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Student in cap and gown at a commencement ceremony.

Class of 2024

Graduates look back on lessons learned at USC

The University of South Carolina Class of 2024 will walk across the commencement stage in May with memories of close friendships, a world-altering pandemic, newfound passions, and supportive mentors and faculty.

They also got the chance to celebrate two national basketball championships as 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


Lauren LaRosa

Major: Nursing, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina


Lauren LaRosa, left, will work as a nurse at a step-down cardiac ICU at Prisma Health in Columbia.

Lauren LaRosa, left, and a friend getting their nursing stehoscopes.

How USC changed my life: Twenty-two years ago, I was born at 26 weeks, weighing only 1 pound, 7 ounces. I spent three months in the NICU fighting for my life, and I owe everything to the health care workers who took care of me. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to go into health care and give back the same care that my family and I received. I knew in my heart that nursing was my calling. Through the College of Nursing, I have been able to work toward my goal of becoming a NICU nurse. My clinicals have focused on honing vital skills such as communication and empathy — two things that will take me far in the hospital setting. My Honors thesis focused on preterm infant brain development, which has further enlightened my pursuit for knowledge. My experiences here have shaped me into not only becoming a better nurse but also becoming a better listener, learner and leader. I can only thank the university for having faith in me, the little girl with a big dream.

Advice for incoming students: Take it all in. College is the fastest, most fun and scariest four years of your life. Too often, I hear regrets that people did not do something or just ran out of time. Take that class. Go to that sporting event. Join that club. Go study abroad. Go eat at Chick-fil-A for the sixth time this week because YOU CAN. Take it all in. Live your best life. When else are you going to be on a beautiful campus surrounded by your best friends and able to do everything you could have dreamed of? By the end of it, you will be looking back, with tears in your eyes, wondering how in the world did it all go by so fast.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite memories was the night we beat Tennessee in football and stormed the field. I remember how we all jumped — or fell over — those hedges and cheered as one. Surrounded by thousands of people, we felt like a family.

What’s next: I will be staying in Columbia and working at a step-down cardiac ICU at Prisma.

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Jaimeen Shah

Major: Public Health, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Simpsonville, South Carolina


Jaimeen Shah will start medical school in the fall. He plans to pursue a pediatric specialty and influence health care policy.


Jaimeen Shah poses on campus.

How USC changed my life: The University of South Carolina has fostered my growth exponentially, both personally and professionally. Personally, I have found a community and place that I can truly lean on and call home. I have learned to overcome adversity with grace and perseverance. Professionally, I have been exposed to more opportunities than I could have ever thought possible. From finding my lifelong friends and mentors, to losing my voice cheering on the Gamecocks, to starting my own statewide organization, USC has been paramount in my growth and joy these past four years.

Advice for incoming students: Ask questions and take initiative. Don't be afraid to go up to a professor, upperclassman, staff member or that table on Greene Street to ask about something you are curious about. You never know — you could find your passion, your future career, your best friend or a lifelong mentor from doing so.

What I’ve learned about myself: When I arrived on campus, I knew I wanted to go into health care and become a physician. Through the health policy internships, public health classes and welcoming community here at the university, I found a passion for community-based advocacy. I now hope to become an advocacy-focused physician, where I aspire to wield individual patient interactions as catalysts for macro-level advocacy.

What played a role in my success: It is incredibly difficult to pick one person, organization or group, and I think that shows the beauty of the support here. The Honors Ambassadors group gave me a community to give back to prospective students and develop my public speaking. Student Government gave me the outlet to advocate for the campus community. My family gave me a constant sense of comfort and purpose. Dr. Jacob Kay and Dr. Jeff Holloway gave me the opportunity to develop as a future physician and pursue my intellectual curiosity. PhiDE, the international medical fraternity, gave me a group of peers to support and encourage me on my path to medicine.

What’s next: I will start medical school in the fall, hoping to get my master’s in public policy afterward. I plan to pursue a pediatric specialty and influence health care policy.

