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The Big Thirst Author Charles Fishman to Visit CofC

Posted by: McCrayCC | November 6, 2017 | No Comment |

As part of The College Reads! program, the College of Charleston will present an evening with The New York Timesbestselling author Charles Fishman on November 7, 2017.  The lecture will be held in the Sottile Theatre starting at 7 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Fishman’s book, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, is The College Reads! selection for the 2017-2018 academic year. In the book, Fishman explores humanity’s relationship with water, from a sewage tank to the bottling facilities of San Pellegrino in Italy.

The College Today posed four questions to Fishman prior to his CofC visit:

How have water issues changed since you first published The Big Thirst in 2011? 

Three big things have happened since The Big Thirst came out.

First of all, water issues have gotten more dramatic, more urgent, more obvious. In California, the worst drought in settled history occurred. In Flint, the worst collapse of a city water system in the U.S. in 100 years took place. In Houston and Florida and Puerto Rico, storms were a reminder that too much water is as dangerous a problem as too little water.

Second, more people are paying attention and more cities are taking water seriously. California had a terrible drought, but the state survived. Indeed, it thrived — growing faster and creating more jobs through the drought than almost anywhere else in the U.S. And despite no rain for years, the price of strawberries and carrots in the rest of the country didn’t rise. That’s because California had been getting ready for the drought with smart practices for 25 years. It showed. The drought was bad. But the drought wasn’t crippling. The lead-tainted water in Flint was the water story that probably got more attention than any in the last 20 years — and rightfully so. Lots of attention was paid to the condition of city water systems, and of the lingering lead contamination around the country. But the typical person in Flint, today, still hasn’t had their water problem solved. So it’s also clear that a lot of noise and promises from elected officials don’t always translate into action.

The third thing that has changed is that we are doing much better, as a nation. Water use in the United States, today, is lower than it was in 1970. Not per capita — total. We’ve increased the population of the US by 50 percent — 105 million people — and reduced our total water use. We’ve quadrupled the size of the economy, and reduced our water use. That’s simply amazing. Every gallon of water we use today does four times the “work” a gallon of water did in 1970. So the effort at smarter water use is paying off. Just imagine if we had to use four times the water we do now — everywhere in the country — to create the economy we have. That would be crippling. 

How do you see the current political climate (both on the state and national level) impacting the future of clean water?

For the moment, there is no “politics” of water. There’s not a Republican or Democratic position on water issues. That’s good.

At the federal level, the Trump Administration and the EPA under Scott Pruitt are loosening protections on water as quickly as they can. That will let companies pollute more than they have been allowed to,  and it may lead to the destruction of wetlands that provide all kinds of value to communities and the environment.

But in the larger picture of both time and popular opinion, two things are clear.

First, Americans like their water and their air cleaner, and everywhere in the country, the water today is cleaner than it was when the Clean Water Act was passed 40 years ago. Every river, every lake, every bay is cleaner — and we appreciate that.

And most companies take water stewardship more seriously than they ever have — both in terms of their impact on water, and on how much they use. Not every company, not everywhere. But the general consensus is that we can run a vibrant, creative, fast-moving economy and also keep water and air clean. No one looks at a river or lake and thinks, “I wish that were dirtier.”

At the local and state level, water issues are dealt with much more straightforwardly than at the federal level: States have state-wide water management plans, cities and counties face having to supply water, and realize how important water is to attracting new residents and new business.

The same kind of consensus is taking hold about rising sea levels and the impact of climate change. In the cities where rising sea levels and more dramatic storms are happening — Boston, New York, Norfolk, Charleston, Miami Beach — no one argues about the “reality” of climate change. City officials and residents are busy trying to fix their cities so they can adapt to water in places they never expected it.

The cutting-edge concept in the world of water is “resilience” — how do I create a community that has enough water for its residents, its work, its farms. How do I create a community that can cope with both drought and with storms, without significant damage — that can handle all kinds of water situations, and keep going. Resilience is what states, counties, and cities are trying for. It doesn’t happen instantly, but it’s the right way of thinking about almost every water issue.

