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College of Information and Communications

  • Riley Lankes

Student Spotlight: Riley Lankes

Pronouns: He/they

Major: International Studies (College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Political Science)

Minor: Informatics

Class: 2022

In ten words or less how would you describe yourself?
I’m endlessly curious, a little stubborn, and a true optimist.

Do you have a hobby? 
Cooking! I grew up cooking with my parents … and by cooking, I mean they’d occasionally let me stir something. As I got older, I realized how happy cooking made me, so I learned as much as I could about it. If I’m entirely honest, there was a time that I considered going to culinary school instead of a traditional college. These days it’s my favorite hobby. I cook for myself and my partner every day and I love trying a new recipe for the first time. Even if I do occasionally burn the hell out of something.

Why did you select this major and minor and what are your academic plans once you graduate?
I’m an international studies major, and after my freshman year I realized that my degree was lacking something. I had all this theory knowledge, but no real way to put it into practice. I picked up my informatics minor initially for the coding and data science, but soon discovered that there was much, much more it could offer me. International relations and information science meet in finding ways to combat misinformation and disinformation, which are only becoming a more important issues to tackle. Heading to graduate school, and ultimately a career in diplomacy, I get the sense that this combination of skills is going to be in high demand.

Who inspires you?
My mom. She’s the one who taught me to love learning and cooking. More than just that, she’s far and away the most compassionate person I know. Particularly going into the world of politics and diplomacy, my mother inspires me to have compassion for anyone and everyone.

Share awards and accolades that you have received (if applicable) over your tenure as a college student.
I’m a part of the South Carolina Honors College, as well as a recipient of two SCHC research grants for my work on studying foreign aid. I’ve been a LLS Light the Night “Bright Light” fundraiser for three years in a row, for personally raising over $1000 each year to fund blood cancer research and support families of those battling blood cancers. I was a member of the Fall 2021 cohort of SC Washington Semester Program, through which I had the opportunity to work for the United Nations Information Center in DC for a semester.

Who is your favorite professor so far and why?
It’s so difficult to choose just one! From my SLIS classes specifically, I’d like to highlight Dr. Vanessa Kitzie. I’ve had the opportunity to take Social Informatics and Communication & Information Transfer with her, both of which were amazing courses. Her style of teaching really values discussion over just lecture, and her use of real-life examples to communicate difficult theoretical concepts really stands out. Above all else Dr. Kitzie shows all of her student’s respect; she treats her students as her equals, and is extraordinarily understanding of the challenges of life as a college student.

What inspired you to attend U of SC?
The big draw for me was the South Carolina Honors College, which ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made. Honors gave me the freedom to explore a bunch of subjects through honors classes, one of which first exposed me to how information science could work with my international studies major. From there, the support and guidance I got from both my honors advisor and faculty in the iSchool inspired me to add an informatics minor to my degree. All of that — and the university gave me free cookies when I first came to visit! 

What would you say to high school student(s) or current college peer to encourage them to major in information science?
Whatever you want to do, information science will help you. Seriously, I have yet to find a professional field or subject area that you can’t use knowledge information science in. Want to work in health care? Understanding data science could land you a job in public health research. Want to go into politics? Social informatics will change the way you see how people form their political views, and how they vote. No matter what you choose to study in college, having a second major or a minor in information science is going to make you a more well rounded student — and a standout job candidate one day.

What is your favorite motto?
“…anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”- Douglas Adams, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.