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Alexis Yum

Major: Marine Science
Hometown: Saint Clair Shores, Michigan

Alexis Yum found her passion on field trips to the university's Baruch Institute on the South Carolina coast.

Alexis Yum holds a shrimp on a boat along the South Carolina coast.

How USC changed my life: It was always my dream to come here and study marine science, and being here has changed my life in so many ways. I have met some of the most amazing people here, I have pushed myself to new limits, and I have had so many incredible opportunities that have made my time here so special.

Advice for incoming students: I would say to enjoy every moment and learn from everything. Sometimes it gets really hard being in college, but in the end, there’s always something to learn from that hard time. It goes by really fast, and at the end you won’t believe that it’s over.

Who helped you succeed: Joseph Quattro and Sharon Kendrick have made my time here so valuable. Being able to work in Professor Quattro’s lab so closely with Sharon has been such an amazing experience. I have learned so much from both of them, and they have both played really valuable roles in my time here. Also Alexa Dean has been such an amazing advisor and rock for me while I have been here. She is always so helpful, and has pushed me to be the best student I can be.

What’s next: Graduate school in marine science or biology.

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Malik Pratt

Major: Master of Music, Jazz Performance
Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina


Malik Pratt plans to both teach music and perform after graduation.

Malik Pratt plays the drums,

How USC changed my life: Through the USC School of Music I have found a new family. I have also met incredible friends and faculty that have been nothing but caring and uplifting. Before I moved here, I always wanted to study jazz. During my undergrad there was a point where I told myself that I wanted to dive into learning drum set. At the time, I had been working toward my music education degree as a percussionist. If it wasn’t for USC and the jazz faculty, I wouldn’t have been able to take the big step in this new direction.

What I learned about myself: During my master’s I learned a lot about what I am fully capable of musically. Coming in, I was very timid and I lacked confidence while playing. I was able to unlock more of what I am capable of thanks to the jazz faculty.

What played a role in my success: Where would I be without my applied lesson professor Dr. Colleen Clark? She has helped me become the drummer I only dreamed of. She also has shown me how to be a better educator and a better person. Dr. Matt White and Professor Lauren Meccia are other jazz faculty members who have done so much for me. Their guidance, knowledge and professionalism have truly changed my perspective on what it means to be an educator.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite memories here was attending my first Jazz Girls Day event. The event was created by Dr. Colleen Clark and is meant to bring young musicians together and learn about jazz. This is mainly aimed toward middle and high school students. I have been lucky enough to be an instructor and huge advocate for the program.

What’s next: My plans for after graduation are to move back to Asheville and begin working as a performer and educator. After that I will begin working on my Doctor of Musical Arts with plans to find a higher education job teaching jazz and commercial drum set.

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Tyson Ansani

Major: Public Health
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina


Tyson Ansani plans to take a gap year to volunteer in Ghana before attending medical school.

Tyson Ansani at Williams-Brice stadium,

How USC changed my life: I've made lifelong friendships that have supported me by participating in campus events like Hip-Hop Wednesday and football games. Being a part of the University 101 and Green Scholars programs, I’ve discovered ways to positively improve community and environmental health. Off-campus experiences, such as volunteering at the Free Medical Clinic and participating in medical mission trips to Guatemala, have opened my eyes to health care disparities and reinforced my commitment to equitable access. In the Arnold School of Public Health, coursework has equipped me with essential knowledge and skills. USC has grown my character in ways I never could have imagined as a freshman. As I prepare to leave USC, three key takeaways stand out: a deepened passion for serving others; a strengthened commitment to advocating for health equity; and a profound appreciation for the transformative power of community and education. Looking forward, these experiences within USC serve as the bedrock for my future professional life as a physician.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite memories is the culmination of a project I spearheaded as a Green Scholar service leader. It was an event at Green Quad where we celebrated the success of our initiative to repurpose discarded T-shirts into dog toys for shelter animals. People interacted and connected with the dogs using the toys we had meticulously crafted. Hearing stories of how these simple toys brought happiness to both the animals and the humans involved was truly heartwarming. It was a moment that encapsulated the spirit of community, compassion and sustainability that I had worked so hard to foster throughout my time at the university. This memory stands out as a testament to the power of collective action and the impact we can have when we come together to make a positive difference in the world.

