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Group of students in their cap and gowns at a commencement ceremony.

Class of 2023

Graduates look back on lessons learned at USC

As the Class of 2023 prepares to walk across the commencement stage, graduates leave the University of South Carolina with memories of enduring friendships, newfound passions,  supportive mentors and life-changing experiences. 

From navigating a pandemic to celebrating a national basketball championship, from learning in Columbia classrooms to traveling across the world, these new USC alumni  took advantage of all Gamecock life has to offer.

We reached out to undergraduate and graduate students across the university and asked them to share some of what made their Carolina experience special. Here are just a few of their stories.


Meet Our Graduates


Abby Druckenmiller

Major: English, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.


Abby Druckenmiller, who studied abroad in Scotland, plans to pursue her master's at the University of Glasgow.

Abby Druckenmiller on a hike in Scotland

How the university changed my life: I’ve become a better thinker and communicator, gained lasting friendships, and had cool experiences from cheering on Gamecock athletics and leading student orgs, to beyond the classroom experiences like service, study abroad and internships. My professors introduced me to books I’ll cherish for the rest of my life in my English classes and taught me to be a better writer, speaker and leader.

What played a role in my success: Dr. Anthony Jarrells has been the professor with the biggest impact on my success here. I took his British Literature class freshman year which I loved and I became more interested in the subject through his teaching. The next year, he was assigned as my faculty advisor, and helped keep me on track throughout my college experience. I asked him to be my Honors thesis director, as I was studying Robert Burns, a poet Dr. Jarrells is an expert on. When I studied abroad in Scotland, he reached out to a connection of his at a university in Glasgow to help me with a journalism class project. Dr. Jarrells was also appointed as the faculty advisor for Ink, the Undergraduate English Association, a club I co-preside over. Being able to rely on a member of the English department in this way immeasurably improved my student experience.

A favorite memory: I live in walking distance to the football stadium, and headed over to tailgate before my last game, bundled in a turtleneck, jersey and leggings under jeans to ward off the cold. As we poured into the stadium and I saw Cocky shake the cage to 2001, I was already getting emotional with my friends, and it just continued from there. Our football players gave the performance of their lives against Tennessee, and my friends and I screamed ourselves hoarse in awe and disbelief at every touchdown. The stadium stayed packed, everyone was glued to the game, and I felt so much love for my school and my fellow students and alumni. With our amazing victory and rush onto the field, I was in high spirits to be going out on this note, and swayed alongside my friends to our last after-game alma mater.

What’s next: I will work for a gap year before pursuing a master’s in educational studies from the University of Glasgow.

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Holly Poag

Major: Journalism
Hometown: Sumter, S.C.


Holly Poag said working at The Daily Gamecock newspaper was an important part of her time at USC.

Holly Poag and a friend hug in the upper deck of Williams-Brice Stadium.

How the university changed my life: It has changed every aspect of my life, actually. I have become more confident, become closer with my family, made amazing friends and now I will begin the next chapter of my life in Columbia. As a student leader in multiple organizations, like The Daily Gamecock, Girl Up, RHA and Epsilon Sigma Alpha, the university essentially merged with my life in the best way possible.

What have I learned about myself: I tried to branch as far out as possible from my upbringing during my first two years of college. I hated being home during COVID, and went back to Columbia by Fall 2020. I wasn’t ready but I wanted to figure out everything myself. I started college as a Christian, explored all sorts of spiritual practices and religions, and then came back to Christianity. Born and bred in the South, I wanted to get as far away as possible. After visiting other places, I now realize the South is my home. I came back home to myself.

What played a key role in my success: The Daily Gamecock has been my lifeblood. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since my freshman year of high school, and through the school newspaper, I’ve been able to work for amazing companies and organizations throughout Columbia.

A favorite memory: I met my birth family, finally, in college. My best memory was last summer on my birthday, when my adoptive family and birth family met for brunch at Café Strudel. I had been visiting and getting to know my birth family for about two years prior. I had always dreamed of everyone meeting, and my heart was so, so full that day when I had so many people who loved me dearly in one room. Breakfast was amazing, too.

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Michael Currie

Major: Social work
Hometown: Washington, D.C.


Michael Currie will return to campus to earn his master's degree in social work.

