacity. This work is expected to be completed this summer.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Because every member of the Gamecock community should feel respected and welcomed, diversity, equity and inclusion are core values in everything we do. To reinforce this, we are introducing several new initiatives. The Office of the Provost is establishing a Graduation and Retention Council to identify and remove the barriers that prevent on-time degree completion by our undergraduate students. The Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee will become the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; this council works toward ensuring the Columbia campus is a welcoming community for all students, faculty, staff and visitors. Our new Bridge to Faculty program aims to recruit and retain underrepresented early-career scholars, support their transition to tenure-track positions, and diversify our faculty.

Academic advising: While the university has made significant strides in academic advising in recent years, there is more work to do. In 2015, we established the University Advising Center (UAC) to improve first-year advising; upper-class advising has differed from college to college. Over the next two years, the Office of the Provost will transition undergraduate academic advising to a four-year, comprehensive advising model. The UAC will partner with colleges to begin the transition this summer and continue implementation in stages to ensure all students receive an excellent and equitable advising experience [pdf]. We will hire additional full-time professional academic advisors, support advisor training and development, and implement technology to support advising.

As you can see, a lot has happened in the months since Imagine Carolina! There is still much to do. I will continue to ask our students, “How are we doing?” and update you regularly on our progress. Thank you for your role in creating a better Carolina experience for all.

Michael Amiridis