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Class of 2022

Seniors look back on lessons learned at UofSC

As the Class of 2022 looks back on its time at the University of South Carolina, the themes are clear: enduring friendships, newfound passions, life-changing experiences, new avenues of opportunity. 

Yet, their college experience has been anything but typical. In between studying, football and basketball games, internships and social events, they also navigated a pandemic — and did so with positive attitudes and a deep well of resilience. 

And while the themes are consistent, each individual has a story. We reached out to seniors throughout the university and asked them to share what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown and what’s next for them. Here are their stories.


Meet Our Graduates


Joyce Brooks

Major: Early childhood education
Hometown: Columbia, S.C.


One of Joyce Brooks’ favorite memories of her time at UofSC is having fun and dancing at Hip-Hop Wednesday on Greene Street.

Joyce Brooks dancing at a Hip-Hop Wednesday event.

A favorite memory: My favorite memory at the University of South Carolina is hip-hop Wednesday. It feels great to have a space populated with urban students, where we can listen to music, stop by different organizations tables, stroll and just socialize with each other. I always look forward to it.

Advice for incoming students: Be active on campus. There are so many organizations on campus and I know everyone can find themselves in at least one organization. Go to different events and meet new people! Find your fun at USC!

Who helped me succeed: Jennifer Strickland-Poole played a key role in my success, from being my professor and supervisor to being a recommendation writer and a mentor. She is one of the reasons why I stayed at the university when I wanted to drop. She motivated me when I felt like giving up. When I needed help, she always made time for me, and when I needed recommendations, she was the first to volunteer. She was there for me in and out of school; I have so much respect for her.

How the university changed my life: [At the first college I attended], I felt as if I couldn’t find my people and the classes did not keep me engaged. Since enrolling to the University of South Carolina, I have seen a very strong, positive shift in my grades, my class engagement, my social life, and my mental health overall. I was nervous because of how big and popular the school was, but I honestly feel very comfortable and I can’t imagine spending my college career at any other school.

What’s next? After graduation, I will be teaching first grade at an elementary school in Richland One. While teaching, I will be in grad school studying trauma-informed education at Columbia College.

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Emily Ariail

Major: Biomedical engineering
Hometown: Lexington, S.C.


Emily Arial was awarded a summer research fellowship in 2021 and had the opportunity to work at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Emily Ariail standing in front of the Mayo Clinic building.


How the university changed my life: USC gave me some of the best friends and mentors, the opportunity to find my passion for biomedical engineering research, fantastic opportunities such as doing research at the Mayo Clinic, an incredible sense of community (especially on game days!), and engaging and supportive extracurriculars that allowed me to serve others, such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Magellan Ambassadors.

Advice for incoming students: I would tell them to not be super anxious if they don’t know exactly what they want to major in or what they want to do as a career. I came into college on the pre-med tract thinking that I would be a pediatrician, but after getting involved in student organizations and research, my goal has changed to getting a Ph.D. in engineering and becoming a professor. This didn’t happen overnight; I ended up finding my new passions slowly along the way.

What played a role in my success: I would not be where I am today without the mentorship and support of Dr. Michael Gower, my graduate student mentor, Kido, and the rest of the Gower lab. I joined the lab right at the height of the pandemic in the fall of 2020. In addition to helping me develop as a researcher, the lab also gave me a happy, supportive environment that prevented me from feeling so isolated during those stressful times.

Favorite memory: Near the end of my freshman year, me and my newest but closest friend, who ended up being my roommate for three years, were using our last meal swipe of the day to get ice cream at the Carolina Creamery after being at the library for several hours. We sat outside of Russell House at one of the tables underneath the trees, which were all lit up by fairy lights. We soon realized that someone was setting up instruments near a tiny stage. It was Jordy Searcy, who was doing an impromptu show. I remember the soft lighting, acoustic music and chilly spring breeze all creating a magical atmosphere. And at that moment, I remember thinking just how grateful I was to be at USC, studying something I love and meeting people I care about.

What’s next?I will attend Johns Hopkins University where I will pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and more specifically doing research in the field of immunoengineering.

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Jonathan Hampton

Major: Sports and entertainment management
Hometown: Orangeburg, S.C.


As a graduate assistant with the Gamecocks women’s basketball team, Jonathan Hampton was on the court as the team celebrated its national championship in April.

Jonathan Hampton holding the Women's Basketball NCAA Championship trophy.