Michael Currie gives a spurs up sign on the USC Horseshoe

How the university changed my life: It’s hard put into words what going to this college has done for me. I am tearing up sitting here typing. I had a very hard two-year stretch from 16 to 18. It was the first time in my life that I was completely in flux and had no idea which way was up. I knew that I had options and going to school was one of them. I knew that I cared for others and that generally I was the one that was more open to say yes to others. I could not understand how people could ignore pain, hurt and the needs of others so readily. I came to the realization that most people do care but their lives and needs are at the fore. People don’t know how to actualize solutions for people’s hurt, pain and needs. This school and this program have given me the knowledge and equipped me when to say yes to supporting people, but also helped me understand that I can say no.

Advice for incoming students: You have time. Time management is a running theme for myself and my cohort. Saying you have no time is an excuse in most cases. The question I would ask is what do you prioritize? If most students did a deep and honest dive into how they prioritize their lives there will be a realization that you place other areas in your life over school work.

The most important thing I’ve learned about myself: It is OK to say no. Learning my limits is just as important as my desire to help people. Hearing my professors impart the wisdom of self care has lifted a weight off my chest that I hadn’t known was there. Understanding my limits will increase the duration and time that I might be able to stand with others in their times of need.

Who played a key role in my success: The admin staff has been heaven sent. From the first moment of contact when applying to this school I have had a wonderful experience with the staff. They care. I feel it. I see it.

What’s next: Graduate school at the USC College of Social Work to earn my MSW.

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Lauren Speck

Major: Biomedical engineering
Hometown: Freehold Township, N.J.


Lauren Speck served as an organization leader for the Theta Tau professional co-ed engineering fraternity.

Lauren Speck stands with a group of students holding engineering name signs

How USC changed my life: The university has provided extensive resources that have helped me discover and pursue my professional goals and deeper passions. I feel ready to hit the ground running in my next life journey due to the experiences and lessons I've learned from coursework, undergraduate research and being an organization leader on campus. Along with this, I've formed many genuine friendships with students from all over the country, and even the world, and made memories that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Advice for incoming students: Take advantage of the many resources, experiences and organizations available to help you discover what fuels your passion. Be courageous to try new things, fail, learn and pivot in all different directions.

What organizations played a key role in my success: Two organizations, Theta Tau professional engineering fraternity and the Gamecock Consulting Club, helped me reach my leadership potential and learn how to collaborate well in diverse teams of driven students. I've participated in many professional events and case competitions to improve my industry knowledge and expand my abilities. I've also met so many awesome peers who strive to make a lasting, positive impact in the world.

Favorite memory: Rushing the field after we beat the University of Tennessee.

What’s next: I am moving to Charlotte to pursue a consulting analyst role at Accenture.

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Jhy-Ann Walk

Major: Elementary education
Hometown:  Rock Hill, S.C.


The university's TRIO office helped fund Jhy-Ann Walk's study abroad experience in the Netherlands.

Jhy-Ann Walk sits with flowers on a bridge in Amsterdam

How the university changed my life: Being a first-generation college student, I never thought I would make it through undergrad. USC has afforded me opportunities I never thought were possible. I have gained many life skills, made so many connections and lifelong friends, and had so much fun doing it.

Advice for incoming students: In college, there are so many available resources and it is important that we utilize them. The university has anything from budgeting help to applying for fellowships. People here want to see you be successful, but may not know when you need help. It is OK to ask and take advantage of what you need.

What I’ve learned: I learned that I am a leader. I am a compassionate person who can do the tough work. My freshman year, I had horrible imposter syndrome. I felt that I didn’t belong. I now know I can do anything. I am capable.

What professor or organization helped me: Education professor Beth White and the TRIO office have played such an important role in my life. I have not had the easiest four years, but Professor White always made sure that I was OK. Dr. White models what good teaching should be. She is true leader and mentor. The TRIO office also allowed me to feel accepted in this big university. I never felt alone because I knew I always had a family in Booker T.

A favorite memory: Freshman year, 2019 homecoming. From the events on Greene Street to A$AP Fergs concert, I met so many new people and really got to step out of my comfort zone during this time. In retrospect I am happy I got to experience this because a COVID shut down was soon on the way. Another one of my favorite memories was the opportunity to go with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs on the annual Civil Rights Tour as an alternative Spring Break. I learned a lot of history I didn’t know before.

