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Digital certificate program offers in-demand career skills

When Kate Levey switched from majoring in biology to studying information science at the end of her sophomore year, she was relieved to have found a field that inspired and interested her — but she was also stressed. Levey wanted to take a deeper dive into specific technological skills to prepare herself for a career in information science, but with only two years left to complete her major requirements and coursework for the South Carolina Honors College, she was in a bit of a time crunch. Fortunately, after some online exploration, she landed on the Graduate Retention and Network (GARNET) digital studies certificate, and the pieces began to fall into place.

This fall, GARNET officially launches its digital studies certificate program, which will allow degree-seeking undergraduate students to gain in-demand digital skills and receive official recognition on their transcripts for this accomplishment. The certificate is the first in a series of anticipated interdisciplinary programs that are set to roll out in the spring of 2024, all designed to make students more marketable candidates for their intended careers.

"This gives me a lot of room to take courses that are meaningful to me."

Kate Levey, information sciences student

The assortment of upcoming certificate programs is part of an initiative sparked by President Michael Amiridis, who presented his plan to the schools’ and colleges’ associate deans for academic affairs. Provost Arnett assembled an interdisciplinary advisory committee comprised of faculty representatives across campus to create a line of open communication and feedback, allowing faculty governance and oversight of curricular development at each stage of the certificate programs’ creation.

Kim Thompson, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Information and Communications, appreciates that although leadership provides the impetus for curricular change, actual course offerings and logistics for the program are in the hands of the faculty whose schools and colleges are contributing classes to the certificate requirements .

For students interested in pursuing the digital studies certificate, there are lots of options: students can choose from over 35 classes across the College of Engineering and Computing, the College of Information and Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences to meet their requirements for a total of 12 hours. Their four courses of choice can double-dip with major and minor requirements, allowing a great deal of flexibility.

The wide array of options is part of the appeal of the program. 

“It gives me guidance but still gives me the freedom to choose the courses I actually want to take,” says Levey, who will be one of the first students to complete the certificate program at the end of this fall. “With college, I feel like the main purpose is to discover what you’re passionate about, and this gives me a lot of room to take courses that are meaningful to me.”

Headshot of Kate Levey
Kate Levey, an information science student, will receive her digital studies certificate in December.

Levey is grateful for the opportunity to take a closer look into specific skill sets, which has helped her focus her attention on subfields within information science. For now, as she takes classes on programming languages and data visualization tools, Levey suspects that her future could lie in data visualization, graphic design and visual communications — but she is mostly glad to be tangibly working toward something, even if she doesn’t know exactly what that is yet.

“I’m taking a good variety of classes that’ll teach me different skills, which is what’s most important,” says Levey. “What’s so awesome about this certificate, as I’ve been looking at jobs and internships, is that it’s less about your degree and more about your skills. The courses offered really allow us to build different skill sets.”

The range of skill sets taught within the certificate courses is designed to be inclusive of all schools and colleges, bringing in students whose majors and minors are not explicitly related to digital and information science. 

“I see any career matching well with this because we’re in such a digital age,” says Helen Le, academic services manager for GARNET. “When graduates go to apply for the job they want, not only do they have subject and content knowledge, but they have that certificate alongside it that makes them able to be a better employee because of the communication and digital age we’re in and how everything relies on technology.”

Le notes that the digital studies certificate would be a good fit for aspiring web designers, videographers, database managers, social media content managers, data analysts, digital technologists or the like — but the opportunities extend much further. Whether a student wants to pursue a career in communications, media arts, journalism, government or engineering, the scope of applications is as broad as the student’s imagination. And getting started is as simple as reaching out to an academic advisor to get the certificate requirements added to the student’s Self-Service Carolina page.

Thompson and her colleagues on the interdisciplinary committee are particularly excited by the prospect of students completing the digital studies certificate, and eventually, registering for other certificate programs. “This is about what’s best for the students and for the state of South Carolina, people looking for work when they’re done with the degree,” she says. “It’s a really positive thing to have on their resume. Digital studies is super important.”