How the university changed my life: The University of South Carolina has given me the opportunity to meet and share experiences with people all over the world. I will forever be grateful for the things I've learned, the people I've spent time with, and my development as a man at this institution.

Advice for incoming students: Come with an open mind. There are endless endeavors to dive into and inspiring people all over campus. Don't allow pre-conceived notions to deter you from an amazing experience.

What I’ve learned about myself: If I put in the work, the university will work for me.

What organization helped me be successful: The women's basketball team has played a key role in my success at UofSC. Working as a graduate assistant with the team has taught me the importance of time management, the importance of being process-oriented and the importance of self-awareness.

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories was being on the court after winning the national championship. It was gratifying to see everyone celebrating the sacrifices we made to get to that point.

What's next? I will be starting my career in the sport and entertainment field.

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Ben Spells

Major: Advertising
Hometown: Dunwoody, Ga.


Ben Spells was heavily involved with WUSC, the student-run campus radio station, which helped him get over his fear of public speaking and explore all kinds of music.

Ben Spells takes a selfie with a friend in the WUSC radio station sound booth.

How the university has changed my life: I have learned so much about people who don't look like me and who don't have nearly the same privileges that I have. Through work with the Capstone Conference Center, I worked with over 10 university departments and another state agency to plan a conference to help disabled youth advocate for themselves and learn vital employment search skills to improve outcomes for youth across the Palmetto State.

Advice for incoming students: Be courageous and take opportunities outside of your comfort zones. Make every single connection you can. There is truly power in numbers, and your connections can open doors. Faculty are so eager to help you succeed, but nothing comes by its own means; you have to take the first step.

What I’ve learned about myself: Working with University Housing reinforced how much I love helping others grow, seeing their potential and solving problems. I contributed a significant amount of time and energy to assisting with the University's COVID response and even more toward assisting with first-year application questions, concerns, and move-in. Seeing so many excited new Gamecocks helped me to remember why I love the University of South Carolina, and it helped me find my family away from home.

What organization was key to my success: I was heavily involved with WUSC, our all-student-run campus radio station. Coming into UofSC, I hated talking to people. I hated the sound of my voice. But I loved music. WUSC helped me to get over my fear of public speaking, and I can honestly have a great conversation with a wall now. I've also explored music from so many artists I would have never discovered without WUSC.

What’s next? I will be moving to Charlotte to take a full-time job with Gray Television in their digital media division. I'll be supporting clients across the country in developing, building and executing digital advertising campaigns to further their mission and build their businesses.

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Sydney Jones

Major: Nursing
Hometown: Easley, S.C.


Sydney Jones plans to move to Baltimore after graduation and work as an RN in a pediatric cardiovascular intensive care unit.

Sydney Jones shows off her Prisma Health name tag.

How the university changed my life: I came to USC as a freshman by myself and did not know what to get involved with. After joining Delta Zeta and getting involved with their philanthropy, speech and hearing, I quickly developed a passion for American Sign Language. I took both classes of ASL and another class through the American Society for Deaf Children. I found out USC did not have an ASL club, so I started the ASL Club at USC. I was the president for two years. USC brought me friendships, educational experiences and memories I will never forget.

What I’ve learned about myself: I have learned how I dedicated I am. I was not very confident in myself as a student when I came in to college, but now I can say with confidence that I am smart, capable and strong.

Professors who helped me succeed: Hands down the best professors I had in the College of Nursing are Lindy Beaver and Heather Miles. I will forever be grateful to these two for going above and beyond for me and other students. I was treated like I mattered, and they gave me so much strength and courage. Whether I was crying on their couch or eating their candy, they never failed to be a helping hand when I needed it most — mentally and emotionally.

Favorite memory: Getting to jump in the fountain after the women's basketball team won the Final Four. It was unreal and was a core moment in my college experience.

What’s next? I plan to move to Baltimore, Maryland and work as an RN in the pediatric cardiovascular intensive care unit. After a few years of experience, I would be interested in doing travel nursing and becoming a successful, well-rounded pediatric nurse.

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Aidan Baker

Major: Marketing
Hometown:  Zionsville, Ind.


Aidan Baker served in Student Government all four years on campus, and attended the Student Government Ball with friends Lyric Swinton, Taylor Wright and Hannah White.

Aidan Baker poses with his friends at an art show.

How the university changed my life: I took a chance coming to Carolina, moving 600 miles away, to a place where I would be starting from ground zero. For the first time, I truly dove headfirst outside my comfort zone. And as my college career progressed, I asked this school to take a chance on me. Serving in Student Government all four years, and winning awards for my work in inclusion and equity during freshman year. Being able to lead, grow and learn here has been the 4-year ride of my life, and at every turn, this university gave me every opportunity to make an impact on this campus and community.

