First class of Stamps scholars studies at Carolina

Being named a Carolina Scholar is as good as it gets for in-state students coming to the University of South Carolina. Now, thanks to a partnership with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, the ranks of USC’s Carolina Scholars program have swelled by five.

Launched in 2000 by philanthropists Penny and Roe Stamps, the Stamps program funds merit-based scholarships at 37 universities across the country - including USC, which welcomed its inaugural class of Stamps Carolina Scholars this fall.

As Carolina’s first recipients of the prestigious award, Judith Lin of Greenville, Ellen Gardiner of Irmo, Sydney Poskevich of Spartanburg and Daniel Clements and Alessandra Tuel of Columbia each receive a $10,000 annual scholarship for four years, plus an enrichment fund of $8,000 which can be used for a range of endeavors, including study abroad, leadership scholar projects, internships and undergraduate research.

For some of the state’s top academic achievers, that kind of incentive goes a long way toward helping them make their decision to stay in-state and become Gamecocks.
“I was looking at other schools, too, but, moneywise, they would have been a lot more difficult,” said Gardiner, who plans to study geography and political science en route to law school and a career in environmental policy. “Plus, I felt like the personal attention here, and how much (the university) put into each one of us, was a big part of my decision.

“And then, with the Stamps scholarship - it’s just such an honor. I couldn’t imagine turning it down.”

For Lin, accepting the scholarship was also a fairly easy decision - especially considering some of the program’s additional benefits.

“I was deciding between Duke and here, and I already really liked the program here,” said the Greenville native, who plans to study international business while pursuing a certificate in piano performance. “And I really like the idea of having a national network of other scholars at other universities.”

Jan Smoak, associate director of USC’s Fellowships and Scholar Programs, said that network of scholars factored into a lot of students’ decisions, especially those students who might otherwise have been looking at out-of-state schools.

“Students often want to leave their home state to receive a higher education,” she said. “The Stamps program allows them to pursue a top-rated education through our Honors College and share a national network and brand with other high profile institutions.”

Tuel, a Columbia native studying mechanical engineering at Carolina, was exactly such a student - someone interested in a high-quality education as well as the opportunity to go some place new.

“I was dually enrolled (at USC) last year as a senior in high school, so I’ve already taken classes here,” explained the Dreher High School graduate who ultimately wants to become a roboticist.

Now living in a dormitory just a few blocks from home, Tuel is making the most of her local roots by mentoring students in the robotics club at her alma mater. Meanwhile, like fellow Stamps Carolina Scholars, she plans to use the Stamps enrichment fund to broaden her horizons through study abroad.

“I really want to integrate my interests in mechanical engineering, robotics and Japanese,” she explained. “I’m hoping I can eventually do some research in Japan, so I’ll probably put the enrichment money toward that goal - study abroad, maybe do some internships with Japanese companies in the U.S., that sort of thing.”

Of course, the Stamps scholarship also offers something else to its recipients, something less tangible but perhaps just as important - a sense of affirmation.

“It just felt like all of my hard work had paid off,” Lin said. “It was just a way for me to continue pursuing my different interests while also pursuing my career goals and to find out what I want to do with my life later on.”

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