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Campus Village building with a clock tower.

2023: Year in review

USC sees record enrollment, new construction, top-ranked student experience and more

It’s been a momentous year at the University of South Carolina. We welcomed a record-setting freshman class, renamed our law school, announced new research initiatives, hired new deans, held an investiture ceremony for President Amiridis — and so much more.

Here are just a few of the highlights of 2023.


Presidential investiture

President Amiridis and First Lady Aggelopoulou-Amiridis on stage during the Presidential Investiture.
President Michael Amiridis and First Lady Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis on stage during the Presidential Investiture.

Michael D. Amiridis has been president of the University of South Carolina since July 2022, but his official investiture ceremony was held on Jan. 20, 2023, at the Koger Center for the Arts.

“I am a first-generation college student who was given the opportunity to pursue his dreams of earning an advanced degree in this country and becoming a teacher and a researcher at a great American public research university, and every one of these last four words — ‘American,’ ‘public,’ ‘research’ and ‘university’ — have defined who I am,” Amiridis told members of the Carolina community. “My calling, what makes my life meaningful, what puts a smile on my face every day and gives me the energy and stamina needed to lead a large university, is my passion and desire to give the same opportunity to every individual who works hard and wants to advance in life through knowledge.”



No. 1 first-year student experience

The USC first-year student experience truly is second to none.

For the fifth straight year, the University of South Carolina ranked No. 1 among public colleges for its first-year student experience, according to the U.S. News undergraduate rankings released in September. USC also moved up in the overall first-year experience rankings, which includes private institutions, and is now tied for No. 1 overall.

The first-year student experience ranking is a testament to the University 101 program, an international model. Since 1972, U101 has helped students transition into college life and has been proven to increase graduation and retention rates among those who take it. It is the largest single course offering at USC. 



man leans on a balcony railing with a river and bridge in the background

Law school named for alumnus, longtime university benefactor

The University of South Carolina Joseph F. Rice School of Law is named in honor of a well-known alumnus, longtime university benefactor and plaintiffs’ trial lawyer.

Joe Rice (1976 B.S., 1979 J.D.) is a skillful negotiator and nationally known litigator who has played a lead role in resolving some of the nation’s largest civil actions. Among the cases he’s been involved with are asbestos liabilities, the $246 billion civil settlement against the tobacco industry, two settlements regarding the BP Oil Spill and ongoing national opioid litigation.

The $30 million investment made by Rice and his family establishes an endowed fund for multiple three-year full and partial scholarships and at least four new endowed professorships. The gift also creates stipends for students completing a children’s law concentration.

“My alma mater is a huge part of my family’s history and success,” Rice said at the naming ceremony. “It gives me great pride to directly impact the lives of its students.”



Access and affordability

Every parent with a college-aged child knows the challenge of financing a college education. So, it’s been a relief to many that for the past five years, the University of South Carolina has held tuition steady.

That wasn’t the only good news this year from USC on the access and affordability front. In August, USC announced that it would open the door to every South Carolina high school student who finishes in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Then, in October, USC took another major step when it announced that those top 10 percent South Carolina students whose family’s annual household income is below $80,000 can attend the university with no-cost tuition beginning in the fall of 2024.

“Across every corner of our state, talented students who aspire to a college degree can count on finding a home and a future at the University of South Carolina,” said President Michael Amiridis.



about two dozen people in Carolina sweatshirts pose for a photo outside the Louvre Museum
In November, the Gamecocks got to see the sights in Paris then took care of business by defeating Notre Dame 100-71 in the first NCAA women's basketball game played in the City of Lights.

Women’s basketball marks another record-setting season

The South Carolina women’s basketball team wrapped up its 2022-23 season with its third consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Gamecocks were undefeated at 36-0 heading into the semifinals, which they lost to Iowa 77-73.

A week later, five Gamecocks were selected in the 2023 WNBA Draft — three going in the first round, including overall No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston who completed her first professional season with the Indiana Fever and was named rookie of the year.

The 2023-24 season got off to a big start with the Gamecocks scoring 100 points or more in several of its opening games, including a 100-71 rout of then-No. 10 Notre Dame played Nov. 6 on an international stage in Paris. That and other early blowout wins helped South Carolina regain the top spot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, where the team spent most of last season.



Love – and learn – where you live

The University of South Carolina prides itself on its welcoming culture, and for many students that begins with where they live.

Students interested in a wide variety of fields — from engineering and health science to sustainability, music and entrepreneurship — can find a residence hall where they can engage with peers with similar interests.

These living and learning communities are among the nation’s best.  In this year’s U.S. News rankings, USC moved up to No. 5 on the list of best living-learning communities among public institutions, and No. 13 overall.



New roost for the Gamecocks

Some of the newest Gamecocks moved into a new home in the fall.

The largest construction project in the university’s 222-year history, Campus Village (banner image) is now home to 1,800 students. The four new buildings next to Bates House and Bates West on the south end of campus feature innovative study and classroom spaces, community kitchens and suite or pod-style room options.

