University of South Carolina Union would like to express our unfathomable gratitude to our staff, faculty, community, and especially to our students that have overcome adversity in order to achieve the main goal of the success of our campus. It comes with no hesitation to say that this year has presented many obstacles and apprehensions due to the loss of two of our Lady Bantam softball players and the Covid pandemic. But in navigating these uncanny times the campus has emerged even stronger.
The Student Center turned in to a registration point for students where they check-in every morning upon arriving to campus to have their temperature taken and answer a series of health questions related to Covid. If the result of the screening was satisfactory for the student to enter campus buildings, then the student received a bracelet to wear that granted them access to campus buildings for the remainder of that day. If the result of the screening suggested that the student may present some risk of exposure to others on campus, then they were provided with information on next steps regarding testing, self-quarantine, etc. that was needed prior to entering classroom buildings. Due to the hard work and dedication by our staff, faculty, and students, this cut down on positive Covid cases and the potential spreading.
Dean Search A search committee has been appointed to lead the search for the next Dean of USC Union. The 11-member committee includes representatives of the USC Union faculty, staff, students, and alumni; community leaders from the service area; Palmetto College representatives, and University officials. The committee will be chaired by USC Lancaster Dean Walter Collins. The search committee will work with Palmetto College Human Resources to receive applications and nominations from highly qualified candidates from across the state and around the country. Additionally, the committee will review qualifications and conduct interviews including campus interviews involving USC Union faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the USC Union community before recommending finalists to the Chancellor of Palmetto College. The Chancellor will conduct further interviews and gather input from the search committee before a decision is made.
Dr. Randy Lowell, who has stepped in as interim dean during the search, began teaching at USC Union in 2012, where he transitioned into the role of Academic Dean in 2016. Dr. Lowell has been instrumental leading students with their independent research on campus. Dr. Susan Elkins, Chancellor of USC Palmetto College, stated “I am confident that Interim Dean Lowell will do an excellent job of continuing Dean Catalano’s work, and we will continue to press forward in fulfilling our mission of providing an affordable, accessible, and flexible education to the residents of Union and Lauren Counties and beyond.”
The interim Academic Dean role is being filled by Dr. Majdouline “Maggie” Aziz. She joined USC Union in 2014 as an Assistant Professor of Sociology, where she also served as the Director of the Student Academic Success Center from 2015 until 2020 when she earned tenure and promoted to the rank of associate professor and transitioned into the role of Interim Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs. During her time at USC Union, she has enjoyed developing and teaching new classes and has maintained an active research agenda focusing on religious identity development. Dr. Aziz frequently works with students beyond the classroom, collaborating with undergraduate researchers to help develop their scholarly skills and co-authoring a peer-reviewed journal publication. Dr. Aziz has also served on several local and regional campus committees and is currently serving on the editorial board for Caravel, USC’s undergraduate research journal. She was selected as a fellow in the USC-system Academic Leadership Fellow Program, named USCU’s Distinguished Teacher of the Year in 2017, and was awarded the Palmetto College Chris P. Plyler Excellence in Service Award in 2020. While not at work, Dr. Aziz enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and cooking.
Campus Success USC Union received an 80.2% success rate for first-time, full-time freshmen entering fall 2015. This information was based on the most recent SC CHE data, which is the best in the state of SC among all 2-year degree granting institutions (all 16 tech schools and all 4 PC campuses). They define Success Rate as “The CHE success rate, in addition to the graduates included in the graduation rate cohort, includes as part of the completion group those students who are still enrolled at the same institution during the Fall term following 150% of program time and students who transfer to other institutions before 150% of program time.” USC Union also moved up to number three in Niche.com’s rankings for Best Community Colleges in South Carolina. Niche rankings are calculated using dozens of public data sets and reviews. During 2019-2020, USC Union had a total of 36 Associates of Arts graduates, 45 Associates of Science graduates, seven native Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership graduates, and four Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies graduates. Through our partnership with USC Aiken, we are able to offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in Union for which we’ll have our first 16 Upper Division juniors on campus in Fall 2021 and our first 16 Upper Division seniors on campus in Fall 2022.
Research Club For the Fall 2020 semester, the USC Union Research Club’s student officers included President Tomi LaChance, Vice President Madisen Brewington, and Secretary Caden Jackson. Despite the limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic on in-person gatherings, the Club remained active within the virtual domain with several virtual presentations and virtual Club meetings. The first Fall event was a virtual presentation by staff from USC Columbia’s Office of Undergraduate Research, and Center for Integrative and Experiential Learning in September, speaking on the opportunities for our students to engage in Graduation with Leadership Distinction and compete for Magellan grant funding. Next, in October, the Club hosted the virtual presentation by Interim Director of the Carnegie Library, Taylor Atkinson, on verifying credible sources. Finally, in November, the Club put on a Virtual Colloquium featuring presentations from students Tomi LaChance and Caden Jackson on their research concerning personality, social media, and meditation; from Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Jennifer Emswiler, on her creative process; and from Instructor of Spanish/French/Italian, Kevin Torres, on his research on the Holocaust. All of these presentations, in addition to a day-in-the-life takeover by Dr. Randy Lowell, were also featured by the USC Lancaster Research Club’s Union week on their social media as part of their year-long virtual conference initiative. Looking ahead to the Spring semester, the Club will again provide a variety of virtual content for the campus to check out.