What’s next: After graduation, I'll be taking a gap year to volunteer and contribute to missionary efforts in Ghana while gaining experience in hospitals and clinics. The following year, I plan to attend medical school, pursuing my passion for orthopedic surgery.

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Blakely Hardin

Major: BARSC — Education Policy, Law and Government, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Fort Mill, South Carolina

Blakely Hardin, third from left, and her Student Government team visited the Statehouse on Carolina Day.

Blakely Hardin and her student government team stand otuside the statehouse

How USC changed my life: My academic experience at South Carolina prepared me to successfully apply to my dream law school. I was able to develop the reading, research and writing skills that made me a competitive applicant to Georgetown Law, where I will start in the fall. South Carolina provided me opportunities to engage with state leaders in Honors courses, work in-person in local and state government, like my mayor's fellowship with former Mayor Steve Benjamin and my internship with the S.C. Senate's Judiciary Committee, and complete impactful research on S.C. education policy. I developed my career interests as a result of my experiences and was able to tell my story and explain my goals in my Georgetown application with the support of my involvement and success at South Carolina.

Advice for incoming students: Do everything! Talk to your advisors, mentors and professors about your interests. I did not think it would be possible to take advantage of all of the incredible opportunities USC offers, but during my four years, I was able to take fun, interesting classes, complete my degree requirements, do six internships, work on-campus, develop my own research project, study abroad, win national fellowships and get involved on campus.

Who helped me succeed: Dr. Kara Brown has gone above and beyond time and time again to ensure my success at South Carolina. From serving on my BARSC major committee to being an incredible professor to serving as my research director for both of my South Carolina Honors College research grants and my honors thesis, I credit her with my success at South Carolina. Her endless support has been extensively impactful; she even wrote one of my two recommendations for my law school applications.

What’s next: I'm moving to Washington, D.C., to complete a summer internship, then starting law school at Georgetown in August.

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Ana Christina Ramirez

Major: Master of Social Work
Hometown: Bluffton, South Carolina

Ana Christina Ramirez has accepted the position of program coordinator for the Beaufort County Human Service Department.

Photo of Ana Christina Ramirez in class

How USC changed my life: Having become a parent at 16 years old and facing the challenges of dropping out after 8th grade, my path seemed uncertain. However, the university provided me with hope and opportunity. My professors, recognizing my potential and determination, were with me every step of the way. They offered unwavering support, guidance and encouragement, ensuring that I never felt alone in my pursuit of education. Despite my nontraditional educational background, they believed in my ability to succeed and provided the necessary resources to help me thrive. Now, as I near completion of my master's in social work, I am deeply grateful for the experience and the profound impact my professors have had on my journey. I am a change-maker, thanks to the University of South Carolina.

Advice for incoming students: Own your story — whether it's full of twists and turns or straight as an arrow — it's what makes you uniquely equipped to understand and help others. Secondly, don't be afraid to lean on your professors, supervisors and classmates when the going gets tough. Social work is all about teamwork and support. Get involved in the community — join clubs, advocate for causes you care about and dive into local initiatives. It's not just about what you learn in class; it's about how you apply it in the real world. And lastly, don't forget to take care of yourself. Burnout is real in this field, so make sure you're making time for self-care alongside all that hard work.

What I’ve learned about myself: I am tougher than I think. I've come to realize that my background equips me to be a strong advocate for others. My unique experiences have shaped my perspective and provided me with valuable insights that I can use to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those around me.

What’s next:  I have accepted the position of program coordinator for the Beaufort County Human Service Department. Additionally, I am passionate about volunteering to serve my non-English-speaking Latino community.

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Kennedy Williams

Major: Early Childhood Education
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina


The rain didn't stop Kennedy Williams and Cocky from having fun at the USC-Vanderbilt football game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Kennedy Williams and Cocky at a USC football game.