The $240 million residential community boasts living-learning communities, classrooms, green space with seating areas, a general store and plenty of food options — including a 650-seat dining hall called The Pavilion, where students can enjoy all-you-can-eat meals that include customizable pizza, Asian cuisine, vegan and allergen-free options.

“USC is known nationally for providing an outstanding campus experience, and these new facilities will help enhance the academic and co-curricular lives of our students in Columbia,” said USC Board of Trustees Chair Thad Westbrook.



Cocky goes viral

Sarah Sylvester’s two-year tenure as South Carolina’s beloved mascot, Cocky, was a life-changing experience. Being Cocky took the biomedical engineering alumna to places that she couldn’t have imagined, from ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange to cheering on the women’s basketball team at the Final Four.

In May, she went viral online — amassing more than 1 million views on TikTok plus making appearances on the Today Show and World News Tonight — after she donned the iconic yellow mascot shoes one last time to walk across the graduation stage at Colonial Life Arena and revealed the person in the costume.



Record-setting freshman class

Of all the ways to measure the success of a university, one of the most obvious is whether students want to go there. By that measure, USC is on a roll.

The university once again welcomed a record-setting class in the fall, with more than 7,300 new students – an increase of 12 percent over last year.

There were more South Carolinians in the incoming freshman class than ever, too. Of the new students, 3,928 are South Carolina residents, an increase of 17 percent from last year. Students also came from each of the state’s 46 counties.

“The record size of the freshman class is a strong vote of confidence in USC’s reputation and success by students and their families,” said USC President Michael Amiridis. “As we maintain our focus on access and affordability, we are especially pleased by the great increase in the number of South Carolinians in this class.”



“It’s just really been a top to bottom, inside and out renovation and restoration to make sure that the building lasts another 200 years.”

Elizabeth Cassidy West, university archivist
a large room with two levels, tables, chairs and large windows seen from above

South Caroliniana Library shines again

South Caroliniana Library, the nation’s oldest free-standing academic library and the most iconic building on campus, is once again a showplace.

After a more than $10 million renovation, the library on the historic Horseshoe opened to the public in October, welcoming visitors to the home of one of the largest collections of Southern and American history.

The building, which dates to 1840, is easily recognizable by its four white columns out front and its curved staircase to the second-floor reading room, a replica of the room that housed Thomas Jefferson’s personal library in the second Library of Congress.

“It’s just really been a top to bottom, inside and out renovation and restoration to make sure that the building lasts another 200 years,” said Elizabeth Cassidy West, the university’s archivist.



Improving brain health

By 2030, 27 percent of South Carolinians will be older than 60, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As the population ages, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias also increase. And it’s all happening in a state that has fewer neurologists per capita than the national average.

Enter the USC Brain Health Network, which aims to improve access to care throughout the state, especially in less-populated, underserved communities. The effort will include a brain health center in Columbia offering enhanced brain imaging capabilities as well as new clinics throughout the state that will increase clinical care options.

“For the University of South Carolina, this is the right time to do this,” said Julius Fridriksson, vice president for research. “We know that the need is there, we know that we have the right staff, we have the Alzheimer’s disease registry, a very strong neuroimaging program and a school of medicine that has a very good department of neurology. And when you bring all those together, there is no other university in the state that can accomplish even close to what we can do.”



Residence hall named for pioneering educator

a modern residence hall with the name Celia Dial Saxon Hall

A residential hall became the first building on campus to honor an African American in April when the 700 Lincoln St. building was named for pioneering educator and civil rights advocate Celia Dial Saxon.

The seven-story building opened in 2016 and houses 297 students. It is located adjacent to the historic Ward One District, where an elementary school named for Saxon was located until it closed in 1968.

“With this dedication we are taking another step forward in the university’s ongoing efforts to acknowledge and reconcile difficult pieces of our past,” university President Michael Amiridis said at the naming ceremony.

Celia Emma Dial was born in Columbia in 1857 and spent her life working to provide educational and financial resources for African Americans. During Reconstruction, Saxon became one of the first Black students to attend the South Carolina State Normal School, which opened on USC’s Columbia campus in 1874.


New deans

President Amiridis isn’t the only new-ish leader on campus. In 2023, four colleges and schools welcomed new deans.

After serving as interim dean, Teri Browne was named dean of the College of Social Work. Since joining the college 15 years ago, she has held several leadership positions, including associate dean for faculty and research.

Rohit Verma joined the Darla Moore School of Business from VinUniversity in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he was founding provost of Vietnam’s first private, not-for-profit university based on international standards. He also served as a professor of operations, technology and information management at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.

Michael Sagas joined the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management from the University of Florida, where he served as a professor of sport management and director of the Institute for Coaching Excellence in the Department of Sport Management.

Ann Vail took the helm in the Graduate School in July. Vail joined USC from the University of Kentucky, where she was a professor in the Department of Family Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

And following the retirement of Dr. Les Hall, who served as dean for the past eight years, USC’s School of Medicine Columbia welcomed Dr. Gerald Harmon as interim dean. Harmon, a family physician, is the immediate past president of the American Medical Association and current vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.