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Blake Gibbons

Major: Geography and political science
Hometown: Chapin, S.C.


While at USC, Blake Gibbons discovered that transportation policy and advancing public mobility is his passion and goal.

Blake Gibbons standing in front of a Comet bus in Columbia.

How USC changed my life: USC has allowed me to engage in opportunities both within and beyond the classroom. Being a large university in one of the largest cities in South Carolina creates opportunities across a wide array of disciplines and I was able to find my niche in public transportation and policy. I have been able to enact change in both areas through roles in Student Government as division secretary of campus wellness, secretary of safety and transportation, and director of the City Advocacy Commission as well as contributing to the improvement of regional transportation working at The COMET and being involved with BlueBikeSC.

Most important thing I’ve learned about myself: Coming to college, I wasn't sure of who I was or what I wanted to do in life long-term. I threw myself into many different clubs and meetings to find the one that would stick with me. It wasn't until I attended a public meeting for the Greene Street bridge and connected with a transit planner at The COMET that I knew transportation was my passion. I engaged with National Fellowships and Scholar Programs to craft personal and academic statements for opportunities post-graduation. I discovered that advancing public mobility in the U.S. and shifting modes from away from the personal car was my passion and goal.

A person or organization that helped me: Student Government played a huge role in my success at South Carolina as I have developed from a shy and insecure freshman to a confident and well-rounded senior. My geography and political science professors have also had a profound impact on my academic success and with opportunities beyond the classroom. Caroline Nagel in the geography department shares the same vision of urban life and challenged me to study the life of the city and its people. With the help of Professor Nagel and other academic units on campus, I was able to attend the University of Michigan under the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) fellowship studying transportation policy.

What’s next: I will be working for Via Transportation as a business development representative based out of New York, where I will work with transit authorities across the U.S. on their software needs.

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Chloe Watts

Major: Pharmacy
Hometown: Barnwell, S.C.

During her pharmacy rotation in Alaska, Chloe Watts worked for the Indian Health Service, serving the health care needs of residents of the small community of Ketchikan.

Photo of Chloe Watts standing outside a health clinic in Alaska.

How the university changed my life: USC has granted me the opportunity to travel and learn more about my passion for pharmacy. It has put me in rooms and spaces that allowed me to grow as an individual and build connections with future mentors, great friends and future job opportunities.

Advice for incoming students: I would advise all incoming students to try everything USC has to offer. Go to different sports games, join undergraduate/graduate school organizations, and go to campus social events. These are the places where you will learn about different people and backgrounds.

What I’ve learned about myself: I discovered my passion for serving underserved communities. As a health care major, I have always enjoyed helping patients strive for their health goals. During my undergraduate and graduate school experiences, I was able to find how I can help uplift communities in need. I plan to take this forward with me in my post-graduate career.

What played a role in my success: Dr. Karen McGee was not only my research advisor, but she was also a mentor in my pharmacy school experiences. With Dr. McGee's guidance, I was able to develop my confidence in pharmacy and my ability to treat patients. My experiences at Senior Care PACE during my research and pharmacy rotations were very impactful in my academic career, and led me to discover a passion for geriatric care.

A favorite memory: During my pharmacy rotation in Ketchikan, Alaska, I worked for the Indian Health Service at the KIC clinic, where I participated in the health care needs of residents in the small community of Ketchikan. This experience gave me the opportunity to travel to a state I never thought I would visit and learn about a culture and community that I previously had very little knowledge of. I made lasting friendships in Alaska.

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Caroline Waxman

Major: Nursing
Hometown: Fairfax, Va.


Caroline Waxman will work as a nurse in the medical surgical intensive care unit at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Caroline Waxman holds gamecock Sir Big Spur outside the football stadium.

How the university changed my life: The College of Nursing has given me ample opportunities to hold multiple leadership roles and even take these roles beyond the university and to the state level. I have been blessed with some of the most caring professors that I know I will keep in touch with after graduation.