Do you think that cities are serious about repairing and modernizing the existing water infrastructure?


Do you think that climate change is impacting the way people think about water?

I’m going to answer these two questions together.

Cities are very serious about upgrading their water infrastructure, and nothing is giving that task more urgency than climate change.

In California, cities are trying to develop plans for “water independence” — how do we secure water supplies so when the next drought comes, we have some cushion — we can recycle our water, we can tap stormwater when it falls and use it.

On the east coast, a half-dozen cities are working hard to understand the impact on their land of rising sea-levels and more serious storms — changing everything from building codes (don’t put critical air conditioning, elevator, and electrical equipment in the basement, or even on the first floor) to zoning. Cities from Charleston to Houston to Nashville are buying homes and businesses in areas that have only recently started to flood, and restoring those areas to their previous, natural state — to give flood waters a place to go without doing damage.

The problem isn’t awareness or political will. Everyone would rather have a modern water pipe, everyone would rather have a sophisticated flood management system. The problem is money. Those kinds of projects require significant spending, and as is often the case with water, people think water “work” should be cheap, or free. A single pipe in Washington D.C., to store stormwater so it can be disposed of safely, is costing $1 billion. That’s in a city of fewer than a million people, for a pipe that is really just a big drain — it doesn’t get us any new water, yet it’s costing $1,000 per person! Finding a way to pay for water systems continues to be a real challenge.

One key is to talk about why we need to spend money on water, and what that spending gets us: Cleaner rivers, and homes and businesses that are safe from flooding and storms. A big storm, as we’ve seen, can do $10 billion, or $100 billion, worth of water damage in 48 hours.

under: Academics, Diversity, Events, Networking, Professional Development

We are so proud of our awesome alum Dr. Cherisse Jones- Branch’97  who was one of the first recipients of the  Vaughn Endowed Professorships at Arkansas State University.

The professorships have been created through the generosity of an estate gift from James E. and Wanda Lee Vaughn of Jonesboro, formerly of Delaplaine.

Inducted in 1999 into the university’s Legacy Society for donors of planned gifts, the Vaughns strongly believed in the importance of higher education and its potential to positively impact young peoples’ lives. Among the initiatives their legacy will provide at A-State will be three endowed professorships.  Earnings from each endowment will be available to the selected professors to conduct research, create special learning opportunities for students, and support other facets of their academic pursuits.

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch’97

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch

A gift of $250,000 establishes the Vaughn Professorship in the College of Liberal Arts and Communication.  The first recipient is Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, professor of history.

Branch, a faculty member at A-State since 2003, was named Research Professor of the Month at A-State in February.  She completed her bachelor and master’s at the University of Charleston and Ph.D. at Ohio State University.  She wrote Crossing the Line: Women’s Interracial Activism in South Carolina during and after World War II, which was published by University Press of Florida.

“I look at this as an opportunity to increase research into understudied subjects in Arkansas history, namely women’s history, rural history and Arkansas in general,” Jones-Branch commented.  “I also want to make sure I am involved with producing the next generation of historians.  That’s a critical part of what I do and I take it very seriously.  I want students to know this is a very valuable career.  I want to be one of these people who help students realize all that’s possible about being a historian, about valuing history, about unearthing and mining resources to tell these wonderful stories.

A Word from Dr. Branch:

Hi, I’m Dr. Cherrise Jones-Branch. I graduated from the College of Charleston with my Bachelor of Arts in 1994 and Masters Degree in 1997. Both of my degrees are in history. During my time at the College of Charleston, I had the pleasure of working with Drs. Amy T. McCandless, Alpha Bah, Bernard Powers, W. Marvin Dulaney, Stuart Knee, and other distinguished history faculty members. I found myself at the College of Charleston in 1991 after I returned from being deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990. Although I was born and raised in Charleston and had even attempted elementary school downtown, I had not spent much time at the College. As a veteran, I was not sure where I fit in. What I quickly discovered was that I did not have to.

