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College of Arts and Sciences

  • Mary Baskin Waters

Alumni Spotlight: Mary Baskin Waters

B.A. Art Studio
Guiding Students to Lifelong Service

There are many positive outcomes from Dr. Mary Baskin Waters’ (1985 BA, art studio) service-learning class that could be described in terms of the benefits to community organizations and their clients. Dr. Waters is most proud, though, of the growth evidenced in her students. “It’s very moving to see them comprehend the essence of the service-learning program,” Dr. Waters says of her students, “because of their greater awareness of the issues and needs in the community. By semester’s end, they have gotten it. That’s education.”

 The early seed for her service-learning class began when she participated in the first Moore School of Business Globalization and Human Rights English Language Immersion Camp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, in 2004. She taught an International Service Learning course at USC to prepare students to travel to Cluj-Napoca in 2007. Dr. Waters researched best practices to create the service-learning class and since that time has continued to perfect the course with input from students and the organizations they serve.

For the Women in Society: A Service Learning Approach course, students spend many hours preparing, then volunteering in local organizations that serve victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, medically underserved individuals, homeless and incarcerated youth. Their coursework includes individual assignments and a collaborative team project to achieve a larger goal for a selected organization. Students in Dr. Waters’ Fall 2012 class, for example, participated in a make-over project for Children’s Garden, a center that provides early childhood education for homeless and needy children and also provides resources for their parents.

“I don’t ask my students to do anything I wouldn’t do,” said Dr. Waters. “My career and my life reflect the service-learning approach.”

In fact, her community resume is extensive. She currently is a member of the Arts and Sciences Alumni Council and is past chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Partnership Council. Also, she serves or has served on boards including Vital Connections of The Midlands, The Free Medical Clinic, Women in Philanthropy and Girls Inc. Dr. Waters established the Dr. Mary Baskin Waters Enhancement Fund in 2007 for the College of Social Work and Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

In 2009, she funded a lectureship for women’s human rights, global issues and grant writing. The fund will support a lectureship that partners the Women’s and Gender Studies Program with the Walker Institute for International and area studies. Stemming from the lectureship fund is a graduate-level grant writing course designed to train students on how to seek funding for the improvement of women’s lives globally. Her efforts to improve the lives of South Carolina women may also be found in her former role as director of the South Carolina Commission on Women and her eight years’ serving as a commissioner.

Dr. Waters earned her MA in teaching and her Ph.D. in higher educational leadership and policies at the University of South Carolina and was in the first graduating class of the Women’s Studies Certificate Program at USC. She has been teaching at the University since 1985 and has also taught classes at Newberry College and USC Lancaster. She is the founder and CEO of Albion Research Associates, LLC, a grant writing and grants development firm, and is a certified grants reviewer and consultant.

In addition to the Women’s and Gender Studies service-learning course, Dr. Waters teaches a service-learning style, grant writing course in the Master of Public Administration Program, Department of Political Science.

As an educator, she earned four recognitions in 2011: Outstanding Service Learning Award (USC’s Office of Student Engagement), the Lee Davinroy Excellence in Teaching Award (A&S’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program), Professor of the Year (students of the Master of Public Administration Program) and the TWIN Award for Education (the Palmetto Center for Women). Dr. Waters previously received the Arts & Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award.

I've tried to take every opportunity that's been given to me, particularly at this University, see the value of it, and make the most of it.... That's what I try to convey to my students.

Dr. Waters encourages her students to translate their volunteerism into practical experience so they can add to their resumes. “They may only be 18, but the students can say ‘this is my experience’ and build on that,” says Dr. Waters. Even more, she wants to create a lifelong commitment in her students to serve the community. Then, like Dr. Waters, they can one day reflect on a life well done with satisfying experiences. “I’ve tried to take every opportunity that’s been given to me, particularly at this University, see the value of it, and make the most of it.... That’s what I try to convey to my students.”

She added, “When I look back on my life and career – I’m no different from anyone else – I want to have a sense of satisfaction that I connected with the challenge and helped find solutions.”


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