What’s I’ve learned about myself: I'm more resilient than I thought and I learned the value of friendship and relationships. Life threw a lot at me during college, much of which I didn't think I could ever move past. But it was the friends I made at Carolina that carried me through every hurdle.

Who helped me succeed:  Chase Rathfoot and Jalen Williams, my two freshman council directors in 2018. They gave me the confidence to pursue my wildest dreams and aspirations, they kick-started my student government career and were such a constant during my first year at Carolina.

Favorite memory: Riding in the Mini Cooper with President Pastides my freshman year is absolutely a signature highlight for me. I got the news that I was selected for the mini conversation in the middle of class, and it took everything in me to not scream out loud during the lecture.

Advice for incoming students: When you can, say yes to opportunities you traditionally wouldn't go for. You never know what the slightest step outside of your comfort zone can turn into.

What’s next? I will be moving to Dallas, Texas where I'll be taking a job with JP Morgan Chase & Co. doing marketing, project management and data analytics as a part of the Chase Leadership Development Program.

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Cecelia Tatro

Major: Management (HR) and marketing
Hometown: Gainesville, Ga.


Cecelia Tatro worked with first- and second-year students as a Resident Mentor, a position that introduced her to the field of Higher Education and Student Affairs.

Cecelia Tatro and her friend pointing at the camera covered in chalk from a color run.

How the university has changed my life: I learned who I was in the last four years. When I arrived in Columbia freshman year, I was a student with my self-worth rooted in academics. Beyond my success in the classroom, I did not know who I was or what I had to offer. Carolina quickly became home. I met lifelong friends and mentors. I took classes, joined organizations and worked on-campus jobs that taught me more about my strengths, values, and goals.

Finding my passion: Mentoring over 200 first- and second-year students as a Resident Mentor, Capstone Scholar and University 101 Peer Leader introduced me to the field of Student Affairs.

Favorite memory: During my junior year, Gamecock Entertainment did a “Flick on the Field.” We got to watch “The Goonies” on the big screen in Williams-Brice Stadium. This was the first time I had ever been able to walk out on our football field. My friend and I brought our blankets and had a whole evening to enjoy. Coach Shane Beamer was out there with his son. It was a surreal moment for me to think about all the memories I had made in the stadium and to be looking up at the student section where I had sat for the last three years. I realized that the next time I was in Willy-B it would be my senior year. It was a moment where you are filled with school pride and feel a great sense of community. It was a great night.

What’s next? I found my passion for Higher Education and Student Affairs while serving in my different leadership roles on campus. I will be following it at the University of Tennessee in the College Student Personnel (CSP) master’s program.

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Britt Hogg

Major: Media arts
Hometown: Barnwell, S.C.


Following a career as an audio-video engineer, Britt Hogg is completing his degree at age 48 while also working at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Portrait of Britt Hogg.

How the university changed my life: I met my wife at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie in May 1993. We've been married for 22 years and have two children. Our daughter is a senior in high school and our son is a junior at UofSC.

My path to graduation: As a 48-year-old senior at UofSC, I am a non-traditional student. During my freshman year at UofSC Salkehatchie my older brother was killed in a car accident in December 1992. I struggled with the decision to go back to college but with the encouragement of my mom I continued with my education and worked through the loss. My mother passed away unexpectedly in January 1994 of a rare, undiagnosed heart condition. With the encouragement of my stepfather, my girlfriend (now wife) and her family, I pressed on. Over the next year the weight of the loss of my brother and mom became too much. I struggled through my classes in 1995 and decided to enter the audio engineering industry without finishing my degree. While I was attending college, I had established a name for myself in the Columbia area as an audio engineer, working as a freelancer for local companies, bands and nightclubs. Shortly after getting married in 1998, I landed my dream job with SCAV, a local AV company that hired me as an audio engineer and video technician. I worked for SCAV for 17 years, touring the U.S. running sound for live productions and working with some of the best technicians in the business. I resigned from that position six years ago to take a job here at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at UofSC, which gave me the opportunity to finish my degree.

Who played a role in my success:  My biggest motivation has come from my wife and children. There are a few professors and co-workers at the SJMC who know my story and have helped guide me and encourage me. Charles Bierbauer, Andrea Tanner, Jeff Williams and Gordon Humphries have all been a great help in guiding me through the process of restarting my degree and finishing it. The passion that I see in all of our professors here at SJMC has inspired me to continue my education so I can one day join their ranks in the classroom.

