2015 HSS Post-Commencement Reception

We enjoyed celebrating the class of 2015 at the Post-Commencement Reception on Saturday, May 15th, with friends and family in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). On behalf of the HSS faculty and staff, we wish our recent alumni all the best!

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Spoleto Picture a Day 1

It’s that time of year again: Spoleto Picture a Day! We’ve started the month-long program of study we hold each year here in Charleston’s sister city of Spoleto, Italy (we being the College of Charleston, specifically myself and a colleague from the Department of English—this year it’s Dr. John Bruns, our film studies expert, who’s teaching a course in World Cinema). I’ll try to keep these missives as brief as I can, and the photos as reduced as possible—oh, and interesting too!


Our travel went well, though everyone pretty much passed out once on board the shuttle bus to Spoleto, a two hour drive from freeway to highway to roadway to two lane mountain trail, until suddenly you emerge from the mountain pass to the surprise of Spoleto out the windshield. Students walked up the hill to the villa, settled in, went swimming, then made it to the Coop (the Italian version of Harris Teeter) for the initial salvo of groceries, then cooked, ate, and, as you can see in our first photo of the season, conversed and read and generally got to know each other beneath the gazebo out by the pool well into the night. A good sign, gathering like this, of the camaraderie they’ll be building as we go.

A domani!


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Recent Graduate Working as Urban Planner in South Florida

Erin Sutherland graduated with her urban studies degree from the College in 2014. Now, she lives in Miami, FL working as an Urban Planner for Akerman, LLP in their Land Use Law Division. As the youngest employee in the firm, Erin assists international and domestic clients with performing due diligence work on the most cutting edge development projects throughout South Florida.


Erin Sutherland ’14, Urban Studies

How did your urban studies classes and professors help prepare you for your career?

Cities go through this cycle of growth and decline, and Urban Planners need to anticipate these fluctuations. My professors encouraged us how to plan for the future, and respond dynamically, rather than react spontaneously and do more harm than good. Also, my professors had interesting careers before entering academia, and that helped relate theories and case studies to actual real-world application.

How did you learn about your position? What attracted you to your position?

While at CofC, I focused my classes, research and internships around Economic Development and I was determined to continue that momentum. I’m originally from Miami, and the city is exploding with growth and opportunity. I reached out to a few people I connected with in Downtown Miami, and asked if they could connect me with anyone in the Economic Development/Urban Planning field. I ended up interviewing with Akerman, LLP, and walked out of the interview thinking, “This is the company I want to work for, and the group of people I want to collaborate with.” I saw myself growing within the company, learning from the attorneys and fellow urban planners. What really stood out was that I could see the people within my practice teaching me, rather than telling me what to do. The following morning, the Land Use Law partner that I interviewed with offered me the job.

Can you describe a normal day in your position as an Urban Planner?

That’s the best, and most interesting part of my job. There is never a “normal” day because every project I work on is different, and requires different approaches. Urban planning is a very multidisciplinary field, like a massive puzzle, that involves politics, environmental concerns, real estate, engineering, the public sector, transportation, etc… and we’re hired to make sure all those pieces fit together before our client has the green light to start breaking ground.  I’m constantly running around dropping off site plans for review at the City of Miami, preparing visuals and maps for clients, drafting preliminary due diligence memos about the property based on Miami’s Zoning Code and the restrictions of each urban area, or making sure the water infrastructure can support a thirty-story mixed-use building. Those are just a few pieces.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on some really interesting projects, like the Faena Forum, which is a mix of developments that will create a cultural district in Miami Beach, Historic Preservation in Little Havana, development near the Wynwood Art Walls, and revitalization projects in the Miami Design District. Each area of Miami has its own unique identity and sense of place, and that’s what makes what I do so exciting.

What advice would you give current students?​

Get involved in what you are interested in, and find people who will take the time to mentor and guide you. I sought internships with the City of Charleston and a local non-profit called Enough Pie, and both people who I worked with took the time to involve me in really cool projects. I learned so much about Charleston through those experiences, and I felt like I was making positive impacts within the community. They encouraged me to be proud of my work, and to speak up when I had an interesting proposal for an economic development policy, or alternative way to finance a development project. I gained so much confidence in myself because my input was important to them and brought a new perspective to the conversation. To this day, I still consider them my mentors.