How USC changed my life: The University of South Carolina has taught me so many life lessons in ways I cannot express. This college gave me such wonderful, kind friends, in both my early childhood education community and theater. These friendships remind me that I am not alone, and there are people out there who are willing to support you and your upbringing, no matter what. I was given an opportunity to act in my first show in college Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I enjoyed building relationships with my cast and crew. The theater department showed me how sharing a common interest in acting brings everyone together to create a beautiful story.

Advice for incoming students: Branch out on campus and enjoy yourself. Life as a college student is similar to life as a high-schooler: The years go by so fast that you will blink one day, and BOOM you are walking across the stage, ready to start a new chapter in life.

What played a key role in my success: Rabbi Meir Muller is the sweetest professor I have ever met. He is very understanding when my colleagues and I express our stories about the events at our internship sites. Bridget Miller and Dr. Elif Karsli-Calamak both came to my play and showed support for me as their student. It meant the world to me. Dustin Whitehead and Peter Duffy were the best teachers in my introduction in USC's theater community.

What I’ve learned about myself: I learned to observe and take mental notes of my surroundings using my eyes and ears, and not allow my talking to get in the way. I have learned so much about sustaining professionalism, not only as a theater student, but as a student intern at elementary schools.

A favorite memory: My favorite moments at USC are: acting in a play; drinking boba teas from JJ Tea House with two of my roommates; watching the Spiderman movie at the football stadium; and going to the Clemson vs. USC game.

What’s next: I will teach at an elementary school, either first or second grade.

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Caroline Sunderlage

Major: Hospitality Management
Hometown: Fort Mill, South Carolina


One of Caroline Sunderlage's favorite memories was working as the Gamecock Entertainment intern at goat yoga.

Caroline Sunderlage holding a goat on USC campus

How USC changed my life: The University of South Carolina has completely changed my life for the better. USC has given me lifelong friends that I will cherish forever and a partner that I feel like I couldn't live without. Academically, USC has given me all the tools and confidence to enter my industry feeling prepared.

Advice for incoming students: Be outgoing. Don't hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. College is the perfect time to really figure out who you are outside your hometown. It's not only a great time to make new friends, but a great time to become friends with yourself.

What I’ve learned about myself: The more comfortable you are with yourself, the more free you will feel. If you are comfortable being alone and doing things by yourself, the sky is the limit for what you can do. You can go to fun events by yourself, and further than that if you are not scared to take big leaps. For example, I did the Disney College Program not knowing anyone down there and not even meeting my roommates ahead of time. You can do anything and go anywhere if you are content with yourself.

What played a role in my success: One professor who has had a profound impact on my college experience was Kevin Ayres. I met him at a Capstone accepted students event, and he convinced me to change my major to hospitality management. This semester, he pitched the Marriott company to our class and said that they were great employers. That is why I looked into the Marriott Voyage Program. He has taught me a lot and  helped me shape my future.

What’s next: I will be moving to Naples, Florida, to work in the Marriott Voyage Program in banquets.

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Greyson Carraway

Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Aiken, South Carolina


Greyson Carraway will attend the University of Oregon to pursue a Master of Science in Curriculum and Teacher Education.


Greyson Carraway stands with the Cocky statue on campus

How USC changed my life: I graduated high school in 2018 and took two years off before coming to college. I decided it was time to come to college in the middle of a pandemic and wanted more than anything to find a home. Not only did I find that, but also some of the best people I could ever imagine and the best experiences. I came in shy and nervous, and I leave with confidence and an exciting outlook on life. Taking time off made me fall in love with learning in a way I never knew before.