During my time at the College of Charleston, I took an array of courses in Women’s, African, African- American, and World history.  In one of the courses I remember fondly I studied Elizabethan England. My experiences in this course later led to a study abroad to England where I visited such royal historic sites as the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, and Hever Palace. While partaking of this wonderful journey led by Drs. Nan Morrison and Amy T. McCandless, I saw Shakespearean plays, the Globe and took exciting weekend trips to Wales and Scotland.

So what am I doing now? I’m so glad you asked that question! I am currently associate professor of history at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro ( about an hour away from Memphis, TN), where I teach U.S. Women’s Civil Rights, and African American history. I most recently published Crossing the Line: Women’s Interracial Activism in South Carolina during and after World War II (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014), and is co-editor of Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times (Athens: University of Georgia Press, (forthcoming 2018.  Her current research project is  “Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps”: Rural Black Women’s Activism in Arkansas, 1913-1965.


Congratulations Dr. Cherisse Jones Branch! WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU!




under: History, Professional Development, Tips on Applying to Grad School, Travel

The Princeton Review Names CofC Top ‘Green School’

Posted by: McCrayCC | September 22, 2017 | No Comment |

The College of Charleston has been named one of the top “Green Schools” in the nation by The Princeton Review. The announcement was made on Sept. 20, 2017, by the editors of The Princeton Review in their Guide to 375 Green Colleges: 2017 Edition publication.

The Princeton Review praised the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability in the report. Launched in 2009, The Office of Sustainability is a hub for sustainability and sustainable development with a focus on applied research, experiential learning, operational management, and public engagement on campus and in the greater Charleston community.

‘Throughout its existence, the Office of Sustainability has been focused on important initiatives, including the installation of water-bottle refill stations around campus, localized food purchases for the dining halls, bicycle ride-share programs and a garden apprenticeship program,” according to the publication.

The Princeton Review says it chose the most environmentally friendly colleges based on scores the company tallied this summer for 629 colleges using data from a survey of school administrators.

The survey asked about each school’s sustainability policies, practices and programs. Practices that got high marks included buying local or organic food, green building practices, sustainability-focused undergrad degrees and having campus sustainability officers.

This is the fifth year in a row that the College has made this list.

For more information on the Office of Sustainability contact:

Dr. P. Brian Fisher, Office Director

284-B King Street, Room 206




under: Charleston, Diversity, Prospective Students

Revised Academic Calendar for Fall 2017

Posted by: McCrayCC | September 14, 2017 | No Comment |

The following message from College of Charleston Provost Brian McGee was sent to the campus community on Wednesday, Sept. 13:

Dear students, faculty, and staff:

After several days of evacuation, severe weather, and recovery efforts, I am pleased to welcome students, faculty, and staff back to the College of Charleston.
As a result of our recent loss of class days, the College of Charleston now has a revised academic calendar for the 2017 Fall Semester. The revised academic calendar is posted at http://registrar.cofc.edu/pdf/ac-2017fall.pdf

The development of the revised calendar and the updated schedule included consultations with deans, department chairs, program directors, and elected student leadership.

Please carefully review this new schedule. You will see that some dates have not changed. The Thanksgiving holidays will be held as originally scheduled. Reading Day, the final examination period and the date for December commencement have not changed. There are no changes to the schedule for Express II courses.

However, there are several important changes you should note:

  • The Attendance Verification date for faculty has been extended to September 15.
  • A makeup day has been scheduled for Saturday, October 7. October 7 will be treated as a regular Friday for purposes of class meetings.
  • A makeup day has been scheduled for Sunday, October 15. October 15 will be treated as a regular Wednesday for purposes of class meetings.
  • Previously, Fall Break was scheduled for October 16-17. The Fall Break has been eliminated, and courses will be held on a normal schedule for those days.
  • Additional storm days have been designated for November 4-5, given the possibility of additional inclement weather during the current semester. Courses will be held on those dates only if needed in the event of future course cancellations.

Students enrolled in Express I courses should review the revised calendar. Beginning tomorrow, students in the Charleston Bridge Program will find a revised Fall 2017 academic calendar on the Charleston Bridge Program channel in MyCharleston.