Grants Awarded USC Union was awarded a $100,000 grant, submitted by Annie Smith (Marketing & Development Director) and Dr. Steve Lownes (Assistant Professor of World Languages), from the Timken Foundation. This funding will be used to complete a second lab and to purchase 24 Olympus CS33 microscopes for our science and nursing courses. The software that is currently being used in our state-of-the-art virtual reality lab integrates with microscopy and wall monitors to display enlarged microscopic images to analyze beyond the capabilities of a traditional light microscopy. This will give students a 360-degree view and will allow instant feedback interactions through virtual reality. USC Union was also awarded a $10,000 grant from the Lutz Foundation to establish, staff, and stock a Student Food Pantry. With the grant funding, USC Union will hire student assistants to run the pantry, stock basic and non-perishable food supplies, and prepare and outfit a space for the pantry.
During the months of September and October, Dr. Steve Lownes presented a virtual Latin American Film Series in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Dr. Lownes began teaching at USC Union in August 2019 and he is an American Translators Association (ATA) Certified Translator. He has taught Spanish and Portuguese at several universities and has worked with international universities to create proficiency-based curriculums. The Film Series was made possible through support from a grant from the PRAGDA Spanish Film Club, Title VI grant funds from the University of Georgia’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute and USC Union.
Athletics Bantam Athletics have added women’s club volleyball and they will begin competing in the spring. Plans are to move the volleyball team from club level to NJCAA by 2022. The soccer season was postponed until spring 2021 due to Covid. All sports – baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball – will play in the spring of 2021 and schedules will be posted first of January. The Lady Bantams will welcome ten new recruits for spring 2021. Baseball will welcome five new recruits and soccer has also signed nine new recruits for spring 2021. Eleven USC Union student-athletes earned the All-Academic status from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). This academic honor is achieved by student-athletes who have an overall GPA of 3.6 or higher for the academic year. Four of the eleven athletes had a 4.0 GPA.
Brianna Fish, USC Union Rifle Team captain, added another gold medal to her collection. Fish won the medal in Sectional Junior Air Rifle Precision Standing during a National Rifle Association competition held on February 28th in Walhalla. USC Union Rifle Team Coach Doug Gilliam said Fish shot 60 rounds in the standing position- the most difficult shooting stance. Gilliam said Fish, a former Air Force JROTC National Champion, came to USC Union well-coached.
The athletic department has acquired the old Jonesville gymnasium with future plans to turn it in an indoor athletic training facility. This will be the only indoor training facility in the Bantam’s NJCAA region. The facility will have turf flooring, batting cages, and more elements related to soccer, baseball, softball, and volleyball. It will be a key factor with recruiting and the success of the athletes on the field. The teams will also use the facility for weather-proof fundraising camps and community events. USC Union’s strong partnership with Jonesville has been effective for both the Bantams and the town by restoring the Jonesville football field for soccer and renovating an industrial league ballfield for baseball.
Campus Facilities This year, USC Union opened their brand-new Student Service building on the corner of Main Street next to the campus Bookstore. The new location houses admissions, financial aid, registrar, and recruiting for USC Union and Palmetto College. This has opened up office spaces in the Whitener Building and Main Building for faculty and staff. Closing the campus library and partnering with Carnegie has been beneficial for all. The Carnegie offers extended weekday hours and also weekend hours, which our campus library did not. This opened up about 6000 square feet of usable classroom and office space in the old campus library. Renovations in this space are almost complete and it will become the world language and language arts suite with additional faculty offices.
The campus has also acquired the old post office on Main Street with plans to renovate it for fine arts. But with the nursing program growing, the plans have changed to turn the old post office into the nursing simulation lab. This building will be complete with classroom and office space, simulation lab, nursing skills lab, biology and chemistry lab. The simulation lab will be designed to provide a learning experience for students that will consist of realistic looking lab rooms, manikins, and equipment that will allow students to practice without risking harm to human patients. The fine arts department will be housed in the Founders’ House that is located behind the Main Building. Other parts of campus will start seeing renovations that include upgrading the bathrooms in both the Whitener and Main Building, and updates in the Academic Affairs suite in the Main Building.
USC Union continues to grow and would like to thank the community for their support over the years. Campus is looking forward to another successful year in 2021!