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South Carolina Honors College

Dean's Letter: Spring 2021

Acquisitions, large and small

The South Carolina Honors College has acquired many things the past decade. Continuous top rankings since 2012 comes to mind, but there are many other large and small acquisitions to celebrate. Many more remarkably talented students, for instance — our incoming classes have grown from 349 in 2011 to 584 in 2020. When our former associate dean Jim Stiver thought of referring to the Honors College as “Palmetto Ivy” many years ago, it seemed to me audacious, bordering on a bit hyperbolic. The students we are adding to our alumni, however, are quite competitive with students admitted to the Ivy League; indeed, we compete with Ivy League schools for students, and often enough we win.  

With our growth has come the need for more space for staff and students. We were very fortunate to acquire DeSaussure for our staff. An 1809 building on the Horseshoe, it is the second oldest on campus. National Fellowships and Scholar Programs moved into DeSaussure’s third floor and became part of the Honors College — a beautiful partnership, I think. For our students, we acquired a wing of 650 Lincoln, a wonderful new facility, creating an Honors community for 500 sophomores and juniors. This complements the 537 beds in the Honors Residence Hall, and 180 beds on the Horseshoe with priority to seniors. (I would be writing about a new wing for the HRH, adding about 130 more beds, but the pandemic postponed that project.)  

We have acquired even more honors courses, giving students the most expansive and enriching curriculum anywhere — with about 600 honors classes each year, averaging 16 to 18 students. In front of Harper, the 1848 building on the Horseshoe where most of our advising occurs, we acquired, with the help of an anonymous donor, a lovely little garden. Behind DeSaussure, a similar greenspace has been created. Many community-building events have been created — the Freshman Flotilla (incoming students enjoy a few hours on the Congaree River getting to know each other and Columbia; we’ll be expanding it to include transfer students with funding from another anonymous donor), the bedtime stories, the Gala (dancing has changed since my college days!), trivia contests, food truck rally and more. 

I could go on — I haven’t mentioned our new medallion, which students will receive at our graduation ceremony and wear at commencement — but let me focus on our newest acquisition. The Honors College now has a motto, “Sapere aude,” which is Latin for “Dare to know,” or “Dare to be wise,” or “Dare to seek the truth.” It’s a phrase used by the Roman poet Horace in his First Book of Letters (20 BC) and seems an appropriate guiding light for our college. We’ll put it on the back of our medallion and use it occasionally in talking about the Honors College. No doubt there will be a t-shirt. Help us think of ways to use our motto and let us know what you think.  

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