Regrettably, the revised calendar will pose challenges for some students, staff, and faculty in respecting religious obligations and managing work schedules. The College is committed to using both Saturdays and Sundays for makeup days, as we know that religious observances occur on both weekend dates for the members of our community. We understand as well that the elimination of the Fall Break will interfere with some travel and family plans.

While waiting for this revised calendar to be published, some people have asked if the College is required to make up for lost class time. The short answer to the question is federal and other regulations necessitate that we have a makeup plan. Other people have inquired about the options for holding additional weekend classes or for modifying the end-of-semester schedule. All members of our community can be assured that every option we could imagine was carefully considered. It may be helpful to know that we are reluctant to make modifications to the end-of-semester schedule at the present time, as we need to preserve those options in the event of another bout of severe weather.

I thank all members of our community for their flexibility as we adjust to the new realities imposed by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irma. We look forward to seeing you back on campus and in our residence halls, offices, and classes. Thankfully, we have returned to a city spared the most dangerous effects of this storm. I know we all hope for the speedy recovery of those communities that experienced the most severe weather.


Brian McGee, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

under: Academics, Graduate Programs, Graduate School Office, Graduate Student Association, News

Popular spots to know in downtown Charleston

Posted by: McCrayCC | August 31, 2017 | No Comment |

When people around the world think of Charleston, this area is probably what springs to mind. Think antebellum mansions, The Battery, ornate wrought-iron displays and horse-drawn carriages. There are also plenty of big oaks to keep you shaded while you sit around and relax near the water.

City Market

The City Market was renovated and indoor space added a few years ago to make it more attractive for locals as well as visitors. A more recent addition is the Night Market. It’s open from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday from April through December.

Waterfront Park

Just a short walk from the City Market, this is one of the best places in Charleston to hang out for free. The fountain, covered swings, benches, shade trees, big lawn, brilliantly planned horticulture — what’s not to love on a pretty day? If you need a break inside, walk up the steps and check out the art at the City Gallery. For nearby shopping, East Bay Street is a bustling cluster of restaurants and shops.

Lower King

This world-famous stretch of King Street between The Battery and Calhoun Street is packed with antiques stores, upscale boutique shops and eateries. It is closed to vehicles every second Sunday of the month, allowing shopping, outdoor dining and musical performances to take over the asphalt.

The Cistern

This is the shady center of the College of Charleston, which the readers of Travel + Leisure this year chose as the nation’s most beautiful campus. Not only is it the site of graduation ceremonies and Spoleto performances, it’s one of the city’s great spaces to relax under the big oak trees.

Marion Square

The big grassy square just north of Calhoun Street is a favorite spot to get some sun, chill by the fountains or relax in the shade on the benches. Every Saturday morning from early April through November, it becomes Charleston Farmers Market, and the produce, food, wares and entertainment draw big crowds. A holiday market runs on weekends in December.

Upper King

The street scene north of Calhoun Street has been rapidly changing amid extensive renovations. The epicenter of Charleston’s restaurant scene has shifted from Market and East Bay streets to here. Several dozen bars and restaurants hum until 2 a.m. and offer something for most every taste.

Aquarium wharf

Visitors who follow Calhoun Street east to its end will find plenty of places to relax by the harbor. Liberty Square is a vast green lawn between the South Carolina Aquarium and the Fort Sumter National Monument. Walk a short distance to the south to the Maritime Center and you can sit by the water and watch the boats.

Spring Street

West of King Street, this currently one-way street is seeing a lot of change, including becoming a two-way thoroughfare. It’s home to some of the city’s newest and most unique restaurants and other boutique businesses. A streetscape project is freshening up the street’s public realm.

Brittlebank Park and ‘The Joe’

At the end of the Spring Street, on the western edge of the peninsula, is Brittlebank Park, a relaxing spot by the Ashley River with a pier. Adjacent to it is Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, better known as “The Joe,” home to the Charleston RiverDogs. It’s more than a baseball stadium, it’s a gathering place. Not only is the park beautiful, there are wacky promotions to keep you entertained and inventive food to try, such as beer milkshakes.

