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College of Engineering and Computing

  • Group photo of summer start students

First-Generation students thrive in CEC’s first Summer Start Scholars Program

The College of Engineering and Computing is proud to announce that 20 students in the inaugural First-Generation Scholars cohort successfully completed the CEC’s Summer Start Program.

The three-week immersive undergraduate experience allowed students to get familiar with campus, take a three-credit-hour Industrial Design course, and meet their new classmates and advisors before the start of their freshman year.

Thanks to generous donations from CEC alumni, Lewis Caswell and Barbara Rusinko, Boeing Co. and Dominion Energy, students did not pay for the program and were each awarded a $1,000 annual scholarship.

“Those first steps onto the University of South Carolina campus can be a daunting task for any incoming freshman,” said Jed Lyons, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the CEC. “From navigating difficult classes to learning about time management and resources, we wanted our first-generation students to be well-prepared for the fall semester and beyond.”

The scholarship and program, which were a priority for Dean Hossein Haj-Hariri since he arrived at the CEC in 2016, are aimed at increasing the retention and graduation rates of the growing first-generation population in the CEC.

“Twenty percent of the students in our college identify as first-generation,” said Haj-Hariri. “It is now more important than ever to support some of our most diverse and deserving students.”

The cohort represented several cities across South Carolina, almost all CEC majors and included six women. During the program, students also were matched with a CEC peer mentor and had time to talk with successful first-generation alumni from the college.

“Knowing that I have this group of people that I can lean on for support in the coming years has helped me become even more confident in my capabilities,” said Emily Fisher, a chemical engineering student. “Without this program, I am not sure if I would have stuck with college. But after this, I know that I have a group of people I can depend on for support and encouragement.”

With fall classes set to begin in mid-August, several members of the cohort expressed their gratitude for the life-changing opportunity.

“I want to thank all of the donors for contributing to this great program, and I hope others will consider contributing to next year’s program as well,” said Matthew Paraday, an aerospace engineering student. “It is an experience that students can’t get anywhere else.”

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