Advice for incoming students? Don't be afraid to do something completely outside of your comfort zone. At the end of 2021, I decided to run for president of the Student Nurses Association, when the organization had very low membership and activity due to the impact of COVID-19. SNA-USC had less than 30 members, an executive board with unfilled positions, and overall, a low morale. I wanted to become more involved with the College of Nursing and make a difference. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made because it opened so many doors for me in addition to creating lasting relationships with friends and professors.

What I’ve learned about myself: I learned how resilient I am. When I told people that I was going to college for nursing, a lot of people told me that nursing "is really hard" and that "you might not make it through." My first two years of college were difficult. It was a hard adjustment as a freshman, being eight hours from home, and COVID hit and everything changed. When I started upper division, I had thoughts of "Can I really do this?" or "Is this going to be worth it?" After a couple weeks, I realized that this was going to be hard, but that I am always up to a challenge. As I am closing in on my final days here at Carolina, I am realizing that the strength and courage that I found in August 2021 is what is going to make me a strong, competent and resilient nurse. While starting a new job comes with a lot of unknowns, I know that Carolina has given me the tools to be successful.

What’s next: After graduation, I will work as a nurse in Washington, D.C. at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit. I fell in love with working in the ICU at Georgetown last summer when I completed a 10-week externship program there.

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Charlotte Pollack

Major: Biochemistry and moleculary biology, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Fort Mill, S.C.


Charlotte Pollack will attend the MD/Ph.D. Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Miami Leonard Miller School of Medicine. She plans to conduct pediatric oncology research.

Charlotte Pollack on a bridge in Amsterdam

How the university changed my life: USC made research and fellowships accessible, helping me to realize my dream of being a physician scientist. Scholarships, fellowships and research grants made it possible for me to pursue research, study abroad and summer opportunities without anxiety about costs. I felt like I had a team of people cheering me on and helping me.

Advice for incoming students: Get involved early. Meeting with research, fellowships and study abroad advisors in your freshman year can help you to make a four-year plan that allows you to fit in as many meaningful experiences into your college career as possible. Starting early also helps you to build a resume, build longer-lasting relationships with faculty, and develop time-management skills.

What played a key role in your success: The National Fellowships program at USC is one of the best of its kind in the country. The fellowships office got to know me not only as an applicant for different awards, but as a student and a person. They helped me to discover what I was passionate about and how I could pursue those passions (and get paid for them!). They've edited essays, met with me to discuss my long-term goals, and been a strong support network inside and outside of fellowships.

A favorite memory: During the quarantine of the 2020-2021 school year, my sophomore year, the only time I was regularly out of my apartment was when I was doing research in my lab at the College of Pharmacy. With most of my lectures online, I was able to spend much more time in the lab, allowing me to build a strong application for the Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate research award in the sciences. I did not think I would win it, because the university had never nominated a sophomore. When I got the news that I had won in March, I told my three roommates unceremoniously, thinking that we could not do much to celebrate during the pandemic. Contrary to my expectations, they threw a COVID-19-friendly party for the four of us with matching pajamas and cake in the living room of our 650 Lincoln apartment, which remains one of my favorite memories.

What’s next: I will attend an NIH-funded MD/Ph.D. program called the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Miami Leonard Miller School of Medicine. I plan to conduct pediatric oncology research.

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Seth Hajzus

Major: Economics and international studies, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Big Cove Tannery, Pennsylvania


Seth Hajzus was awarded the USC Greek Man of the Year 2022 for his commitment to change through his work with USC Dance Marathon.

Seth Hajzus with the Greek Man of the Year award

How USC changed my life: USC has opened more doors than I ever could have imagined. Through the school and Honors College, I have been able to join student organizations such as USC Dance Marathon and my fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, become an undergraduate teaching assistant in the economics department, serve as a University 101 peer leader, and conduct undergraduate research through my Honors thesis. USC has created a community of students that has challenged my way of thinking and given me the skills to be successful. These skills I will take with me after I graduate and utilize in my professional life.

Advice for incoming students: There are so many new things to try and at times it can be overwhelming. I remember at the student organization fair it was intimidating to see so many people on Greene Street all having found their purpose and community on campus and I was afraid that I would not be able to find mine, but you will. You are here for a reason. The Carolina community cares for you and they truly cherish every student on this campus.

