Maggie Kemp grew up a five-minute drive from windswept Assateague Island National Seashore on the Maryland coast, and is completing her undergraduate education an eight-hour drive away at the University of South Carolina.
But her coastal roots helped inspire her undergraduate pursuits and plans for graduate school at the university. Kemp will receive a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering this month and begin work on a master’s in geography at the university in January. A student in the Honors College and a McNair Scholar, she has pursued undergraduate research in Costa Rica and as a Hollings Scholar with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I’ve always been interested in the interaction between coastal communities and their impact on the coastal environment,” Kemp says. “In graduate school, I want to focus on coastal hazards, sea level rise, flooding and hurricanes. The reason I'm passionate about coastal communities is because I grew up in one, and I want to continue to work with the people who live in them.”
Having grown up on the shore, Kemp says climate change mitigation efforts offer hope for conserving coastal communities but only if coastal residents embrace the measures.
“The only way those efforts will have a real impact is if the people in the communities where they’re going to be implemented understand what’s going on and are completely on board,” says Kemp, who sees herself one day working in hazard or coastal zone management.
The reason I'm passionate about coastal communities is because I grew up in one, and I want to continue to work with the people who live in them.
Maggie Kemp, December 2022 graduate
Coming to Carolina was not a foregone conclusion for Kemp. She had applied to nearly two dozen universities and received acceptance from nearly all of them, but a Top Scholars weekend at USC sealed the deal. She met other Carolina Scholar and McNair Scholar candidates, including her future roommate who has become a good friend.
“This really seemed like the place where I could be in a large school and experience plenty of different groups and have the small school experience that the Honors College offers,” she says. “Coming here, I feel like I’ve been surrounded by peers who get excited about the things that I get excited about. That’s been a big catalyst for growth.”
Kemp has engaged in research with faculty members in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as in the Hazards Vulnerability and Resilience Institute in the Department of Geography.
“I felt like a lot of the expectations that were on me before college kind of lifted a bit because I saw all these students here doing amazing academic things, especially things they wanted to do,” she says. “That made me feel like I was free to do what I really wanted to do and not just follow the traditional route that a lot of civil engineering students take.”