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Communication Major Receives Funding to Travel to Florida Conference, Presents Research

By: Stephanie Wingerter

SSCA is an association for communication throughout the Southern states.  For the past 25 years this association has been hosting a conference at which college undergraduates can participate and submit research.  I was luckily given the opportunity to submit research that I had been working on for my undergraduate senior capstone.



My project was on the nonverbal code of vocalics and whether or not it could be used to communicate even when presented with a foreign language.  I found through surveys that presented participants with three different messages in different languages that they significantly deciphered the purpose of the messages even without sharing the same language which supported my hypothesis.

In Tampa, I got to present my research on a panel of four other undergraduate presentations in front of professors and doctors in the field of communication.  This was an amazing experience and has made me interested in pursuing graduate school after graduation.  I feel that this was an experience that I will never forget and has interested me in furthering my education in the field of interpersonal communication.

My mentor and adviser, Dr. Jen Kopfman, helped me to feel prepared and comfortable while presenting.  She was very supportive, and was the one who convinced me to submit my research as well as originally sparked my interest in graduate school.  It was also great getting a chance to talk with Dean Hale about the work I have been doing while attending College of Charleston, as well as the work I hope to continue after graduation.

Overall, I feel this conference was a great experience that has opened many doors and opportunities for my future in the field of communication.  Many of the members of the association kept referring to the participants in the undergraduate conference as, “the future of our field.” Some even said, “they hope to see us at future conferences as graduate students, and eventually even colleagues.”  These are two things that will stick with me and inspire me to continue my career and education in communication.

Stephanie is a communication major at the College of Charleston. She was awarded the HSS Dean’s Excellence Fund for her trip to Tampa, FL to present her research at the Southern States Communication Association. 

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History Alum Working at Smithsonian-Affiliated Museum

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Kristen Pace ’13

After graduation, Kristen Pace ’13 found her way home. She traveled back to her hometown of Travelers Rest, SC  (near Greenville, SC) to work for the Upcountry History Museum as the Community Engagement Coordinator. But, this wasn’t in her original plan for the future. In fact, like many other recent college graduates, she wasn’t exactly sure what her future would entail.

Once Pace graduated with her history degree, with a political science minor, she continued to work as a preschool teacher and nanny. Once Kristen moved back to South Carolina after living in Eastern Germany for three months, she knew there was something else out there for her. “I had turned down two other jobs as a preschool teacher, knowing that teaching preschool wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. In the end, I started working for the Museum, and everything has worked out far better than I had ever planned,” she says. Now, Pace still teaches, but in a different way.

How did you learn about your position? What attracted you to your position?

I initially started working at the Museum with visitor’s services, greeting guests and selling tickets at the front desk. I wanted to get my foot in the door, and eventually work my way up with whatever opportunities were presented to me. I have wanted to work in a history museum for as long as I can remember and as it turned out, my desire to volunteer quickly turned into my actual job.

Can you describe a normal day as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Upcountry History Museum?

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Pace inside the Upcountry History Museum

Every day is different. Some days are much more interactive and spent giving museum tours to children and adults. Other days I’m at my desk updating the Museum’s social media pages, writing emails, or creating a new lesson plan for one of our many exhibits. This past week I led a museum tour for 15 adults, taught a class on World War II to nearly 100 middle school students, and then helped with a large community-wide, outdoor festival.

How did your time at CofC help prepare you for your career?

My time at the College of Charleston only encouraged my passion for history, and this is largely due to the professors. They always made their subject relatable. Dr. Powers’ inherent empathy for history left the biggest impact. He not only taught history, but connected with his students. I firmly believe that connection only furthers one’s drive to learn, and I strive to use that in my job daily.

What advice would you give current students?

I encourage students to understand that nothing worthwhile is just given to you. You are far better off working your way up, and earning your place, with whatever opportunities you have been presented. Make everything an opportunity, and go for it! Failing is an inevitable part of life, but it’s ultimately your choice to decide if you will turn it into a success. If nothing else, make it a lesson where you learn not only your weaknesses, but also your strengths. And volunteer!

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