What played a role in your success: University Ambassadors has helped make me the person I am today. I could barely order at a drive-through and now I can speak to a large group of people with ease. I learned how to lead through various positions, and I found something new to love about campus with every single tour. I love helping others find a home at this place where I found mine.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite memories has to be Pillars for Carolina, an extended orientation program. Unfortunately, it was cancelled in 2020 so I never got to experience it as a participant coming into my freshman year. My time as an extended orientation mentor helped create memories for new students and helped me find my best friends and family. Running around campus, playing games and blaring music in the summer heat, late-night dance parties or staying up until the sun rises with friends are truly some of my best memories and weeks of my life. We always circle up at the end of the week and sing the alma mater. I have conditioned myself to start crying when I hear it now.

What’s next: I am going to the University of Oregon to get a Master of Science in Curriculum and Teacher Education.

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LaQuisha Brown

Major: Educational Specialist, School Counseling
Hometown: Olanta, South Carolina


LaQuisha Brown earned her Educational Specialist degree as a way to help provide a better life for her son.

LaQuisha Brown with her son

How USC changed my life: As a single mom with a son who has a  disability (profound hearing loss), I was trying to find a way to provide him with a better life than mine. The jobs I was interested in required a master's degree, and the University of South Carolina was recommended by a close friend. I told myself this is where I belong and I am heading in the right direction. Working two jobs full-time and going to school was not easy, but USC taught me a lot about resiliency, dedication, no limits to leadership and what it means to be remarkable. I found out that even though everybody doesn't have the same walk of life, you could still have the same values and understanding. I walked into this university as a single mom, struggling with depression, having no sense of identity, lost and feeling stuck. I will be walking out as a young, educated woman who is ready to be a leader, ready to make some changes in the world and impact lives in a positive way one counseling session at a time.

Advice for incoming students: Always remember your "why" and remain dedicated to the career and life you want in the end. Walking into the graduate program is a journey, keep an open mind to learning new things and understanding the destination will always be there. It's the knowledge and experience that you bring with you that matters the most.

What helped me succeed: Both of my cohorts in 2023 and 2024 have played a key role in my success at South Carolina. My professors knew the odds that were against me and instead of judging or telling me to reconsider the program, they all asked, "What can we do to help?" I  have to give a shout out to Dr. Jonathan Ohrt because I know I am on his top 10 list of students who constantly emailed him.

A favorite memory: Being able to present my research at the South Carolina Counseling Association conference two years in a row.

What’s next: I will be moving to Matthews, North Carolina, and working as a school counselor for Union County Public Schools.

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Margaret Cathcart

Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Hickory Tavern, South Carolina


Margaret Cathcart will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics at Auburn University.

Margaret Cathcart stands in front of LeConte College.

How USC changed my life: I have seen myself become more independent, more willing to take chances and more confident in my abilities. I have grown as a leader and a friend. New responsibilities and new tasks do not frighten me anymore.

What I’ve learned about myself: Through my work as a Supplemental Instruction leader, I learned that I love to teach and that I am passionate about students who are learning mathematics. I have had invaluable resources to grow as a teacher and a leader here, through my education minor as well as my work at the Student Success Center.

What played a role in my success: Professor Daniel Savu, my business calculus professor, has been my greatest mentor throughout my four years here. I took business calculus freshman year, and Professor Savu encouraged me to pursue a Supplemental Instruction leader role. When I mentioned to him that I might switch my major to mathematics, he was incredibly supportive, helping me map out a path and choose professors. Professor Savu is willing to answer any questions I might have about math, career choices or anything in between. I am so grateful to have met him, and he has changed my life.

A favorite memory: During my freshman year, when there were not many activities on campus due to COVID, I heard about a scavenger hunt through USC. I gathered two of my friends and my sister to participate with me. We ran all over campus, beginning at Blatt and winding our way around, stopping at the Horseshoe to look for the Hootie and the Blowfish bricks, Russell House Underground to play a memory game and Capstone to find flags. It was such a fun activity, and it was something that was a bright spot during a hard freshman year.

What’s next? I will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics at Auburn University,

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Ira A. Hogg Sr.

Major: Psychology and Social Work
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina


Ira Hogg, an Air Force veteran, will attend the College of Social Work's graduate program and hopes to eventually work at the Veterans Administration.

