Graduate Goes Out of Her Way to Create a Welcoming Campus Culture

8 May 2014 | 9:34 am By:
Contact: Melissa Whetzel, senior director of communications, 843.953.7752

Arvaughnna (Vaughn) Postema has earned dozens of awards during her four years at the College of Charleston, but it’s the impact she’s made on the campus culture that she’ll be most remembered for.

Vaughn Postema '13, communication major

Vaughn Postema ’13, communication major

Postema is a mentor, a change agent, a community builder.

“Vaughn is definitely one of the individuals I look up to most in life,” says Joye Nettles, a computer science major. “She has helped me to become a strong, confident woman who is not afraid to take on any obstacle that may come my way.”

Students and professors are quick to credit Postema with helping African-American students feel at home at the College, and enabling them to succeed in and out of the classroom.

“I have personally witnessed Ms. Postema informally mentoring students in class, at the library, and elsewhere on campus,” remarks Robert Westerfelhaus, a communication professor. “I hope she has inspired other students to do the same – that building an inclusive, supportive community at the College is her legacy.”

RELATED: Read a Cistern Yard News Q&A with Postema.

A Born Leader

Postema has literally held dozens of leadership positions at the College of Charleston – from several roles in the Black Student Union to president of the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC). She was inducted into the College of Charleston Hall of Leaders in 2012 and 2013, and is the 2014 recipient of the Cistern Award.

RELATED: Postema talks about her favorite sorority memory.

Postema stepping during Georgestock

Postema stepping during Georgestock

She’s made an incredible impact on multicultural students through her work with SPECTRA (Speedy Consolidation and Transition Program). She served as an intern, counselor, associate head counselor, and most recently as head leader/head counselor.

“Vaughn helped me in SPECTRA, with my financial aid, and overall she helped me get adjusted to college,” says freshman Julian Harrell. “I like seeing that she has a goal and she’s doing everything in her power to achieve that goal.”

SPECTRA is designed to help with the transition to college for multicultural and first-generation high school graduates. Incoming freshmen spend the summer on campus taking classes free of charge and getting to know professors and staff.

“I met Vaughn during SPECTRA in the summer of 2011. She wasn’t my counselor but I always made a point to listen when she talked,” Nettles says. “Reflecting on my experiences in shared circles with Vaughn, she is always the heartbeat that keeps us going. People like Vaughn are leaders. They inspire people in our community to want to do better and be better.”

Bringing the Community Together

Postema is part of the 2014 Homecoming court

Postema is part of the 2014 Homecoming court

“She made everyone feel accepted,” says Kalene Parker, a freshman exercise science major. “She never let obstacles stop her, she’s a pusher and that’s what the community needs. Someone that won’t stop and will make moves.”

Postema is invested in every student at the College of Charleston, and friends say she treats everyone the same – whether she just met them, or has known them for years.

In the greater Charleston community, she has worked with the step team at Fort Johnson Middle School, hosted the YWCA’s poetry slam, worked with the NAACP Goose Creek Chapter, and many more.

Professor Westerfelhaus says, “Our college and community have benefitted immensely from Ms. Postema’s skill in initiating, inspiring, organizing, supervising, and executing.”

The Future

Not surprisingly, Postema says she has a very strategic plan for her future that encompasses several aspects of media. Her immediate post-graduation plans include cultivating her radio career and eventually pursuing a Master’s in Entertainment Business.

“She is one of those people that we, as a campus, will really feel a loss when she leaves,” says Merissa Ferrara, communication professor.

College of Charleston to graduate first South Carolina BA recipients in Archaeology

From the CofC main web page:

Contact: Jim Newhard, Classics professor and director of the archaeology program, 843.953.5485

On May 10, 2014, five College of Charleston students will become the first graduates in South Carolina to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology. They plan to be museum curators, tour company owners, and to use their geoarchaeological knowledge to travel the world working on excavation sites.

archaeology 3“When I was younger, I would pretend to be Indiana Jones in my backyard,” Jessica Coleman says. “The archaeology major brought back the kid in me that was always looking for adventure and long lost treasures. At the College, I spent practically all of my time in the geology department to understand what affected various sites around the world.”

In the fall, Coleman will begin the Masters Program of Environmental Archaeology at University of Umeå in Sweden. She is one of the program’s first five graduates, along with James Boast, Corey Heyward, Steven Paschal, and Caroline Weber.

RELATED: Four real-life lessons learned through archaeology.

“My favorite part about the major was being able to take classes from a wide range of departments to fulfill the requirements,” says Steven Paschal. “I feel that the major, although it is more of a ‘hard’ science, really fits into the liberal arts nature of the College of Charleston.”

The archaeology program includes professors and courses from four different schools within the College of Charleston. Plus, students are required to do either an internship or participate in a field school – a hands-on experience that all the graduates enjoyed.

RELATED: Watch a video of the Archaeological Field School at Dixie Plantation.

