“Sand Shark Welcome Week” Introduces Growth and Change at USCB

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By Candace Brasseur

The University of South Carolina Beaufort is ready for the fall semester to begin.  After a summer of orientations, a fun filled “Sand Shark Welcome Week” planned for mid August, grounds bustling with nearly 500 students living on the Hilton Head Gateway campus, new course schedules/offerings, Arts programming, and the inaugural USCB Women’s soccer game, young leaders are primed to emerge.

When you’re a student leader at a smaller, intimate, university such as USCB, your impact is felt throughout the campus.  This is especially true for the 16 student leaders who have devoted their entire summer to assisting the office of Student Life with over 10 New Student Orientations.    Kate Torborg-Vermilyea, Director of Student Life, says “Orientation Leaders are make orientation a success!  Without them, we couldn’t welcome 400+ freshmen and the many transfers we plan to see fall of 2011.”

Debi Gant, parent of an incoming freshman, said “It is important to me that my daughter stays close to home for college, but she, like most teenagers, wanted to venture out farther.  However, after attending this summer’s new student orientation at USCB, she is extremely enthusiastic for the year ahead of her, right here in the Lowcountry.”

And without question, Ms. Gant’s daughter has much to be excited about.  Her welcome week, known to many as “Sand Shark Week,” makes the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” seem rather small in comparison.  She and her fellow incoming freshmen will participate in Beach Olympics at the Weston Resort, Live Band Karaoke, and entertainment by Chris Jones the Hypnotist.

However, the bustle of activity on campus will not end after “Sand Shark Week” concludes.  The number of students living on campus will almost double with the addition of two new dormitories, bringing the number of USCB residents close to 500.  Not only do these new dorms offer students apartment style living with individual bedrooms, and the benefits of new construction, but they offer convenience and the opportunity for camaraderie.  According to student Devin Lockhart, “living on campus allows me to have a quick and easy way to get things done on campus while also allowing me to keep an active social life among students, faculty and staff.”

Another opportunity for freshmen to develop friendships early on, which is new to USCB this fall, is the option to participate in “freshmen learning communities.” In these communities, 20 students will take three of their fall classes together as a group.  According to Vice-Chancellor Doug Oblander, PhD, Director of Student Affairs, “National studies have shown that these communities improve freshman performance and retention by fostering a sense of shared mission and belonging.” There are 6 learning communities students can choose from: An Anthropology, History, Biology, Psychology, Political Science, and Fine Arts (located on the Historic Beaufort Campus).  The professors for the three core freshman courses within each community will work together to create synergies between their individual subjects.

Leadership is more than just an idea at USCB; the university’s Chancellor, Jane Upshaw, PhD, will be co-teaching a new course, Leadership in Practice on this very subject.  According to Dr. Charles Spirrison, who is co-teaching the course with Dr.Upshaw, “This course explores the practice of leadership and engages outstanding students in an active dialogue about the challenges of being a leader.  A select group of highly talented students will have the unique opportunity to have a seat at a conference room table where a range of current leaders and decision makers discuss their leadership philosophies and careers.  We are very pleased and excited about the course and expect that it will have a lasting impact on the students who were invited to enroll in it.”

An important part of USCB’s mission is to make educational opportunities available to all residents in the Lowcountry region.  As such, this fall there will be additional evening classes offered at the Historic Beaufort campus that cater to the schedules of Military and non-traditional students, who typically hold full-time employment during the day.  High School students from Jasper County are also taking a “University 101” course held on the Hilton Head Gateway campus.  This class, which is already at full enrollment, gives students the opportunity to learn about college and earn college credit in the process.

Participants in the Call Me Mister program, comprised of diverse males seeking early education teaching degrees, are also looking forward to another successful year in area schools.  According to the director, Larry Jackson, “The USCB Call Me MiSTER program will have a new cohort of twelve or thirteen male students.  These new, as well as returning students, will be volunteering in elementary schools in Beaufort, Bluffton, Hardeville and Ridgeland as part of their curriculum.”

The Historic Beaufort Campus is gearing up for their upcoming year of Arts programming accessible to the community.  According to the Center for the Arts Director, Bonnie Hargrove, “We are planning for the Met Opera, Guys and Dolls, Jr., Always Patsy Cline, and The Columbia City Ballet return with the holiday classic The Nutcracker.  USCB is extremely excited to be able to offer such high quality arts opportunities to both local residents, and visitors alike.”

The Studio Arts program, also housed at the Historic Beaufort Campus, is entering its second year of operation and is already beginning to broaden its scope.  New classes in digital photography are starting this fall with more offerings on the horizon.  A new lighting studio is being completed in the Sandstone Building right across the hall from the state of the art Digital Darkroom and Design Studio.  They are also in the final stages of completing their move into the old Chamber of Commerce building which, among other things, will contain the new Sea Islands Art Gallery.  Workshops and seminars are already being planned that will be open to the community.

And all of USCB’s community is eagerly awaiting the first inaugural Women’s soccer game, taking place at the Hilton Head Gateway campus at 5:00pm on August 24th.  This is the first sport to take place directly on USCB’s campus, and while many colleges struggle to comply with Title Nine regulations, USCB is on top- literally. These female soccer players are the ones truly reaching for great heights.  According to Coach Ed Heberling, “Our players will not only work hard on the field, but will be held to high academic standards, and certainly expected to take part in outreach initiatives.  They will be active members of the very community who comes out to support them.”  Heberling is also inviting community leaders to come and speak to his players about their own inspirational experiences, and granting them the recognition of being an “honorary” coach of the game.

So as “Sand Shark Week” commences, it will be interesting to see who the future leaders of the USCB campus will turn out to be.  In the meantime, the student Orientation Leaders will continue their mission.  As director of student life, Kate Torborg-Vermilyea, astutely points out, “These 16 students truly represent what USCB is about.  They are a diverse group of bright, talented, and charismatic people who have a love for their institution.  They have been our best team, mentoring their incoming peers with amazing dedication; they make us proud to be Sand Sharks!”