Hampton Park

Also on the western edge of the peninsula, near The Citadel, the paths of the city’s biggest park meander around 60 acres of ponds, rose bushes and big oak trees. Another great place for an afternoon of free relaxation.

Upper, Upper King

Going farther north on King Street, the area past the Crosstown Expressway has seen a resurgence of new restaurants that have replaced formerly light industrial spaces. In an area that was once purely industrial, The Workshop at 1503 King St. is an eclectic food court on the site of a former box and crate factory.

East Side

Charleston’s East Side also has been undergoing a transformation. Until recently, the once-industrial area flanking Morrison Drive was largely forgotten part of downtown. Today, “NoMo” (North Morrison)  has emerged as a hipster haven, with new restaurants and art venues moving into the area. Santi’s Mexican restaurant set the pace when it opened in 2002, followed by Taco Boy in 2008 and the Tattooed Moose in 2010. Now you can choose among 45 draught beers at Edmund’s Oast or chow down on some famous Texas brisket at Lewis Barbecue.

Enjoy Charleston!

*Article from Post and Courier-9/25/2017

under: Charleston, Graduate School Office, Graduate Student Association, Holiday, Prospective Students, Uncategorized


The following statement was issued by the College of Charleston after events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, and Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017:

The College of Charleston offers it sincerest condolences to the victims and their families affected by the tragic events last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The deaths and injuries from that weekend represent yet another dark chapter in our country’s history as it relates to race and bigotry. The College of Charleston condemns the white supremacist hate groups that gathered there in order to sow seeds of division, fear and violence. As an institution of higher education, the College of Charleston reaffirms its commitment to its core values of diversity, respect for the individual student and community – values that should inspire all of us to find common ground, for that it is where our greatest and truest strength lies.

under: Charleston, Diversity, News, Prospective Students, Student Services, Uncategorized

Students, faculty and staff at the College of Charleston are all invited to a once-in-a-lifetime celebration on Rivers Green later this month in conjunction with the upcoming total solar eclipse. Watch here

President Glenn F. McConnell ’69 says members of the College community (students, faculty and staff only) are invited to witness the celestial phenomenon at the green space behind Addlestone Library from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

“Come witness history and enjoy eclipse-themed activities, educational displays, expert commentary and special guests,” says McConnell. “Light refreshments will be served. We’ll have plenty of CofC-branded eclipse glasses available so that everyone can safely enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.”

CofC-branded eclipse glasses will also be available at locations throughout campus beginning Aug. 16.

The College viewing event will be just steps from NASA’s broadcast headquarters for the solar eclipse.

To ensure that all attendees can safely enjoy this event, please be aware of the following guidelines and restrictions:

  • This event is not open to the public or to guests and family members of CofC employees.
  • A valid CofC ID will be required for entry.
  • Attendance will be capped at 1,500 people.
  • No pets, except approved service animals.
  • No coolers, chairs, blankets or large umbrellas. (Water, misting fans and shaded areas will be available.)
  • The College observes a strict no alcohol and drugs policy. Any person determined by College personnel to be impaired will be removed from the premises and prohibited from participating in the event.
  • Backpacks and bags will be subject to inspection.
  •  Consent to be video recorded and/or photographed by NASA TV, news media or documentary crews is implied by attendance at the event.
  • Access to Rivers Green will be restricted beginning at 10 a.m. on eclipse day.
  • No handheld signs or banners.

Happy Solar Eclipse Day!

under: Uncategorized

Astronomical science – live and in living color: that’s what a group of College of Charleston faculty, students and recent alumni will offer the masses as the Palmetto State goes dark on Aug. 21, 2017, during the first total solar eclipse to be visible across the United States in nearly a century.

Ashley Turner, Annie Johnson ’17 and Logan Avera ’17 monitor images from the high-altitude balloon during a test launch in June.