Recognizing desegregation anniversaries

five people stand next to historical marking detailing USC During Reconstruction
A new historical marker near the Horseshoe commemorates the Reconstruction era on the USC campus.

The university recognized two historical events this year — the 60th anniversary of desegregation of USC and the 150th anniversary of the first Black students to attend Carolina during Reconstruction. 

USC commemorated the 60th anniversary of desegregation with an observance at the site where a monument will be placed in early 2024 to honor the three Black students who enrolled on Sept. 11, 1963. A sign where the monument will stand was unveiled at the prominent site near the university’s Welcome Center in McKissick Museum and a short walk away from the Osborne Administration Building where the trio took their first steps as students.

The university also recognized Henry E. Hayne, who enrolled in USC’s medical school on Oct. 7, 1873, making South Carolina the first state-supported Southern university to fully integrate during Reconstruction. USC would become a majority-Black school by 1876 and Hayne later served in the state Senate and as S.C. secretary of state. With the end of Reconstruction, Black students were once again prohibited from attending USC from 1880 until desegregation in 1963.



Other notable anniversaries on campus

It’s always somebody’s birthday — campus is no exception. This year, we celebrated some pretty big ones.
In September, the School of Journalism and Mass Communications marked 100 years since the first journalism classes were offered in a dilapidated house that once stood at the top of the Horseshoe. As part of its ongoing celebration, the school will host a centennial gala in April.

Across the street in Wardlaw, the College of Education is commemorating 150 years since it was established as the State Normal School by the South Carolina State Legislature in 1873. The college now boasts the nation’s largest professional development schools network, an award-winning teacher induction program, and an array of innovative research centers. Influential supporters and alumni will be honored at the Champions of Education gala in March.

And the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies is celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary with a series of special events. Thanks to the efforts of its dedicated faculty and staff, what began as women’s studies in 1973 has grown into an interdisciplinary powerhouse for gender equity and social justice.

Looking ahead to 2024, the School of Music will celebrate Sing Thy Praise: 100 Years of Music at Carolina. Planning is underway — details about events and opportunities for participation will be shared online in the spring.



Innovative learning

In a fast-moving, technologically driven world, education needs to evolve to keep up with societal shifts. This past fall, the university launched an interdisciplinary certificate program in digital studies, helping students gain in-demand digital skills for careers in every field.

Students enrolled in the 12-hour credit program choose from nearly 40 courses offered through the College of Engineering and Computing, the College of Information and Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences.

There are more certificate programs coming. In October, the Board of Trustees approved certificate programs in data analytics and visualization; project management and leadership; and strategic thinking and communications.

“At the University of South Carolina, we are continually asking ourselves how we can better equip our students to be the industry leaders of the future,” said Provost Donna Arnett. “These new interdisciplinary certificates will help us continue to give students what they need to be career-ready upon graduation.” 



a woman wearing a ball cap stands on a brick walkway with trees in the background

Sheila Johnson in the classroom

As a partner and vice chairman of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Sheila Johnson is the only African American woman with ownership in three professional sports teams: the WNBA’s Washington Mystics (for which she serves as the team’s president and managing partner), the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

As founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, she also oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties and lifestyle businesses. The company ranks as one of the largest minority-owned, women-owned companies in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Given all that Johnson is involved in, you might be forgiven for wondering how she’s found the time to teach at the University of South Carolina. But that’s exactly what she’s done, returning to the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management for a second semester last spring, teaching Leadership Development.

“Being able to pick the brains of enormously successful industry leaders like Ms. Johnson is incredible,” said Devin Arasa, a sport and entertainment management major who took the class last year.



Cutting-edge research aimed at S.C. challenges

As South Carolina’s flagship university, USC has the breadth and depth of researchers to take on some of the state’s most vexing challenges. And that’s exactly what the university is doing with five new research institutes announced in May.

Over the next four years, the university will invest $10 million in five interdisciplinary research institutes that will address cardiovascular health, rural education, water quality, infectious disease and the development of extreme semiconductors.. Along with new breakthroughs, the institutes have the potential to bring future funding and prosperity to the state in the form of major federal grants and commercialization opportunities.

“These projects truly represent what a flagship research university does best: bring together experts from multiple disciplines to take on some of the biggest scientific and societal challenges of our time,” said USC President Michael Amiridis.



Marching band selected to perform in 2024 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

marching band on the field

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Committee has announced the Carolina Band as one of 10 bands chosen to perform in the 2024 parade. The announcement was made during halftime at the South Carolina vs. Furman football game on Sept. 9. One of only four college/university bands invited to perform, the band was selected from over 100 applicants.

This is the first time in the band’s more than 100-year history that it’s been given this opportunity. Over the next year, the Carolina Band will be working to raise the over $600,000 necessary to fund the once-in-a-lifetime experience.