Pillars put students on the path to leadership

For Ross Lordo, the decision to attend the Pillars for Carolina orientation program before his freshman year set him on the path to success.

“For me, Pillars was the best thing that happened to me as a Gamecock,” says Lordo, a rising junior who is the student director of Pillars and student body vice president. “I was surrounded by a plethora of mentors that laid the foundation for me to be successful both academically and outside the classroom.”

Lordo credits this program for introducing him to his best friends, supporting him to be a leader within the university’s community and challenging him to be the best version of himself possible.

On Tuesday, the fifth class of Pillars for Carolina will arrive on campus, offering first-year students an opportunity to learn about the Carolina community, create friendships with future classmates, and participate in the university’s traditions while also learning about leadership skills and service. The program is open to all incoming freshman, and has expanded this year to 164 students taking part in two weeklong sessions. The program is led by students who went through the Pillars program before they started at Carolina.

“This program gives students the foundation needed to become a future university leader by taking students through reflection activities, challenging them to investigate what they want out of their college experience and exposing them to the values and culture of the University of South Carolina,” says Theresa Sexton, who advises the student committee that plans Pillars. “It also has helped create a pipeline of student leaders. The concentration on leadership development prepares students to hit the ground running when they arrive in the fall and helps prepare students to pursue the graduation with leadership distinction honor.”

The first-year students take part in leadership discussions, meet upper class student leaders and attend a faculty luncheon, giving them a chance to connect with future professors.

Pillars is more than just an extended orientation because it allows each participant to grow as an individual and reflect on their own qualities and values before coming to Carolina. Students get the chance to take part in service around the city of Columbia and decide what they want to get out of their college experience before coming to the university in the fall.

“The long-term plan for Pillars is to have sessions that span the entire summer and be paired with each week of orientation,” says Lordo. “As we see our enrollment numbers continue to grow, we also train and engage more staff members, allowing more and more students to become a part of the Pillars family.”

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