Dr. Grady & Dan Friedman

Doing big things together

It’s not every day that a simple interaction with a professor leads you to the Olympics, or even to finding a trusted mentor, but it is for students who are lucky enough to interact with John Grady. After 13 years at the University of South Carolina, these inspiring interactions have resulted in Grady being honored with the 2017 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students Award.

“Dr. Grady has been a reliable source from the time I met him,” says senior engineering major Will Hickman, who got to know Grady through fraternity life. “He has worked as a liaison for my organization and has stood up for us in order to get needed changes. We will always be grateful for that.”

An associate professor and the undergraduate program director of the sport and entertainment management department, Grady does not often come in contact with first-year students in the classroom. Instead, he serves as a personal mentor for many students whom he has met through his roles as a faculty associate at Preston Residential College, as faculty adviser for the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and as an adviser to the Sport and Entertainment Management living and learning community.

“When you serve first-year students, you help set their path for the next four years,” Grady says. “You get to guide them toward cool experiences that you know will benefit them and help them achieve their goals.”

Grady was nominated for the award by a current student of his from the SPTE program who describes him as an “incredible advocate.” After a thorough interview process, Grady was selected because of his ability to guide and support incoming students, making their transitions as seamless as possible.

“Dr. Grady is a wonderful example of the caring and dedicated faculty we have at Carolina,” says Dan Friedman, director of U101 Programs, which sponsors the first-year advocate award. “He goes above and beyond to ensure that the first-year students with whom he works are supported, challenged and engaged.”

Before arriving on campus, incoming freshmen ready the same book as part of the First-Year Reading Experience. This year’s book was “Callings” by Dave Isay, a book about finding your passion and doing the things you love — two things Grady says are key for first-year students.

“To me, the first-year experience is your clean slate,” says Grady. “Everything you encounter during that time will shape your next four years, so it is important for me to help students along their paths during that time.”

Not only has Grady helped students along their paths, but his interactions with them have driven him to achieve goals of his own, including attending the 2016 Rio Olympics. One of the students Grady traveled with was Anthony Carson, whom he met the first day Carson walked onto campus. Through a simple conversation, Grady sparked an interest in Carson and three years later, the two were studying the shifts in the marketing landscape of Olympic sponsorships at the Rio games.

“I remember standing in the Atlanta airport waiting on him to go to Rio,” says Grady. “When he finally arrived, I turned to him and said: ‘Here we are, going to the Rio Olympics just like I promised you three years ago.’ ”

Grady says building relationships with students when they first arrive is important.

“I always tell my students: set your dreams high, then work step by step to achieve them. We have all of the resources you need right here. Let’s do big things together.”  

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