Emmie Thompson was elected student body president of the University of South Carolina, and she'll be inaugurated along with the other executive members of Student Government on March 22.
In celebration of her achievement, here's a look back at past student body presidents and their accomplishments since graduating.
Glenn German, '85
German graduated in 1985, got his masters from the NYU Tisch Film Program and eventually wrote and produced the 2013 romantic comedy At Middleton, starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga. The screenwriter is currently a professor at USC while working on two movies to be filmed in New Orleans and Los Angeles. But, he humbly reminisces about a time when he would write movie reviews for The Daily Gamecock and watch films in the Russell House Theater — where he saw his own film a decade ago.
“The Russell House is where I had seen half of every movie I've ever seen in my life, which made it really special to watch my own in there,” German says.
German considered himself an unlikely student presidential candidate. He says the other candidates all wore suits every day, while an article in The Daily Gamecock labeled him the “Sweatshirt President,” because he wore a sweatshirt and jeans all the time.
He learned to never say “never.” After he graduated, 13 years passed before he received his first paycheck for writing.
"There were so many times we could have just walked away,” German says. “Had I stopped trying, I would’ve never had a film career. You wouldn't be given the intense ability to dream that big without having the talent to achieve it.”
Brian A. Comer, '99
Comer graduated in 1999 and stayed at USC to get his master's in international business and his law degree. He started his career in pharmaceutical litigation work, and was asked “out of the blue” by a former client to work for South Carolina’s Youth Advocate Program — a foster care services provider. Since 2018, he’s enjoyed fulfilling work in a nonprofit organization.
“I always thought I would become a corporate international, transactional type of lawyer,” Comer says. “I look more for personal fulfillment and happiness — something that allows me to get up and go to work every day, feeling like I'm making a difference. And that’s where I am.”
He fondly remembers his time as student body president. He spoke at an African American student protest, relaxed the formal visitation standards to make living on campus more appealing and received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.
“I loved working with all of the students to try and make a difference,” Comer says. “I put everything I had into my four years at the University of South Carolina as an undergrad, and that was kind of the pinnacle.”
Meredith Ross '09, '15
Ross graduated from USC with a degree in political science in 2009 and stayed for law school, from which she graduated in 2015. As assistant general counsel and legislative director to the S.C. House Ways and Means Committee, she’s now in the midst of a debate on the state budget. Before assuming her current role in 2019, Ross spent two years as a Teach for America corps member and had a clerkship at the Court of Appeals with the Honorable Aphrodite K. Konduros. She went into college with a deep interest in politics due to an “obsession” with the TV show The West Wing" in high school and attendance at Palmetto Girls State.
"Being student body president might have been the greatest learning experience I had,” Ross says. “It gave me a thorough lesson on perseverance, resilience and humility. I'm very happy I landed back in the political world.”
She has achieved her dream career combining her legal training with her love of the political process.
"I think the expectation for student body presidents is that they will someday run for office,” Ross says. “But, I truly found my niche as I help lawmakers craft policies for the benefit of all South Carolinians.”
Taylor Wright, '18
Wright graduated in 2018 with a degree in public health and now does public engagement for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Before graduation, he founded and ran Carolina Health Outreach with Dr. Gala Pegoda, head of the Stroke Center at Palmetto Health Law, to improve health care in the Midlands. He passed the role on once he was elected as student body president.
“It’s something I never expected as a shy kid from a small high school, and I’ll always remember it,” Wright says. “It felt like I was making an impact, which is always my north star.”
After graduation, Wright worked for former Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin on the Columbia Youth Commission, the fellows program and issues such as anti-poverty guaranteed income.
He joined the Biden administration in July of 2021 where he now works as a liaison between private sector entities, nonprofits and labor unions and the Department of Transportation. Going into USC’s student government, Wright was the only African American. Following his election, he worked on diversity in leadership, started the student veteran 5K and helped with transparency in institutional fees.
"Being student body president is the reason I'm here today in D.C. because it really set me on a great path forward,” Wright says. “More importantly, I had a position to inspire the next group of leaders, especially minority leaders, on campus. I learned the power of hard work and the importance of treating everyone with respect and dignity.”
Issy Rushton, '21
Rushton was USC’s student body president during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means her term was nothing short of unusual. When the virus first broke out, she had to return home to Australia and attended Board of Trustee meetings virtually at 3 a.m. in her home time zone.
“I had to drink espresso shots just to stay awake,” Rushton says. “It was all worth it though.”
After graduation in 2021, Rushton headed for England and completed her master of philosophy in criminology at the University of Cambridge. Although she enjoyed her time there, she says something was calling her back to the U.S. About a month ago, she moved to New York, where she now works for an immigration law firm. Her passion for U.S. immigration started after being detained in the Los Angeles International Airport at 15 years old. As a foreign national herself, she wants to make an impact. Her dissertation was about the criminalization of immigrants at the U.S. and Mexico border, and she wants to attend law school to eventually work on immigration policy. The proud Australian considers her time as student body president an honor of a lifetime.
“I learned how to effectively advocate for myself and my fellow students, became a stronger communicator, and found a passion for serving others,” Rushton says.