Dear CofC Honors Community,
During this surreal time of social distancing that feels increasingly like isolation, I find myself longing to connect. Of course, for me, the distancing is real on several fronts as I make my preparations to leave my role in the Honors College to assume a new position as the Provost at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. I never imagined that my final months in the Honors College would unfold the way they are. I had so looked forward to seeing many of you at Spring Alumni Weekend, the Honors College Ceremony, Commencement, or a number of other events in the coming months. All of these missed opportunities remind me how much the CofC Honors community means to me and to each person who is affiliated with it. I’m grateful that, even though I will no longer be leading the Honors College, I will still be part of the community.
The coronavirus has thrown us all for a loop, but I’m so proud of how the Honors faculty, staff, and students have adapted to the challenges and want to share some highlights:
- Learning and Connecting at a Distance has gone very well. The creativity of faculty and students is impressive. Even with the discussion intensive classes that we love in the Honors College, we have managed. Thank goodness for Zoom! I have held almost 40 advising appointments via Zoom over the past two weeks.
- Engagement and Achievement are still the norm. Our first-year students wrapped up their year-long community-based projects a little early (read more at Honors Engaged) and upperclassmen are working with their mentors to figure out how to complete internships and research projects. We have received an abundance of great news on graduate school and professional school admissions – Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, NYU, UNC, UVA, MUSC, and others. We also have three Fulbright and one Goldwater recipient so far, as well as our first Rhodes finalist since the early 1900s.
- Preparation for a Bright Future continues. We may not know exactly what the future holds, but the Honors Team is moving forward with a positive attitude that normalcy will return soon. Bryan Ganaway and Nick Plasmati managed the challenge of finding seats for over 400 upperclassmen in honors seminars. CofC Strategic Planning meetings and Town Halls have been hosted via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Staff meetings, subcommittee meetings, etc. are being held – the forward movement of the Honors College and the College of Charleston has not slowed! Although President Hsu and Provost Welch had to make the decision to suspend the search for a new dean of the Honors College, they have opened an internal search for an interim dean so that someone will be at the helm when I depart at the end of June. I am very excited to share that CofC hired a new Provost – Dr. Suzanne Austin, who is currently a senior vice provost at the University of Alabama Birmingham. She has a Ph.D. in History from Duke University, just like our founding dean, Dr. John Newell! At UAB, Dr. Austin played a significant role in the development of their Honors College so I anticipate that she will be a tremendous advocate for CofC Honors.
- Recruitment of an Awesome New Class of Students is on track. Chris Bailey and Elizabeth Roberts, who head up our admissions team, have been hosting all types of virtual communication for students who have been admitted to the Honors College for the fall and even those who are still applying. Acceptances of our scholarship offers are starting to come in at a faster pace, so we are optimistic that, in spite of COVID-19, we will have a strong first-year class.
- Senior Send-Off will happen. While we still have plans to celebrate the CofC Honors Class of 2020 during rescheduled Commencement festivities (new date(s) have yet to be announced), we plan to hold a virtual Honors Ceremony on Friday, May 8th. It may just be me, along with a few other members of the Honors team in the Honors Center, but we hope that we will be joined by all of the seniors, their families, and friends worldwide as we celebrate their amazing achievements and contributions to CofC and the Honors community. We will also announce that Stephanie Wheeler, ‘03 is this year’s recipient of the Honors College Distinguished Alumni Award. Read more about Stephanie’s impressive work in Public Health here.
Please know that I treasure my time at the College of Charleston and in the Honors College. I will stay connected via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other forms of social media yet to be developed.
Trisha Folds-Bennett, PhD
Dean of the Honors College