Favorite memory: I was walking out of calculus class in 1993 and a friend flagged me down to introduce me to her friend who wanted guitar lessons. I didn't have any spots open for new students so I took her name and number and promised to call her when a spot opened up. Three months later one of my students stopped taking lessons and I called her to tell her a spot had opened. Twenty-nine years later my wife still doesn't know how to play the guitar.

What’s next? I plan to continue my education and get either my M.A. or M.F.A.

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Samantha Chang

Major: Social work
Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada


For Samantha Chang, who excelled in the classroom and on the soccer field at UofSC, winning the SEC soccer championship in 2019 was one of her favorite memories at Carolina.

Samantha Chang high-fives with teammates walking out of the locker room onto the soccer field.

How the university changed my life: With regards to my soccer career, my team, the coaching staff and the athletics department has facilitated my growth in ways I only dreamed of. Over the course of four years, I have grown exponentially as a soccer player and as a person, learning lessons about communication, leadership and drive that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In the classroom I found my passion in social work. Coming here I had no idea what major I wanted, but after finding out about the social work core values like service, social justice and advocacy I knew it would be a perfect fit with my ultimate desire to help others in a meaningful way.

An organization that played a key role in my success: Visions of Women, a local nonprofit organization that works to provide resources and support for those dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. I have always been passionate about gender equality, and I have been able to start a Visions of Women student organization on campus. With the support of my supervisors, Dorlisa Adams and Mike Ottone, I was able to fully step into the role of organization president and have grown tremendously as a leader.

Favorite memory: Winning the SEC soccer championship in 2019. It was amazing to have so much hard finally pay off, for me individually and also as a team. In my senior year of high school, I tore my ACL playing soccer which forced me to redshirt my first year of eligibility here. After being out for eight months and moving thousands of miles away from my family, to win an SEC championship made all the struggles and challenges worth it. It was the first SEC soccer tournament championship our school had won in 10 years and to be a part of something so special is a memory I will never forget.

What’s next? After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in social work I will work toward a health communication certificate here at USC while I compete in my final season as a gamecock athlete. I plan to leave Columbia after my last season to begin my professional soccer career. I dream of one day competing for Canada in an Olympic games and at a World Cup. 

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Joseph Boyd

Major: Dance education
Hometown: Chester, S.C.


Joseph Boyd will move to Los Angeles after graduation, as he pursues his dream of being a professional dancer and choreographer.

Portrait of Joseph Boyd.

How the university has changed my life:  I never intended to attend the University of South Carolina, but it has been the most life-changing experience in my life. Outside of the people I've met and the amazing opportunities I've had working in my field and developing my craft, I have grown so much as a leader. My time at UofSC has molded me into an activist, a community engager, but most importantly it has molded me into the most confident version of myself.

The most important thing I’ve learned about myself: Since being at UofSC I've learned to slow down and smell the roses. I've always had a strong work ethic but never took time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I am so thankful to the faculty that supported me but also taught me to take care of myself so that I continue to do what I do in a healthy way.

People who have played a key role in my success: Shay Malone, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs has been my rock for the entirety of my time at UofSC. As a dance major herself, she has given me encouragement when I'm tired or burned out with my art. I am also thankful to the rest of the "Auntie Circle," La'Shawna Edmond and Dr. April Scott. These amazing Black women have been my source of support, guidance and encouragement.

Favorite memory: Directing the Association of African American Students' Fashion Show with one of my closest friends, Richelle Thompson. That show wasn't just a fashion show, it encouraged Blackness in all forms and acceptance within our community. For that I will forever be proud.

What’s next? I have always had the dream of being a professional dancer and choreographer and since my time at UofSC, I feel more equipped to do that. Post graduation, I hope to pack everything up, move to Los Angeles and make that dream a reality.

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Hannah Martin

Major: English
Hometown: Charleston, S.C.


Hannah Martin was always fascinated by medieval manuscripts; at UofSC, the English major was able to see, handle and study the original, historic documents.

Hannah Martin looking at a document through a microscope.

