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My Honors College

SCHC Professor of the Year Award

The SCHC Professor of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has taught a class in the South Carolina Honors College, facilitated conversation amongst Honors students in the class and has influenced the lives and careers of Honors students. 

2023 Professor of the Year Nominees

Dr. Bert Ely

Dr. Ely teaches his honors genetics course in a unique way that highlights his commitment to the Honors College's methods of teaching. Every class began with a student presentation of a scientific paper on genetics from the last calendar year. From this presentation, Dr. Ely is able to facilitate discussion while teaching the genetics topics most important to our understanding of the paper. The class discusses the goal of the research, the methods used, other possible approaches to the research, and how the paper fits into the rapidly changing field of genetics. Dr. Ely has such mastery of his field that he works without lesson plans, he is able to pick the most important topics from a presentation and teach content and facilitate discussion accordingly. This creates the most collaborative, discussion-based environment that I have experienced in an upper level science course. After four years, I can confidently say that I learned more in this class than any other class I have taken. I gained a deep understanding of the material that is nearly impossible to attain after only a semester of study, and even three years later all of it remains with me. Beyond his incredible class, Dr. Ely has served as a mentor for countless Honors College students, including myself. He allows many Honors students the opportunity to work in his lab, and the three years I have spent conducting research in his lab has been the most impactful part of my college experience.  

Dr. Michael Gavin 

As a senior, I can confidently say Professor Gavin is the best professor I have had while attending USC. His class is not only entertaining and made fun, but also teaches us valuable information and life lessons. This is a class I will carry with me into my future, and Professor Gavin is a professor I will not easily forget. He deserves recognition for his educational abilities and is the only professor who should be given this award. 

Professor Gavin truly cares about his students and makes classes like British literature not only bearable but enjoyable. He is willing to help with anything and has made the classroom such a safe and nurturing place. I cannot rave enough! 

Dr. Gavin is the best professor I’ve had at USC, and SCHC 351 is the best class I’ve taken. He’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about both the works that we read and our thoughts about the books. It’s clear he cares about us as students and as individuals. I feel valued and challenged in the class in a way that is so incredible and means so much to me.  

Dr. Michelle Hardee 

Dr. Hardee leads an incredible course with great passion, investing in her students (and our global community) while building critical thinking skills among diverse groups. I felt so fortunate to take her course in my first semester of freshman year because she set such a high standard for the honors experience. She was always positive and inclusive, offered so many opportunities for further inquiry, and allowed each of us to adapt the class to our learning styles and fields of study to leave our time together with meaningful takeaways. Four years later, I still think of the principles I learned in her class nearly every day. 

Dr. Andrea Henderson-Platt 

She made me proud to be a first-generation college student (which is something I struggled with prior to taking her course). She also met with me to discuss the field of academia as I pursued graduate school, since I had no prior knowledge. She truly cares about her students and pushes them to succeed in her classroom. 

Dr. Brett Kloos 

Dr. Kloos led our group discussions on a meaningful topic amidst a crucial semester as we returned from COVID and virtual classes. I made connections - both socially and conceptually - during our time together that far exceed any other class I have taken at USC. As a diverse set of students, we were highly invested in and challenged by one another to further our impact creatively because of his encouragement. His research & methods for building class culture leads to real change in our campus and city community. I believe he embodies what it means for learning to humanize character without permitting it to be cruel. 

Dr. Jason Osborne 

Dr. Osborne has been a tremendous influence on my time here in the Honors College. Not only is he my thesis director, who was so helpful with the entire process, always pushing me to be the best possible version of myself, but he also is my mentor. When I decided to go to grad school for classics instead of law school, Dr. Osborne helped me figure out what I needed to do to be best prepared to apply. Thanks to his guidance, I was able to become skilled enough in the ancient languages in a short period of time to receive a full funding package from my top choice of graduate programs. His mentorship has changed me for the better, and he helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life after college. On top of this, he has always encouraged spirited discussion in the classroom, and is never too busy to talk with a student on topics of interest to them, even if he personally doesn't find the topic that interesting. He is able to make you think about issues you've never fully considered before in a new light. I have the utmost amount of respect for Dr. Osborne, and he is my role model when it comes to teaching. I hope to be half the teacher he is someday. 

Dr. Yan Tong 

I first met Dr. Tong when she became my research advisor due to another professor going on leave. During the spring of 2022, I met with her weekly for research 498, saw her twice weekly for class and went to office hours. Her research acumen is well documented -- you can see that on her faculty website. I believe she should be considered for Professor of the Year because of the level of care and dedication to her students she shows every day. She pushed me in research, asking me to present slides every week, and challenging me to know details about image processing that some professors would deem too intense for undergraduates. Through the project, she always balanced high expectations with care and concern for me individually. I recently presented in an interview at a national lab, and at an NIH/SC conference -- both presentations were praised, and I attribute this to the improvements she helped me make on my presentation skills, specifically explaining technical details. In CSCE 350, she managed 25 honors CS students, and created more homework and projects than I've ever had in a class. Without a TA, she dedicated herself to providing individual feedback to push us to be future computer scientists and software developers. She allowed us to discuss collectively, which is hard to do well in a CS class. She continues to mentor Honors students through research (many came from that 350 class) and the NASA SC Space Grant Program, showing her dedication to the SCHC. 

Dr. Wendy Valerio 

During the Fall of 2022, Dr. Wendy Valerio masterfully brought together SCHC students, music majors, and non-music education majors to create something beautiful in “Music for Young Children.” Under Dr. Valerio’s guidance, we musically impacted students’ lives at different academic institutes in downtown Columbia (Bright Horizons at USC and St. Peter’s Catholic School). Dr. Valerio built up the confidence of students who had virtually no experience teaching music so that they felt prepared whenever they finally worked with students in an educational setting, and she created meaningful dialogue for students to make meaningful connections between pedagogical approaches to elementary music and pedagogical approaches to middle and high school instrumental ensembles (band and orchestra). For the final project in this class, Dr. Valerio and her graduate assistants guided us in forming a rock band that would perform pop song covers at St. Peter’s Catholic School. We had about eight class meetings for all of us to learn how to play the different instruments (guitar, bass guitar, drumset, etc.) and to create and rehearse our 45-minute setlist. The end result was a beautiful display of creativity, camaraderie, and collaboration that inspired the students at St. Peter’s to embrace the process of music-making. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.