Six students and recent grads along with two faculty members will be among more than 50 teams from across the country participating in NASA’s Space Grant Ballooning Project, which will broadcast the first-ever live-streaming video footage of an eclipse from cameras dangling from high altitude balloons in the stratosphere.

Cassandra Runyon, a geology professor and director of the South Carolina Space Grant Consortium, based at the College, and Cyndi Hall, director of the College’s Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math, are leading the College’s ballooning team as part of the Carolina Solar Eclipse Initiative, a collaboration between the North and South Carolina space grant consortia to promote the eclipse.

“The Carolina Solar Eclipse Initiative, specifically the high altitude ballooning program, has provided undergraduate and high school students with a unique opportunity to become part of a nationwide education initiative,” says Hall. “The students have been in control from the onset, defining and taking on various roles that will provide them a skillset needed in any twenty-first century career field.”

On the day of the eclipse, teams from Oregon to South Carolina will launch high altitude balloons 80,000 to 100,000 feet in the air where video cameras will capture footage of the moon’s shadow as it eclipses the sun along a path from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast Atlantic coast. The video will be streamed live at streameclipse.com. NASA TV will also broadcast portions of the video feed.

Logan Avera ’17 adjusts the directional controls for the ground station antenna, which receives signals from a tiny computer attached to the balloon.

Members of the Cougar’s ballooning team will launch a balloon from a Coast Guard vessel about five miles off the coast of Charleston. Meanwhile, other students and alums will be stationed atop Fort Moultrie’s Visitor Center on Sullivan’s Island where they will track the balloon’s location, monitor the video feed and provide information to curious spectators.

“I am most excited to see the whole nationwide project come together,” says geology major and ballooning team member Ashley Turner. “This ballooning initiative is something new and creative that has never been done before. We will be viewing this solar eclipse in an entirely new way and tracking it as it sweeps across the nation.”

CofC’s ballooning team has been preparing for the eclipse for more than a year. Last summer Logan Avera ’17 and senior Sam Fink, both geology majors, traveled to Montana State University to attend a week-long training seminar through the Montana Space Grant Consortium where they learned how to launch high altitude balloons, as well as operate GPS software and remote video equipment.

“This eclipse has provided an unimaginable catalyst for me to begin learning more about high altitude ballooning, computers and long range networking,” says Fink, who is a student leader for CofC’s ballooning team. “I am so thankful for this opportunity because the things I have already learned from it are countless; from filling a weather balloon on a rocking boat to programming basic computers.”

Robert Moody inspects a tiny computer, called a raspberry pi, before attaching it to the balloon during a June test launch. (Photos by Amanda Kerr)

The students have had to learn a range of skills from engineering design, to coding, to electronics as part of the project. They’ve also had to understand the structure of the balloon payload design to accommodate several experiments that will launch along with the video camera, including a 360-degree video camera and an astrobiology experiment from NASA Ames Research Center.

“This project provides our students with a unique opportunity to work together to overcome a multitude of challenges, from building the camera systems and ground tracking station to working together and communicating as a team,” says Runyon.

Avera adds, “To me, personally, this project is the most important thing happening over the last year of my life because I’ve put so much time into it. And on Aug. 21, when the eclipse happens, we will be a part of history, being among the group of people to help make this project happen.”

under: Environmental Studies, Prospective Students, Student Services, Travel, Uncategorized

CofC Named America’s Most Beautiful College Campus

It’s official: the College of Charleston is the prettiest college campus in America.

The College was named the winner of Travel + Leisure’s Most Beautiful College Campus” contest on Thursday afternoon after two weeks of open online voting. Before polling closed on Thursday, CofC had nearly 20 percent of the vote and was several points ahead of the next top vote-getter, the University of Montana.

“The College of Charleston community has known for centuries that we have one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world,” said College of Charleston President Glenn F. McConnell ’69. “I’m thrilled that renowned Travel + Leisure magazine has formally recognized the College with this No. 1 ranking and affirmed to everyone that our world-class beauty matches our world-class instruction.”

He added, “this recognition would not be possible without the incredible work of our talented grounds crew, led by Paty Cowden. She and her team deserve much of the credit for this unique and well-deserved honor.”