Ira Hogg and his son at the piano

How USC changed my life: Before attending the university, I had just separated from the Air Force. With 10 years of knowledge in aircraft mechanics, global postal services, supply acquisitions and records management, I was at a loss of what my purpose was. I selected a major that I had a few classes toward: psychology. As the semesters went on, I grew very intrigued by the social work field. With my interests piqued, I dual-enrolled as a junior and never once looked back.

Advice for incoming students: I would stress to them to forget about pains of their origins. I would urge them to focus on their current position in life. A tree may die at its roots, but its seedlings remain alive and fruitful. Like the seedlings, new students must embark on their journey alone and without the influences of their peers. Although collectively creating new life, they must be innovative in their choice of ideologies, unique in their journaling of stories and open-minded in their selection of career paths.

What I’ve learned about myself in college: Have the patience to change. College for me has been about growth and adopting new perspectives. In the military, you are taught to cling to dichotomous notions. There is no middle ground or gray areas. The mission is either pass or fail. My college experience has been everything but dichotomous. Adding a second major and creating a student organization, all while fathering a family and running a business has been a healthy transformation for me.

A favorite memory: Meeting all of the wonderful students who started out as strangers in the classroom and eventually became lifelong friends. I came to college thinking it would be like a job where I could conquer tasks and move up in the ranks. Despite the competitiveness, joining organizations and fellowshipping with like-minded peers brought about a more familial environment.

What’s next? I plan to attend the College of Social Work’s graduate program. I have my sights set on employment at the Veterans Administration. I would love to use all of my knowledge and new skillsets to help veterans like myself.

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Haley Bowick

Major: Broadcast Journalism
Hometown: Simpsonville, South Carolina


Haley Bowick, right, plans to work as a reporter for a local news station, writing, filming and sharing stories.

Haley Bowick sits at the Carolina News anchor desk with another student.

How USC changed my life: USC gave me the experience I needed to become successful in my career and allowed me to grow as a person each semester.

Advice for incoming students: Don’t be afraid to leave your dorm and try new things. I wish I had participated in more on-campus events or clubs. You will never be comfortable until you put yourself in uncomfortable situations.

What I’ve learned about myself: I don’t have to worry so much. Everything I was stressed about always ended up turning out OK — or even better than I thought. Learning to be independent has also been a huge lesson I learned during my college career.

What played a role in my success: All of my broadcast professors at the J-school have played a key role in my success. Dr. Laura Smith was my intro professor and taught me the basics of what it took to be a journalist, which is something I’ll hold onto forever. Also Brandon Shulleeta was always there to listen to students and encouraged me to stick with journalism, even when I was struggling. Every story I cover I think about how Andy Burns would critique it. I think it’s made me better at what I do. Finally, my senior semester professors, Rick Peterson and Lena Sadiwskyj, taught my classmates and me what it takes to be a successful journalist.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite memories was at Williams-Brice Stadium during my sophomore year. The Hootie and the Blowfish song “Hold my Hand” started playing. Everyone around me in the student section started singing along and holding hands. It’s such an oddly specific memory, but I truly felt like a USC student that day. And now I think of that moment every time I hear that song.

What’s next: I’m going to become a reporter for a local news station and do what I love: writing, filming and sharing stories.

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Patrick Flynn

Major: Master of Business Administration
Hometown: Florence, South Carolina

Patrick Flynn is earning his third degree from the University of South Carolina.

Patrick Flynn at Williams-Brice Stadium.

How USC changed my life: Stepping onto USC’s campus many years ago, I had no clue how much it would change me. I was just another freshman, lost and searching. But through getting involved and working on campus, I found my path. Now, as I’m about to get my third USC degree, I can see how much I’ve grown. This place gave me more than just education; it gave me my career, introduced me to my wife, and helped me find my purpose. USC has truly changed me, and I’m so grateful for every moment.

Advice for incoming students: Don’t shy away from challenges. Embrace them, because growth happens when we push past our comfort zone. Also, live by our university motto: “Emollit Mores Nec Sinit Esse Feros,” which translates to “Learning humanizes character and does not permit it to be cruel.” Always be kind, even when it may be difficult.