“Our regional laboratory for archaeology is second to none,” says professor Jim Newhard, program director. “Evidence for major prehistoric and historic events of our continent are easily found within driving distance of campus. We, however, go further. Our students and faculty are engaged in archaeological research the world over, and we have a growing reputation for archaeological informatics. These assets – lowcountry, global reach, informatics – provide a wide variety of opportunities for students and faculty alike.”

RELATED: Read the College’s archaeology blog.

The College of Charleston has offered a minor in archaeology for many years and since the archaeology major was approved in fall 2013, it has exceeded expectations, growing to more than 35 students.

“I wanted to major in archaeology because I wanted a degree that would give me hands-on knowledge as well as the theories behind studying the past. I wanted to prepare myself for a career that would allow me to more interactive and interdisciplinary,” says Corey Heyward.  “In the fall, I will be attending George Washington University to earn a Masters in Anthropology with a concentration in museum studies.”

Busy Student-Athlete, Student Media Editor Thrives Under Pressure

5 May 2014 | 2:10 pm By:
Contact: Katie Dean Williams, assistant director for student life media & marketing, 843.953.5289

There’s a moment just before a competition dive when everything goes silent. That’s the part College of Charleston junior Nicole DeMarco loves most. The tense stillness, the sense that everybody is watching her, the pressure to perform.

Nicole DeMarco
Nicole DeMarco

“You’re standing up there and you get nervous,” DeMarco says. “It’s a rush.”

The pursuit of that “rush” propels DeMarco in many areas of her life. Student-athletes are famously time-crunched, but DeMarco has redefined the student experience by trying as many different activities as she can, including athletics, student media, student government, and a sorority.

And she’s no slouch in the classroom either. DeMarco is a double major in international studies and French with a minor in political science. She’s set to venture overseas this summer for a prestigious internship –– the third international trip of her college career.

As editor-in-chief of Cistern Yard News, the College’s student media organization, DeMarco oversees the content and publication of Cistern Yard Magazine and news website

DeMarco says she has always thrived under deadline pressure –– the rush that is synonymous with journalism.

At her high school newspaper in Shelton, Conn., the fluffy stories weren’t for her. She gravitated toward international news and weightier topics like gay rights and bullying. At the College, she has worked her way up through the news staff – from writer, to news editor, to managing editor, to her current position.

“Nicole is the type of student who is always busy, but you would never know it,” says Katie Dean Williams, assistant director of student life marketing and media. “She is dedicated to her staff.  Courteous, but a natural leader, she always meets deadlines and follows up with everyone to make sure they are on track.”

Along the way, Demarco has tried her hand at student government (a senator during her freshman year) and Greek life (Zeta Tau Alpha) because “it was something else to be involved in.”

She’s already completed two study abroad experiences – Paris during her freshman year and Morocco in the summer of 2013.

RELATED: Learn more about study abroad opportunities at the College.

“I’ve always been someone who has to be busy, doing as much as I can,” she says. “That can be good and bad.”

It’s good, because she’s always challenging herself with new experiences. It’s bad, because she can overcommit. To keep herself on track, she swears by the simplicity of a Moleskine calendar. Her friends tease her about this old-school calendaring method, but DeMarco finds that the act of writing things down on paper makes them stick.

Nicole DeMarco
Nicole DeMarco in competition dive.

Earlier this year, having published her first issue of Cistern Yard Magazine in February 2014 followed by the conclusion of the diving season in March 2014, DeMarco had been settling into a rhythm with her courses. That’s when she was struck by the urge to take on a new commitment.

She found it on the United Nations’ online career portal. What the heck, she thought, as she clicked the submit button on an application for an internship with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a United Nations court of law that deals with war crimes.

RELATED: Read more about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

And what do you know? The life of this busy student-athlete just got a little busier. DeMarco ships out for the three-month internship in The Hague in May 2014.

She has a lot to do before then. But she welcomes the challenge.

“I work really well under pressure,” she says. “When I have too much time on my hands I can’t get things done. The pressure helps.”

Film Screening, The New Black (March 27 at 6 p.m.)

Film Screening: The Alliance for Full Acceptance and (AFFA) & the Avery Research Center present the South Carolina premier of “The New Black” and a discussion with the film’s producer, Yvonne Welbon. “The New Black” is a powerful story of Black families and churches grappling with gay rights and civil rights in the midst of the fight for marriage equality.

Date/Time/Location: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 6:00pm, 125 Bull Street, Charleston, SC. Free and open to the public.


5 Things College Students Need to Know about Ukraine-Russia Conflict

5 Things College Students Need to Know about Ukraine-Russia Conflict.

Posted on 21 March 2014 | 9:14 am

There’s something going on in Ukraine right now, and it also involves Russia, the U.S., our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and the European Union (EU). In other words, it’s a complicated situation fueled by numerous political motivations and hinged on delicate post-Cold-War relationships between many European and Eurasian nations.

