After reading the nomination, please select one person below for this recognition. The Professor of the Year 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.
Dr. Robert Brinkmeyer
Dr. Brinkmeyer is the best professor I've had while at the University of South Carolina. The first day of class he asked us if we would be okay with him printing out the class roster to distribute to everyone. We all consented, and the next class he gave each of us the roster and told us that we were to address our classmates by their name in all class discussions. There would be no referring to anyone by a pronoun, such as "she said." We had to use their name. It seemed trivial in the moment, but Dr. Brinkmeyer's philosophy left a lasting impact on me. I learned the importance of getting to know those around me, even if it is just someone that I see for one class. Thanks to Dr. Brinkmeyer's request, I met one of my closest friends in the class, and she has been instrumental in helping me attain my postgraduate goals. While the content of the class was incredibly interesting and well taught, Dr. Brinkmeyer's influence on my college career extends far beyond just one semester but is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Joel Collins, JD
Professor Collins was by far one of the best professors I have ever had. He expected a lot, however, was always willing to give the shirt off his back if students were struggling. Furthermore, his lectures always engaged the students. I personally believe everyone was so interested due to his skill of integrating real life examples into his lecture topics. We were learning more than just the words written on the constitution, we were learning how it has lived and is still living in society today. Due to this, I believe Professor Collins should run-away with this award.
Dr. Meredith DeBoom
Human rights is a very complex topic to talk about, let alone teach about, and Dr. DeBoom was able to use her expertise to make everything engaging and understandable. She was able to break down difficult theoretical readings and intricate global issues into terms that we could all understand, even if we didn't have any background in the material. She always promoted discussion and encouraged her students to challenge themselves inside and outside of the classroom. She constantly checked in with everyone about their mental health throughout the semester, and she was in constant dialogue with her students to make sure the workload was manageable and suitable for our learning preferences. As the semester progressed, she adapted the lectures and discussion topics to make sure the course covered specific issues of human rights that were interesting to her students and applicable to our future career/educational goals. Dr. DeBoom made the classroom a safe space where everybody was free to express themselves and share their thoughts without fear of judgment or criticism, and she was one of the main reasons why this was my favorite course I've taken so far in my three years at USC.
Dr. Gregory Forter
Dr. Forter is an incredibly intelligent professor, and he is always so interested and genuinely fascinated by his student's ideas. Throughout the very difficult online semester of Fall 2020, Dr. Forter always emphasized the importance of mental health and fostered a loving and enjoyable community on Zoom. I could listen to him talk about literature and theory for hours, and his teaching style never made you feel inferior or inadequate to his level of knowledge. Dr. Forter made all students feel welcome in SCHC 450, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Dr. Michael Gavin
He is very versed in communicating difficult philosophical subjects in very relevant ways. Dr. Gavin is also a strong communicator, being a tutor of mine throughout my years of research with the Honors College. He also juggles being the Director of First-Year English with capable and laudable work on the Internet Encyclopedia of Ethnolinguistic Conflict project as well as teaching classes at the University, and I feel as if he is one of the hardest working professors that I have had the pleasure of knowing. I have taken multiple classes with him and he is my Second Reader, and I have found myself making marked improvements in my research and my writing capabilities under his tutelage. I feel like he has made a marked impact on the non-STEM students in the Honors College as well, with the project he undertakes with Dr. Stanley Dubinsky being a vital source of research for Honors students who are not STEM majors.
Dr. Kent Germany
Dr. Germany facilitated deeply thought-provoking conversation in his course History Outside. He led the class in exploratory conversation of the South and its complicated history while also discussing the landscape's role in literature. We read several books about southern experiences and these books facilitated probing conversations about racism and poverty not only in the south but also across the United States. Dr. Germany also required us to write several narratives, including creating a podcast as our final project. I found that this class and Dr. Germany's guidance really pushed me to better my writing and storytelling skills and that I enjoyed writing, so much so that I now write more frequently on my own time. Dr. Germany is an excellent facilitator of conversation and deeply cares about pushing his students to write well and help them see the world around them differently.
Dr. Seulghee Lee
Dr. Lee is an excellent professor all around. He is exceptionally knowledgeable, passionate about the class's subject, and supportive of his students; both encouraging our intellectual growth but also being there for us emotionally, often checking in on us at the beginning of class. Even though his class was taught virtually, Professor Lee still was able to develop a sense of community, which is no small feat during this peculiar time of isolation. After the March shooting in Atlanta, he made it a point to reach out to us, letting his students know he wishes to support us if we need it, which meant a lot. This past year has been a tumultuous time for both Black and Asian students, and his quality instruction combined with his good humor was helpful in guiding us through these troubling times. Personally, his subject and unique commentary has inspired me to think more deeply about racial solidarity and future healing and has helped me figure out my relationship to my own identity as an Asian American.
