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College of Education

  • Gracie Vess in Venice, Italy

Shaping Tomorrow

Gracie Vess’ eyes light up at the mere mention of history. The South Carolina Honors College senior and history major doesn’t dream of chronicling the past. Instead, she hopes to shape the future by becoming a high school history teacher.

Vess found her home in the University of South Carolina history department thanks to a scholarship opportunity.

“I have a passion for education especially since my mom is a teacher,” says Vess. "This scholarship has given me this amazing opportunity to graduate mostly debt-free, allowing me to do what I really, really love.”

It is not just a career goal, but a pursuit to nurture the minds of the next generation. The Forest City, North Carolina, native dreams of inspiring students to see history as a living narrative that connects them to the larger human experience.

“I want every student to realize their significance in shaping history," says Vess. “I want to teach my students that history is crafted by the collective actions of many people, which is why being an active citizen is so important.”

As Vess approaches graduation in May, she credits the prestigious McNair scholarship for enabling her to pursue her dreams. Reserved for top out-of-state students admitted to the Honors College, this scholarship is a testament to her academic excellence and determination.

“It's so important to help give back to students if you want the world to be a better place,” says Vess. “Students who want to work in public service realistically need some kind of way to get a head start.”

The McNair Foundation scholarship not only supports students' tuition but also fuels exciting academic adventures outside the traditional classroom setting. From a Maymester in Venice, Italy, to an enlightening course in Washington, D.C., Vess' horizons have expanded, allowing her to explore a world beyond the Carolinas.

“We studied how history and the identity of our nation are portrayed through monuments and museums in D.C.,” says Vess. “All of these amazing things that I've done at USC, I wouldn't have been able to do without my scholarship.”  

Vess is taking a proactive approach by graduating a year ahead of schedule to dive into the one-year Master of Teaching program in social studies secondary education. Despite a demanding course schedule, she's found time to give back to the university as the vice president and treasurer of Phi Alpha Theta, the esteemed Historical Honor Society and as an active member Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship on campus.

Vess believes that history is not a distant memory but a vibrant subject for new intellectual exploration. She wants her classroom to be the stage where historical tales come alive for each student.

During a practicum at Dutch Fork High School, Vess led a spirited debate on Enlightenment ideals, encouraging students to express their opinions freely. Her innovative approach caught the attention of her practicum mentor, who shared Vess' lesson plans with the entire high school history department.

“I made sure to say that this is a space where we respect each other even if you disagree, and the kids loved being able to express their opinions on these ideas that are still relevant today,” says Vess. “The students loved it because they feel like their voice matters, and I plan to incorporate activities like that in my own classroom.”

Learn more about giving at the University of South Carolina and how you can support the success of USC students during Give 4 Garnet

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