The most important thing I’ve learned: It is OK to fail. College is not easy. It is the time to challenge yourself, try new things and fail every once in a while. That is how you learn. My dad always told me that it does not matter if you fail, but it matters how you react to it. When things did not go the way I anticipated, I pivoted and learned to improve. With that improvement, the person I am today is so much more well equipped to take on post grad life. I am truly thankful to USC for challenging me and giving me the space to fail in order to learn.

Who played a role in my success? Courtney Buzan, the associate director of campus programs, has had the greatest impact on me as a student leader. She serves as the advisor for USC Dance Marathon and was my University 101 co-instructor. Courtney has seen the good, the bad and the ugly from me in my college experience and has been my rock for the past two years. I truly would not be where I am today without her.

Favorite memory:  From football games to Cockstock, from Dance Marathon Main Event to Flick on the Field. Every experience I had has truly shaped me into the person I am today. I think my favorite memory though would have to be the USC vs. Tennessee football game this past fall. My family was here for the first time since I came to Carolina and it was an experience that I will truly never forget.

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Mary Melissa Roland

Major: Biomedical sciences, School of Medicine, Ph.D.
Hometown: Americus, Ga.


Mary Melissa Roland was able to take much-needed breaks from her doctoral studies in biomedical sciences to meet up with family and friends and cheer on the Gamecocks.

Mary Melissa Roland with her husband and three dogs

How the university changed my life: I had no idea that in a Ph.D. program I would be able to develop close friendships, cultivate new skills, fall in love, become an avid Gamecock fan and find mentors. Starting graduate school, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life post-Ph.D. USC taught me that it is OK to change your mind and step outside your comfort zone to discover your passions. I found out how resilient I am and that with hard work and some help most things can be overcome. While a Ph.D. student, I have experienced a pandemic and had a very serious health scare. Through it all, I had a supportive environment that allowed me to continue to work with love and support in order to create some sense of normalcy in my life. I rediscovered my love for mentoring and problem solving by serving as a Chapter Advisor for Phi Mu. I have been able to take much needed breaks from school and life by meeting up with friends and family to cheer on the Gamecocks throughout the highs and lows. Overall, USC brought love, understanding, knowledge and passion into my life.

Advice for incoming students: I would tell incoming graduate students that it is OK to feel overwhelmed, and it gets better. Make sure you fully embrace the USC and the Columbia community, because that will give you an outlet to get away from lab work.

What helped me succeed: The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Association (BSGSA) played a key role in my time at USC. The BSGSA gave me my two best friends and a support system.

What’s next: I will be working in a post-doctoral position at the University of Pittsburgh in the immunology department. This is one of the top programs in the country (No. 1 funded public institution for NIH in 2022) and is more than I could have ever dreamed.

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Asia Fulton

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


Asia Fulton had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for a Maymester course.

Asia Fulton in the mountains of Costa Rica.

How the university changed my life: The University of South Carolina introduced me to amazing opportunities. Some of these opportunities have been through my college and others through organizations. I am so grateful for the advisors, leadership, mentorship and organizations that I have been able to encounter. Without these aspects, my time here wouldn't be half of what it is today.

Advice for incoming students: Don’t be afraid of new experiences and make use of the time that you have at the university because it goes so quickly. I also would advise to not be afraid to study abroad. Studying abroad gave me friendships with other students that I had never met  and also an experience like no other. Using your time wisely and taking advantage of all the things this university has to offer will make your time at Carolina worthwhile.

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Edith Gonzalez-Mora

Major: Mechanical engineering
Hometown: Ridgeville, S.C.


As a first-generation college student, the USC Opportunity Scholars Program provided Edith Gonzalez-Mora with the academic support, career development and resources necessary to ensure her success.

Edith Gonzalez-Mora in the snow.

How the university changed my life: USC has allowed me to open myself up to become the adventurous and outgoing person I am now. I was able to make many friends and take on opportunities that allowed me to find my passion in student success and explore my interests. I have been able to change the lives of students through my work in the Student Success Center and hope to continue doing so in my future endeavors.