What I’ve learned about myself: The most important lesson I've learned is the value of being a lifelong learner. The moment we believe we've figured it all out is the moment we cease to grow.

A favorite memory: As part of my previous roles at USC, I worked 10 football seasons straight. The final game that I worked was our blow-out win against Tennessee in 2022. I was on the receiving end of the entire student section rushing the field. It was a night I'll never forget.

What’s next: I am so grateful to continue to serve this university that I love. No matter where life takes me, I will forever be indebted. Forever to thee!

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Mallory Strmel

Major: Marketing, Entrepreneurship Management, South Carolina Honors College
Hometown: Wilmington, Delaware


Mallory Strmel will move to New York City to become a financial services consultant. She  eventually plans to pursue creative direction and brand management.

Mallory Strmel at the Darla Moore School of Business

How USC changed my life: Not only did my self-confidence increase, but I also saw growth in my leadership abilities and skills.  At USC, I had the opportunity to serve as a leader to my peers in various ways — serving as the VP of human resources for the Gamecock Consulting Club, historian and homecoming chair for Chi Omega, two semesters as a marketing scholar, volunteering through Pancakes for Parkinsons and Make-A-Wish, and getting the opportunity to get to know and help so many students from all walks of life. Without learning from my fellow students how to be a leader and a mentor, I would never have been able to accomplish my goals and help others accomplish theirs.

What I’ve learned about myself: I've discovered that my ability to adapt and persevere in challenging situations is one of my greatest strengths. I started my college experience in Fall 2020, where classes and experiences were mostly online and opportunities to engage were limited. While difficult, I persevered and was able to rise above, earning my way onto the President's List and allowing myself to adapt to any situation needed. Being flexible is tough — but USC has revealed that I can do it.

A favorite memory: Sophomore year, my best friends and I had a tradition of watching USC women's basketball games together — and we all gathered to watch the national championship together. I remember the excitement when the Gamecocks began their electric run that night. We all looked at each other and had the same thought — we need to head to T-Coop! We drove from my friend's off-campus apartment and heard the countdown of "5... 4... 3... 2..." as we jumped into the fountain and saw the smiling faces of our friends and classmates. We were singing, chanting, running around and, most importantly, everyone was happy. My favorite memories at USC are those that bring people together, and nothing brings people together like the joy of supporting the Gamecocks.

What’s next: I will be moving to New York City to become a financial services consultant at Oliver Wyman. I eventually plan to pursue creative direction and brand management through the skills I have acquired at USC.

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Jaheem McLaurin

Major: Political Science
Hometown: Bennettsville, South Carolina


As a first-generation college student, Jaheem McLaurin, right, says the TRIO Opportunity Scholars Program played a key role in his success at USC.

Jaheem McLaurin, right, celebrated the 2022 women's basketball championship at the Thomas Cooper Library fountain.

How USC changed my life: When I first came to USC, I walked into unknown territory. As a first- generation college student, I did not know what to do or how to navigate this path. USC has allowed me to try new things, exposed me to amazing opportunities and have personal relationships with so many people from all different walks of life. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone which has helped me to grow into the person I am today.

Advice for incoming students: Be yourself. The world is yours and you can and will become anything you set your mind to. There is only one you, which makes you special, so make your mark on this campus. Don’t ever feel like you are not good enough and never forget where you come from. 

What played a role in my success: The TRIO Opportunity Scholars Program. As a first-generation college student, I wanted to be around a community that was just like me and this program afforded me the opportunity to do so. The staff has supported me in everything I have done. Between advising me on what courses to take, to studying abroad in Costa Rica, this program has become family to me. Even in the bad times, they have lifted me up.

A favorite memory: When the women's basketball team won the national championship in 2022, and my friends and I went and jumped in the T-Coop fountain. It seemed like the entire world was celebrating with us. It was really fun to see everyone excited about the win and showing school spirit. I believe we have one of the most diehard fan bases in the world. 