How the University of South Carolina my life:  I came to UofSC as a hobbyist medievalist with a to-do list. I accomplished everything on it except for studying abroad (hey, you can’t have it all — although I almost did, before COVID hit). I presented Arthurian research at the 2019 INK! Undergraduate Association Literary Conference, then presented research on La Chronique Anonyme Universelle at Discover UofSC 2021 and the 2021 Cornell Medieval Studies Student Colloquium. I’ve delivered guest lectures on medieval subject matter, edited published books and written a novel that I hope to publish soon — to say nothing of the invaluable friendships and professional connections I’ve made here at UofSC. Suffice it to say, I believe I’ve graduated to professional medievalist.

Advice for incoming students: Go to office hours. Even if you don’t have questions pertinent to the course (though you should try to think of a few), your professors will be glad of the company, and they’ll remember you when they get wind of any opportunities you might be interested in. There are so many researchers here doing truly amazing work, and this is your chance to get your foot in the door and start building professional connections.

Favorite memories: I did absolutely cry the first time I saw a medieval manuscript in person. I couldn’t help myself. I’d been interested in medieval studies since I was young and working from print translations. You realize that something so fragile has weathered seas and centuries because generations of people saw it as something precious, something worthy. And before that, some monk somewhere painstakingly copied and illuminated it — just the time cost, to say nothing of the material, would have been incredible. You have to respect that, and appreciate how lucky you are, how improbable it was, for such a fragile thing to have survived all the way to you. And at the same time, you’re forced to confront what humanity has lost: the glaring lacunas in literary history that are alluded to in other works like scar tissue, but will never be recovered. The field of medieval studies is full of phantoms of gods and mortals alike; to be a medievalist is to walk among the graveyards.

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Tejas Patel

Major: Biological sciences (pre-med)
Hometown: Walterboro, S.C.


Tejas Patel, a first-generation college student, credits the university’s Opportunity Scholars Program with helping him succeed at UofSC.

Tejas Patel posing with Cocky at Caroilna Day.

How the university has changed my life: Attending the University of South Carolina has changed my life by opening doors for my career ambitions, allowing me to make memories of a lifetime and connections that will last forever. It has given me a platform to learn knowledge that will help me excel into my career. My experience at UofSC has made me a more well-rounded individual because of the events I have attended and organizations I have been involved with.

Advice to incoming students: Get involved and join organizations that interest them. Additionally, I want to remind students that college is a balancing act and be sure they do not make any commitments that overlap with others. While the freedom that comes from attending college may be exciting, it is crucial to have a grasp on your social and academic life balance because it is easy to lose control on one end of the spectrum.

A group that played a key role in my success: The Opportunity Scholars Program. As a first-generation college student, OSP has been my parachute in the skydive that is attending college. They have provided me with financial guidance, career development  and academic support that propelled my success.

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Riley Sutherland

Major: BARSC (History and American studies), South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri


One of Riley Sutherland’s favorite memories happened her senior year, when the university community came together for a few hours on the Horseshoe to celebrate a rare winter snowfall.

Riley Sutherland and her friend sit beside the snowperson they made on the horseshoe.

How the university changed my life: I came to the University of South Carolina because of our incredible Department of History — after speaking with professors and students, I felt certain I would have lots of opportunities to pursue my own research and engage with public history here. But I never could have imagined how thoroughly they would shape my undergraduate experience. My history professors constantly provide me with opportunities to apply my classroom learning and research interests in new ways.

Advice for incoming students: Ask questions — lots of them. When I started college, I was terrified of making a mistake or asking a “bad” question, so I spent a lot of time alone in my dorm room. But I was lucky to have peers and professors dedicated to helping me find ways to get involved. In University 101, I asked my peer leader a simple question: Do you think I can start conducting my own research here this semester? She connected me with the Office of Undergraduate Research, and they helped me apply for undergraduate research grants. These grants gave me the opportunity to dig into the archives. Then, with the generous time and help of my mentor, Dr. Woody Holton, I developed my research into conference presentations, an article manuscript, fellowship applications, etc. I have spent hundreds of hours conducting research that I love and connecting with professors across the United States who have similar interests, all because I asked a simple question in my first semester at the university. Sometimes a single question is all it takes to define your undergraduate experience, so do not be afraid to ask.

Favorite memory: In Spring 2022, it snowed. A giant snowball fight erupted in front of the President’s House, then a friend and I joined some other students to make snowmen across from Rutledge. We ended the night by collapsing to the ground and making snow angels. It felt like the whole community came together to celebrate those few hours of snowfall.

What’s next? I will stay at the University of South Carolina for a year to finish my M.A. in history.

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Jack Sadle

Major: Cyber intelligence
Hometown: Derby, Kansas


Jack Sadle, who is earning his degree in the new field of cyber intelligence, trained on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of his work with the university’s Army ROTC program.