 Advice for incoming students: You are capable of doing so much at USC. Many students are unaware of the vast amount of resources our campus has to offer. If there is a research paper you need to write, the librarians will help you find papers and sources for your paper. When you need to edit your paper, visit the peer writing tutors in the writing lab in Sims. Struggling in a course, need school supplies or financial advice? Visit the Student Success Center in the library. Interested in research but don't know where to start? Visit the Office of Undergraduate Research. Visit the Career Center early to prepare yourself for internships and co-ops. If you ever face a food insecurity, we have a pantry that's open to all students, no questions asked.

Organizations that helped me: Without the mentorship and guidance of the Opportunity Scholars Program, I would not be where I am today. It is because of their generous opportunity that I committed to USC and will be graduating debt free. As a first-generation college student, OSP has provided me with the academic support, career development and resources that helped shape my success. Because of the program, I was able to make lifelong friendships with classmates, faculty and staff, obtain part time work with amazing offices on campus, and become a part of the McNair Scholars program and all the opportunities it has to offer.

A favorite memory: Traveling to Houston, Texas to present my research at Rice University at the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium. I got to meet students from around the United States and Mexico and learn about their research projects. I even got to meet students who were from my parents’ home state in Mexico.

What’s next: I will continue my education at USC, pursuing a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs.

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Amber Adgerson

Major: Teaching and Learning, College of Education, Ph.D.
Hometown: West Columbia, S.C.


Amber Adgerson will start her new position in the fall as an assistant professor in elementary education at the University of North Dakota.

Amber Adgerson in cap and gown.

How the university changed my life: The Teaching and Learning Ph.D. program helped me transition from a K-12 teacher into a confident and knowledgeable teacher educator and educational researcher.

Advice for incoming students: Take your time and focus on the journey — not just the destination. I hope they look at each challenge as a future accomplishment which will serve them well in their next roles.

Who played a role in my success: My dissertation chair and advisor, Dr. Christine Lotter, helped me to make connections at USC and the greater educational community. Through her connections, I was able to find and secure a graduate assistantship with a grant program which changed the whole trajectory of my program. Working with the primary investigators for the Carolina Transition to Teaching grant project at USC helped me develop as a teacher educator and educational researcher, and I was able to apply the concepts learned from my program through my work with the grant.

A favorite memory:  I had a blast creating and implementing a weeklong virtual STEM camp for my dissertation study participants. It was amazing to connect what I had learned in my coursework about STEM educational practices, STEM identity and meeting the needs of diverse learners.

What’s next: I start my new position in the fall as an assistant professor in elementary education at the University of North Dakota.

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Stephen Girard Fredenberg

Major: International business and finance, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Tega Cay, S.C.


Stephen Girard Fredenberg represented the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of Technology Sydney Global Case Competition in Australia.

Stephen Girard Fredenberg

How the university changed my life: USC provided me with an extensive education in business, opportunities to grow and long-lasting friendships. As an international business and finance major and a student in the Honors College, I have been able to take advanced coursework in topics that will translate well to my career in consulting.

Advice for incoming students: Get involved early and take full advantage of all the opportunities available at the university. During my  four years, I have benefited from studying abroad at Esade Business School (Barcelona, Spain), competing in international case competitions (Sydney, Australia and Dublin, Ireland), being a part of the Carolina Finance Scholars Program, joining numerous student groups (Moore School Ambassador Program, Phi Chi Theta Business Fraternity, Gamecock Consulting Club, Student Alumni Board) and more. Each of these experiences has impacted me positively and as I look back I am glad I sought them out.

What I’ve learned about myself: I have come out of my shell and gotten involved which has played a big role in my personal and professional development. In order to grow, it is important to put yourself in situations where you may not be the most confident or have all the right skills. One skill I did not fully possess was public speaking, as it was nerve-wracking and difficult for me. I tried to focus on improving and going after opportunities where I would have to speak in front of large groups. Constantly learning and practicing public speaking in my leadership positions has paid off and, most recently, as director of the Moore School Ambassador Program, I spoke in front of over 1,500 prospective students and parents.

 A favorite memory: In Fall 2022 I had the honor of representing the Moore School in the University of Technology Sydney Global Case Competition. This was a great opportunity to compete against 16 teams from across the globe and apply my business acumen to problems in the health care and insurance fields.

What’s next: I will work full-time for Ernst & Young as a financial services consultant in Charlotte in its business development representative program.

