A journey that began with a whim and a fire drill has continued with an incredibly distinguished academic career and every challenge overcome.
Blair Snider will graduate from the University of South Carolina this May with honors, leadership distinction, an Academic Excellence Award, an Outstanding Senior Award, a degree in retailing and a legacy to be proud of.
Five semesters with a 4.0 GPA helped make her the only College of HRSM student to earn two honors at the university’s awards day this spring. Students who receive the university’s Outstanding Senior Award have demonstrated major achievement in the categories of service, leadership, academics and research. The Academic Excellence Award recognizes the most outstanding graduating senior in each of the college’s five degree programs. Snider won both.
"I was honestly so shocked. It just kind of hit me, 'Wow, I actually have done a lot in my four years,' she says. "It was a real sense of accomplishment having professors tell me they nominated me."
The road to excellence for Snider was not always easy. In her sophomore year, she battled an eating disorder.
"It affected me not just physically but mentally,” she says. She found support, from family, friends and faculty. She recovered and by her senior year was able to run a half marathon.
"I'm here now and I'm healthy and I'm totally okay,” she says, sharing the story of her most difficult challenge without hesitation. "I've had friends reach out who've been struggling with the same thing. I don't mind being open about it because if it helps someone else, that's all that matters."
Snider, a Virginia native, chose South Carolina after persuading her parents to detour and visit Columbia during a beach vacation when she was in high school.
"I kind of toured here on a whim," she says. "From the time I walked on campus I loved it and couldn't stop thinking about it."
On a later visit to campus, Snider found her major thanks to a fire drill. She and her parents met faculty members from the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management outside the Carolina Coliseum (then home to the college) while waiting for the drill to end, and heard about the program and the Academic Common Market which allows out of state students in certain majors to qualify for in-state tuition.
Snider found her home in the Department of Retailing, and credits the same faculty who welcomed her and her parents that day.
"They really make sure they do everything in their power to help you succeed, and I really developed close relationships with a lot of my professors,” she says. "I don't know if I would have excelled as much as I have without that kind of support. They've helped me with everything in college and I really appreciate them."
Snider’s excellence has brought her plenty of options following graduation, but with support from her family, she plans to take a little time off first. She leaves two important pieces of advice for those who want to follow her successful example.
"Don't be afraid to reach out to professors and build relationships with them. They can support you in ways you don't even imagine,” she says. "Soak up every moment, go to everything you can, and make the most of your time. It really does fly by."