Jack Sadle wearing a UofSC Army ROTC uniform while sitting in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.

How the university changed my life: The opportunities that I have been provided with at UofSC are beyond what I could have imagined for myself in my academic journey. I came to the university with the intention of keeping my head down, going to class and graduating out as simply as possible. During my time here, I was repeatedly presented with opportunities to challenge myself and achieve more than I thought possible. The faculty and staff at UofSC saw something in me and presented me with experiences to train, study and conduct research in ways and in places that I never could have imagined. The belief that UofSC had in my ability to achieve and surpass my own expectations has changed how I view challenges in my life. I am a more confident leader because of the guidance and experience that I have received at UofSC.

Advice for incoming students:  Develop your ability to adapt to change. Most students are going to experience adversity during their time at UofSC. Many students change their major. Your academic journey at UofSC is not going to look like you think it is from where you are standing right now. I am graduating with a degree that did not exist this time last year. Adopting a flexible mindset will prepare you for the challenges you face ahead and help you make the most of every opportunity you will have at UofSC.

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Hannah Walton

Major: Biological Sciences, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Myrtle Beach, S.C.


During her time at UofSC, Hannah Walton had the opportunity to do field work at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado

Hannah Walton holding a net with fellow researchers while out on a field study.

How the university changed my life: I'm going to be honest, I didn't think that going to UofSC would have such a big impact on me. Looking back, I've found that I couldn't see myself having gone anywhere else. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that I'll cherish forever. I have been through both incredibly challenging and rewarding times while here at UofSC, and I have been able to lean on the people around me in the UofSC community to help me and celebrate with me. This whole time I thought I was leaving my mark at UofSC, but it was leaving its mark on me. I'm grateful for every experience I have had — forever to thee.

Advice for incoming students:  Embrace the sports culture here. You can be a very academically focused student involved in lots of organizations, but you can feel that much more connected with the university once you start attending sports events. It doesn't even matter if we win, I just enjoyed going to sporting events and hanging out with friends.

Most important thing I’ve learned about myself: I realized that I am worth more than my grades, and while I am proud of the GPA I've earned despite the challenges I've faced, I am walking away from UofSC with so much more than a good GPA.

What played a key role in my success: Dr. Carol Boggs, my undergraduate research mentor, has been instrumental in helping me decide what my future would look like. As part of her lab, I have seen Dr. Boggs model what it looks like to be an exceptional leader and mentor. She welcomes undergrads who have an interest in science with open arms. Her lab group and the opportunities she offered to me as an undergrad have pushed me to continue pursuing my passions.

Additionally, as part of Sustainable Carolina, I gained interpersonal and leadership skills. I have learned that sustainability is not merely a concept, it's a lifestyle, and I've become confident in my ability to effectively communicate with my peers and people of all ages what sustainability really means on and off campus.

What’s next? I will be attending Auburn University to obtain my Ph.D.

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Reylan Cook

Major: Public health
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.


As a member of the Multicultural Outreach Student Team, Reylan Cook helped high school seniors picture themselves on the UofSC campus.

Portrait of Reylan Cook holding an award.

How the university changed my life: The University of South Carolina has given me a home full of opportunity and support while I’ve grown in leadership, academia and life. I’ve gained sisterhood through the Theta Gamma Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and a strong network of professors, educators, faculty and staff who genuinely care about me and my next steps.

The most important lesson I’ve learned about myself: I am a multi-passionate individual. A lot of different things have gained my attention and I’ve followed my interest to give myself a diverse portfolio of experiences. Serving as the student assistant in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, secretary of inclusion and equity within Student Government, a page in the State House, a primary leader with W.J. Keenan's YoungLife and many other opportunities have shown me that my strength lies in my ability to have duality.

Favorite memories: My favorite memories at Carolina centered around the Multicultural Outreach Student Team and Admissions’ four-day residential program for African American students who identify as rising seniors, known as the Summer Seniors Program. Acting as a counselor for the 2019 and 2020 school years, I was able to help hundreds of minority students picture themselves as Gamecocks by allowing them to see my co-counselors and myself exist loudly and proudly at the state flagship university. Summer Seniors gave me some of my closest friends throughout my collegiate experience, allowed myself to connect with mentees, and allowed me to grow in my leadership skills all while just enjoying and explaining my college experience as a minority student at the university. The program allowed me to see that representation matters, and when we give it to students who look like me it can not only benefit that student’s life but the Carolinian community.

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