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Jessica Baldwin

Major: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, DNP
Hometown: Fort Mill, S.C.


Jessica Baldwin balanced work, school and motherhood on her way to earning her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Jessica Baldwin works in the nursing simulation lab

How the university changed my life: Obtaining my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree has been far from "traditional." As a first-time mother, giving birth just days before the semester began, and living through the peak of COVID, it's safe to say that my stress and anxiety levels were above average. Trying to balance work, school and motherhood almost seemed impossible. Looking back, I genuinely believe my faculty support and program flexibility allowed me to restore some control in my life. I made small yet realistic goals each semester, which set my foundation for success in every class. As if things weren't complicated enough, I became pregnant with my second child later in my program. I was due just a few weeks into my final year, requiring me to carry over a significant number of clinical hours into the following semester. Coincidently, this was the same semester in which I had to complete my DNP research and defend my doctoral presentation. I'm unsure how I made it, but I passed my defense and completed all necessary clinical hours without missing a beat.

Advice for incoming students: Nothing is impossible as long as you have excellent guidance and support. Establish a close relationship with your instructors, utilize your resources and never be afraid to ask for clarification. After all, this is YOUR learning process — so make it count.

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Rebecca Grant

Major: Marketing
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.


Rebecca Grant, who studied marketing in the Darla Moore School of Business, will move to Austin, Texas, to start her sales career at Netsuite Oracle's headquarters.

Rebecca Grant poses outside the Moore School of Business.

How the university changed my life:. From living in the South Tower with some of the best people in the world to cheering to Sandstorm in the student section at every single home football game to getting my first C ever in one of the most challenging finance classes, this school has shaped me into the confident, resilient and driven woman I am today.

Advice for incoming students: Put yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible. If I didn't put myself out there I would never have met amazing professors and friends and I wouldn't have learned so much about myself. This is an amazing university so you should take advantage of all of the resources offered.

Who played a key role  in my success: Beth Renninger and Chris Pardi. If it wasn't for these professors I would have never joined the Carolina Sales Institute organization. They were not only my professors but my mentors and my friends. They have always given me unconditional support and have helped me discover my passion for sales and obtain my dream job after college.

A favorite memory: Attending one of my very first Carolina Sales Institute events which was the Sell Yourself Workshop. This event was on the roof of the Darla Moore School of Business and it was truly beautiful. I was able to learn many sales skills and advice through the corporate sponsors who were running the event. I knew there was an elevator pitch competition at the end of the day. I was super nervous but I knew I had to put myself out of my comfort zone, so I volunteered and ended up winning second place and a $200 gift card. This experience allowed me to gain confidence in myself and my skills and I even used the money to buy myself a kicking pair of white boots.

What’s next: I will be moving to Austin, Texas to start my sales career at NetSuite Oracle's headquarters.

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Alex Gallegos-Tinajero

Major: Sport and entertainment management
Hometown: Spartanburg, S.C.


Alex Gallegos-Tinajero plans to join the Peace Corps and serve as an educator in South America

Alex Gallegos-Tinajero and a friend pose with Cocky during orientation.

How the university changed my life: As a Latino first-generation college student, I would have never imagined coming to a large institution where I would have numerous opportunities to stay connected, grow as an individual and be a part of multiple communities of
people who are very similar to me.
What helped me succeed: The Opportunity Scholars Program played a tremendous role in my transition to this university and I am so grateful to have been selected to be a part of this first-generation program. I connected so well with my peers, professors and staff to be able to grow and continue my education and be a part of multiple organizations like Student Government, Dance Marathon and Relay For Life. They taught me the importance of building diverse relationships, continuing to get out of my comfort zone, professionalism and the consistent reminder that I belong even If I am a first-generation college student.

Favorite memory: My first SEC football game during my freshman year is unforgettable. The 90-degree weather at the Williams-Brice Stadium in the student section is an experience that can never be replicated. From the rally towels, the jumping, sweating students, the blazing bleachers, the craziest game day outfits and Sandstorm, specifically the remix. I never expected such excitement and enthusiasm about a simple game of football. I highly recommend attending at least one game, but don't worry, after one game, you won't want to miss another one.

What’s next: I plan to join the Peace Corps to serve as an educator in South America.

