Moving UofSC forward

President Harris Pastides says Carolina has made progress, has room to improve

The University of South Carolina has made great strides in the past year in its mission as the flagship university system for the state, but now is no time to be satisfied, President Harris Pastides told students, faculty and staff in his annual State of the University address on Tuesday.

“It matters when we produce excellent graduates, and excellent and innovative faculty research,” Pastides said. “Our benchmark is not how well we did yesterday. Our yardstick must be how well we do in the new world order, not the old one.

“The old world order is conventional, slow and intolerant. The new world order is collaborative, intersectional and interdisciplinary, and is led by innovators.”

Pastides noted the university’s continued improvement in national rankings (46th among all public universities and 25th among state flagships) and the continued No. 1 rank of the international business program. He also pointed to the record $253.6 million in external funding awards from last year as signs of continuing excellence, “but not enough. It is not as high as we go can go. We must recommit to excellence and accelerate our progress to realize greater impact, and the good news is, we know how to do it. We need no complex strategy, no experimentation. We don’t even need to get lucky.

“We simply must make more resources available to invest, especially to invest in our faculty. They have the vision. They have the drive.”

Pastides cited faculty accomplishments, including sociology professor Doug Anderton and chemistry professor Stephen Morgan being named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and chemical engineering professor John Monnier, who was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He also noted the 99.3 percent pass rate achieved by College of Nursing students on the 2017 National Council Licensure Examination.

Pastides also pointed to the university’s new Excellence Initiative, which is funded by money contributed from all departments across the university to support new and innovative projects. The initiative has $17 million to use for recruiting top faculty, ensuring excellence in the classroom and creating new experiential learning opportunities for students across academic disciplines.

“Since not all units who contribute to this fund will gain directly, most notably the service units, we must repay their contribution by creating a culture of excellence — one that is beneficial to all and increases everyone’s confidence and pride,” he said.

Pastides also spoke about the importance of the university continuing to lead business investment in the state. He emphasized the need to bolster South Carolina’s traditional manufacturing strength with more corporate headquarters and ongoing innovation.

“Our role is not symbolic,” he said. “We provide the workforce — I would call it the life force — for our emerging economy.”

The president also pointed to the remaking of campus with the addition of new learning and living spaces as well as the continued renovation of iconic buildings for new purposes, notably the Carolina Coliseum, which he called “the house that McGuire built,” a nod to longtime former Gamecocks basketball coach Frank McGuire.

“It’s been a long time coming, primarily because we needed that space for academic programs while better spaces were being prepared,” he said.

Pastides also addressed some of the challenges facing higher education in general, such as funding issues.

He said the university leadership will continue to push for greater funding from the state Legislature instead of relying on students and families to fund operations.

“The time has come for state government to re-engage with higher education,” Pastides said. “If we’re to pursue excellence while at the same time educating more South Carolinians, we must find an agreement. We want to find a funding level that is fair to all. We’re ready to listen.”

He also said that while dynamic change will continue to happen in Columbia, increasingly divisive national discourse will not grow worse on the University of South Carolina campus.

“This will not be a quiet year,” Pastides said. “Societal issues will spill onto our campus, but we will not add to the many shrill and shallow voices. We will listen as much as we talk. We will not shout down the voices of those with whom we disagree. Above all, USC will be the place society can look to for civil debate.”

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