The College bested nineteen other universities across the country, including schools such as Princeton University, Duke University and the University of California Los Angeles. CofC was the only South Carolina institution in the contest. The photo of campus featured on the online ballot was submitted by sophomore Alison Rourk.

Students, families, faculty and staff have long lauded the College for its historic vistas, Spanish moss-adorned live oaks and its historic Cistern Yard.

Travel + Leisure has also given high marks to the city surrounding the College. The media outlet named Charleston the best city in the world in 2016, and it has ranked the city, its restaurants, attractions and lodgings among the best in the nation.

under: Uncategorized

“Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

Those words – written by Maya Angelou – have special significance for Lydia Geathers St. John BA ’15, MS ‘17. For her, that’s what it means to be a child life specialist.

Lydia Geathers St. John BA ’15, MS ‘17 (Photo by Reese Moore)

Geathers St. John came to the College from Ridgeway, South Carolina, and completed her undergraduate degree in early childhood education in 2015. Two years later, she walked across the Cistern stage and proudly received her Master of Science in Child Life from the College of Charleston.

Child life specialists serve a unique role. They provide vital psychosocial care and support for children and families who are dealing with illness, injury, disability and hospitalization. Through the College’s child life program, Geathers St. John developed the expertise and garnered the experience necessary to thrive in this field.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Geathers St. John excelled in this work. Her passion for this field prompted her to complete advanced graduate coursework in infant, child and adolescent development as well as therapeutic play, pediatric illness, family systems, death, dying and loss; health communication; and other foundational coursework in child life and research methods.

“Lydia epitomizes all the qualities of a child life specialist – leadership, flexibility, excellent communication and organizational skills, along with playfulness, sensitivity, self-awareness and a respect for diversity,” says program director Susan Simonian.

In addition to her coursework, Geathers St. John completed significant hands-on training in child life though the program’s integrated practicum at the Medical University of South Carolina. There, she worked under the mentorship of the 11 certified child life specialists.

Geathers St. John also augmented her experience through a network of nonprofit organizations that partner with the child life program. She led bereavement groups in a local school and Shannon’s Hope Camp, and organized play days for hospitalized children and their siblings at MUSC, Palmetto and Greenville Health System Children’s Hospitals.

After receiving several offers for internship placement, she chose to complete her child life internship at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she excelled in every aspect of child life intervention, including non-directive, medical, and therapeutic play; procedural preparation; and family-centered care.

This summer, Geathers St. John will begin her professional career as a Child Life Specialist at Palmetto Children’s Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. Recognizing that hospitalization of a child not only impacts that child but also the child’s siblings, Geathers St. John plans to implement weekly sibling programming in her new role.

“There really is a need for an outlet within the hospital where the siblings of chronic patients can play, express themselves and ask any questions regarding the hospitalization or treatment of their brother or sister,” she says. “During my internship, I found that I was having powerful interactions with the patients’ siblings, and discovered that there are many misconceptions they have regarding the treatment of their brother or sister that they are afraid to ask about for fear of upsetting parents or family members.”

Geathers St. John also hopes to further the development of evidence-based interventions within child life practice. Specifically, she would like to research the medical and psychosocial benefits of J-Tip usage during IV placement. She believes that this additional step can make a significant difference for nurses when placing an IV on an anxious child.

She also plans to research the use of Lidocaine Epinephrine and Tetracaine (LET) ointment as an alternative to numbing injections for children who are having lacerations repaired with sutures.

“There are still some misconceptions among medical staff regarding when and where LET can be used, and I think continued research could help me better advocate for the use of LET instead of injections,” she says.

It’s clear that Geathers St. John will be a strong advocate for children and families as she works with an interdisciplinary health care team. The child life services she provides will help countless children and families in South Carolina during a very difficult time. For her, it’s all about seeking that silver lining.

For more information on our Child Life Graduate Program: http://www.cofc.edu/academics/graduate-degree-progs/graduatedegreeslist/child-life.php

under: Child Life, Graduate School Office

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