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Robbie Pokora

Major: Biochemistry, molecular biology and Spanish, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Greer, S.C.


Robbie Pokora shadowed in the operating room during his pre-medical internship in Sevilla, Spain. He will attend medical school after graduation and plans to pursue pediatric surgery.

Portrait of  Robbie Pokora in a surgical mask

How the university changed my life: USC provided me with countless new and invaluable opportunities. I am forever grateful I was allowed to begin undergraduate research within the Chruszcz biochemistry laboratory my freshman year. Not only did I further my critical thinking skills and assist with meaningful research, I developed many close friendships with other researchers in the lab. USC also awarded me three grants so that I could pursue my own research project through my senior year. USC has aided me in developing a global perspective. For the first time, I traveled outside the country to Quito, Ecuador, with a medical service brigade setting up free health clinics in rural, underserved areas treating over 400 patients. I used my Spanish to interpret for providers and patients, record medical histories and translate prescription labels. In the summer of 2022, I completed a pre-medical internship in Seville, Spain, at La Clínica Santa Isabel. These incredible opportunities abroad greatly shaped my independence and confirmed my passion to become a bilingual physician who can bridge the communication gap to serve Spanish- speaking patients domestically and internationally.

Advice for incoming students: Four years ago, I didn’t realize that a global pandemic would shut down in-person classes and that we would all be sent home. I didn’t realize that three study abroad trips I planned would be canceled. Some type of setback will probably happen during your college years, too. It is your attitude and your reaction to these setbacks that prepare you to make a comeback, so that you can make the most of your college years. I urge you to be resilient and adaptable and use all the wonderful resources available to you on campus.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite experiences at USC has been re-establishing and leading the USC chapter of Trew Friends, an organ donation advocacy club, which raises awareness of the 100,000 people waiting on life-saving transplants. This issue is meaningful to me because after four years on a waitlist, my father received a kidney transplant in August 2019, the same week I started college. A high school teacher of mine donated one of his kidneys to my father and saved his life. The three of us hoped to encourage other living donors to step forward after we were featured in the “Stories to Make You Smile” section of People Magazine. As part of my mission to educate people about the critical need for organ donors, I diligently worked on re-activating the Trew Friends club. I secured a faculty sponsor, recruited new members, organized our monthly meetings, published a newsletter, and recorded a radio announcement. As president, I revived the annual Donate Life Duel between Carolina and Clemson and coordinated a Zoom panel featuring a transplant surgeon from MUSC as the keynote speaker. More than 900 people have registered as national organ donors as a result of our club’s activities.

What’s next: I will be attending medical school after graduation at the Medical University of South Carolina. I plan to pursue pediatric surgery.

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Lydia Stoehr

Major: Biological sciences
Hometown: Eliocott City, Md.


Lydia Stoehr and friends had the opportunity to attend movie night at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Lydia Stoehr with friends on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium

How the university changed my life: USC has given me some of the best experiences, knowledge and friends I did not know I needed. Carolina taught me how important loving your school and its community truly is, and I will always honor the four years I spent here.

Advice for incoming students? Focus on the now. Enjoy every last second of your time here, because it truly goes by so fast. I was a freshman living in Columbia Hall and blinked. Now, I just picked up my cords and stole today from the University Bookstore.

Who helped me succeed: When I was going through a hard time, thinking that I chose the wrong career path and major, April South and Gerald Brasington reminded me why I chose the path I did. They are amazing professors who truly care about their students' success and understanding of the material. I have never met a human being who could make me laugh at 8:30 a.m., and now I can name two. Professor South and Dr. Brasington will always be in my mind when I think about how lucky I am to have gotten the opportunity to learn from them at the University of South Carolina.

A favorite memory: Junior year we were able to experience our women's basketball team winning the national championship. A few of my friends and I were together watching the game on our porch that night, cheering so loud that we were threatened with a noise complaint. When the last few minutes turned into the last few seconds, we sprinted to our cars still in slippers and sweatpants and raced over to the Thomas Cooper Library fountain. Hundreds of students were already there celebrating our school. I still get chills every time I look back on that day, remembering how happy I was to be around so many people who shared the same experience.

What’s next: University of Maryland School of Pharmacy with the hopes of becoming a clinical pharmacist.

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