Dr. Courtney Lewis
I took a class with Dr. Lewis this semester and I loved every minute of the class. She is a brilliant speaker, a kind soul, and very passionate about her work and her ideals. She is a person who commands respect without trying, and I always enjoy attending her class for her cheerful nature, intellectual comments, and student-driven discussions. You can feel her authenticity in each class we have. She consistently brags on the class, always telling us how well we do and how much we can accomplish. I genuinely feel that this class boosts the morale of every student each time we meet. It feels like greeting an old friend, and the camaraderie and respect and open discussion that has occurred within and outside of the classroom is made possible through her excellent teaching style and commitment to my classmates and me. Also, she is hilarious! I really recommend her to receive this award.
Dr. William Mustain
Dr. Mustain is an incredible professor, and I'm so grateful that he taught honors chemical engineering courses. He does a great job of explaining concepts thoroughly in class and offering office hours to help with homework. He is one of the few professors who I felt was truly invested in each student to succeed. Especially during the beginning of COVID-19, he seamlessly transitioned into teaching virtually. Kinetics is a very important subject for chemical engineers, so I was worried about not being able to learn the material due the sudden changes in the world. But, Dr. Mustain was still able to create a great learning environment. Of all my chemical engineering honors professors, he's definitely one of the best professors I've had. He's also approachable and someone I've gone to for career advice. I think Dr. Mustain should be considered for this award because of his dedication to teaching!
Dr. Josef Olmert
I am nominating Dr. Olmert for this award because not only is he an expert on the material he teaches, but because he genuinely cares about and advocates for his students. Dr. Olmert's personal anecdotes and experiences make the material he teaches easy to understand. I never thought lectures and dictation could be entertaining until I had him as a professor. He also utilizes simulations and class discussions to help his students practice diplomacy and gain invaluable foreign service skills. Dr. Olmert remembers his students' career aspirations and will ask them every class what they are doing to work towards and achieve those goals. Dr. Olmert is one of my biggest advocates and supporters at this university. He wrote me letters of recommendation for graduate school and offered to reach out to people personally on behalf of my application and me. Last year I discovered a family member of mine had been diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Olmert always spoke to me every week after that to see how I was doing as well as my family. Whenever I email him about something now, he still asks how that family member of mine is. Not only is he is an excellent teacher but he is a compassionate person. Having a professor like Dr. Olmert has made UofSC Honors College experience irreplaceable. He will have a lasting impact on my life and future endeavors.
Dr. Jason Osborne
Dr. Osborne is one of the only professors whose courses I have actively sought to take, and I have taken two. I have always enjoyed history, but Dr. Osborne's classes are not just about History, they are just as much about the reflections of History on the present day. I enjoyed the first class which I took from him so thoroughly that I took his class on Barbarian Kingdoms, despite knowing next to nothing about the subject matter, purely because I knew that a class taught by him would be a rewarding experience. He encourages his students to explore and discuss ideas within the subject matter and relate them to modern life. Dr. Osborne is not afraid to prod at a student's opinions in his class and push them to their limits. He can put almost any discussion into a historical context and make you challenge your own beliefs without directly challenging them himself. In doing this, he encourages his students to grow as human beings, to evolve their opinions, and be as intellectual as they can be. His classes have been a treat and I only regret not being able to take more of them.
Dr. Vitaly Rassolov
Prof. Rassolov has gone above and beyond for his and other chemistry students both before and during the COVID19 pandemic. He takes time to support students, like me, in other sections of CHEM541 who need a different explanation of the material than the other course professor provides. In CHEM643/749, he has worked well to balance the very different levels of the class. As a secondary research advisor to my SURF and thesis projects, he has always spent the time to not only correct an inaccurate observation but explain the reasons for it. He also focuses on this in his instruction, time permitting. Lastly, he works to enrich the background of both myself and the other honors student in our research group so we can go above and beyond the general physical chemistry coursework preparing us for our PhD programs in theoretical chemistry.
Carla Swygert, MA
Professor Swygert teaches an amazing course for Spanish in the health care profession. She goes above and beyond to make sure Honors students have immersive opportunities, and even with the pandemic she went out of her way to make this a realistic and practical course. She assigns no busy work in her classes, every assignment is applicable to our future careers. Additionally, she is there for her students in whatever way is needed. She always reached out to make sure we were okay and was very accommodating if conflicts came up in the schedule or we needed more time as a class to prepare for a test or assignment. This was undoubtedly my favorite class at USC and I do not think it could ever be the same without Professor Swygert and her dedication to her students.
Dr. Scott Trafton
Dr. Trafton is an inspiring professor who encourages students to look below the text's surface when exploring literature. In his course, we learned about literature through the lens of African American authors, writers, poets, and actors. Even though many of the class topics were difficult to discuss openly, he never shied away from showing us the truth and shocking realities of life for an African American in the arts from the 1830s to the present day. He even provided relevant real-world examples of how African Americans' struggles in literature are still relevant to many things today. Dr. Trafton always created a space where we were comfortable expressing our own views but also remained deeply respectful of each other's experiences. Dr. Tafton did a great job of not only exposing us to amazing authors like Toni Morrison and Toi Derricotte, but also providing us with an appreciation for the African American journey in literature as well.