What’s next: Law school

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Emily Prillaman

Major: English
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois


One of  Emily Prillaman's favorite college memories was being able to finish her French minor abroad in Tours, France, with a host family.

Emily Prillaman gives the spurs up sign.

How USC changed my life: The University of South Carolina has made me more self-assured and ready for the next steps in life in so many ways. I was able to find communities of ambitious peers that I can use for support in the future, and I grew into myself. I changed my major multiple times, joined and dropped various clubs and organizations and found unforgettable opportunities. I've gotten the opportunity to be in leadership positions since my sophomore year, and I surprised myself by how confident I've grown since high school.

Advice for incoming students: Try anything and everything. I completely changed my interests from high school, and this has helped me grow into my identity and the person I am today. Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself. This is a perfect opportunity to embrace change.

What I’ve learned about myself: Coming into college as a shy person, I never expected to be public speaking within my first semester and branching out into leadership positions. I have gained incredible confidence by interacting with a network of peers who support and push me.

Who played a role in my success: Maegan Gudridge, my mentor for my communications internship, has helped me throughout my senior year. She has supported me in all my academic pursuits, and she has helped me improve my writing skills so much.

A favorite memory: One of my favorite memories was being able to finish my French minor abroad in Tours, France, with a host family. In addition to taking classes taught by native speakers and interacting with classmates from around the world, I traveled around the country and learned about the rich history.

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Kelsey August Dailey

Major: Nursing
Hometown: Lexington, South Carolina


Kelsey Dailey, right, enjoys a tailgate party before a USC football game.

Photo of Kelsey Dailey and a friend at a tailgate party

How USC changed my life: The University of South Carolina has formed me into the woman I am today by helping me find my identity and preparing me for my professional future. Carolina has given me the opportunity to become a part of my community through my service sorority, and it has also brought me my closest friends who I couldn’t have gone through this journey without. The university has given me memories I will cherish forever, and I truly can’t say enough about what my college means to me. I also was able to participate and obtain my Graduation with Leadership Distinction in Professional and Civic Engagement which helped me to see the impact I’ve made during my time here. As a future nurse, I feel prepared to provide great patient care and am grateful for the nursing staff here at Carolina.

What I’ve learned about myself: I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to, and that I am more resilient than I once thought. I also learned the importance of surrounding myself with good influences and good people to study with and spend my free time with.

What played a role in my success: Epsilon Sigma Alpha, my service sorority, brought purpose into my college experience and so many wonderful sisters, confidants and companions. Heather Miles, my OB/GYN professor who I shadowed at her clinic and worked alongside at Women’s Health Hopkins, helped me learn about being a women’s health nurse practitioner.

A favorite memory: Any home football weekend. I love college football and no one does it better than the students at Carolina.

What’s next: I will be a registered nurse working in the emergency department of Lexington Medical Center. I plan to go back to school and become a women’s health nurse practitioner later down the line.

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Stephane Tagne

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Cameroon


One of Stephane Tagne's favorite memories is the USC Presidential Student Summit, where the group discussed “Imagine Carolina” with President Michael Amiridis.

Stephane Tagne with Cocky

How USC changed my life: A college degree opens up more opportunities, even in fields that aren't in your major. Obtaining a degree takes discipline and a will to succeed. By getting your degree, you overcome procrastination and learn to do what it takes to reach your goal.

Advice for incoming students: Enjoy your Gamecock life as you give your best to achieve your goals.

What I’ve learned about myself: I’ve learned that with a growth mindset and strong discipline, I can achieve anything I set my mind to.

What played a role in my success: Dr. Ramy Harik is a true inspiration for me because we both come from different countries with different backgrounds and have the English language as a second language. Plus, he is so knowledgeable and very competent.

A favorite memory: The USC Presidential Student Summit, where we discussed “Imagine Carolina” with President Michael Amiridis.

What’s next:  I’ll probably come back for my master's degree. I hope to become a full-time employee with Schneider Electric since I landed an internship there as a quality engineer.

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