Adjunct Professor of Political Science and International Studies and Eastern European scholar Max Kovalov has boiled down the five things College students need to know now about the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Max Kovalov, Adjunct Professor of Political Science and International Studies and Eastern European scholar

Max Kovalov, Adjunct Professor of Political Science and International Studies and Eastern European scholar

1. A little background

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until it disbanded in 1991. Ukraine borders Russia and was recently given a choice to sign a free-trade agreement with the EU or to join the Eurasian Customs Union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan when it is established (projected by 2015).

When Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced his plans not to sign the free-trade agreement with the EU in November, the Ukrainian people took to Independence Square (known as the Maidan) in Kiev to protest and demand Yanukovych reverse the decision. Russia offered Ukraine a $15 billion bailout in December to incentivize the Eurasian Customs Union deal.

[Related: CNN’s 20 questions: what’s behind Ukraine’s political crisis.]

2.  The revolution

Yanukovych did not reverse his decision to agree to the Eurasian Custom Union trade deal. His actions denied the millions of Ukrainians who “seek to establish a new system of governance based on democratic rules that ensure political rights, civil liberties, and accountability of public officials,” Kovalov said.

After months of protests, Yanukovych fled Kiev and ultimately Ukraine for Russia in late February. The Ukrainian parliament has put out an arrest warrant for the former president on counts of “mass killings” of civilians, and declared a new interim government since Yanukovych fled.

3. The fight for Crimea

Until March, Crimean peninsula was universally considered an autonomous territory of Ukraine. It was a Russian territory from the 18th century until 1954, when Soviet Union Leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine to commemorate the 300-year anniversary of Russian-Ukrainian unity. Despite being part of Ukraine, Crimea is home to a large Russian population.

Crimea held a referendum March 16, 2014, during which its residents voted on whether to remain a part of Ukraine, yet with greater autonomy or to secede and join Russia. While much of the world claims this referendum is illegal, Russia has moved forward with plans to annex Crimea. “Russia is the only state that officially recognized Crimean secession from Ukraine,” Kovalov said.

4. What does the West think?

The EU and the U.S. have sanctioned dozens of Russian politicians as a means of convincing Russia to abort its plans for Crimean annexation. Russia has not given any indication that it will abandon those efforts.

The U.S and the EU hope to avoid continued political upheaval in Europe. The Western world contends that Russia “violated a series of international treaties and re-opened the question of territorial integrity, potentially resulting in instability, ethnic conflicts, and full-scale war in Europe,” Kovalov said.

The U.S. and the EU hope to aid the Ukrainian people as they work to build a democratic government. “The west has a moral responsibility to assist the democratic aspirations of Ukraine,” Kovalov said.

5. What will happen next?

President Obama has already added sanctions to include more politically influential Russian officials and he warned that if Russia continues to annex Crimea he will “impose additional costs on Russia,” according to his statement on March 20, 2014. Those additional costs will likely include added pressure on major Russian industries including energy exports.

The U.S. expects the EU to enact the same sanctions and warn of similar sanctions in the future.

For more information, contact Max Kovalov at



Office of Media Relations

Mike Robertson
Senior Director of Media Relations

Melissa Whetzel
Director of Media Relations




Professor Lewis Calls Seeing Nelson Mandela “A Most Extraordinary Experience”

Posted on 9 December 2013 | 11:52 am

College of Charleston English Professor Simon Lewis saw Nelson Mandela in 1990 and calls it a most extraordinary experience. Lewis spent his teenage years in South Africa during apartheid and recalls the legendary 1994 election, and how these experiences impacted the course of his life.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Greeting Nelson Mandela

Tanzania was the first country Nelson Mandela visited after being released from prison in 1990. Simon Lewis was living in the country at the time teaching at an international school, and he and his wife were among the thousands that lined the route from the airport to the Government House in downtown Dar es Salaam.

“It was a most extraordinary experience,” Lewis says. “We were truly watching the story of African independence as Nelson and Winnie Mandela and Julius Nyerere rode in the back of a colonial era open-top Rolls Royce. We were standing on the road not far from the airport and as soon as the car passed us, the crowd burst into a chant of Man-del-a, Nye-re-re, Man-del-a, Nye-re-re.”

[Related: See photos from the visit.]

Mandela’s Impact

Lewis was the editor of Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing. The 1989 and 1990 issues were devoted to South African writing and the difference between the two issues was remarkable Lewis recalls. The 1989 volume was full of anti-apartheid poetry and protest prose, then after Mandela was released from prison in 1990, the following Illuminations volume contained ecstatic poems – a true reflection of the feelings in that part of the world.

“My time in South Africa certainly had an impact on my career path,” Lewis notes. “My research interests include literature from South Africa, Africa and connections between South Carolina and the Atlantic world.”

Watching from the U.S.

Lewis was in the United States during the 1994 election, but he remembers watching nervously. He says, “It was mind-blowingly exciting to see the lines of people waiting to vote.”

Lewis was last in South Africa three years ago, but has been watching and reading all he can in the past few days. He predicts that the politics there will shift from a racial focus to a focus on social and economic issues.

“There’s a lot of talk that Mandela was the glue that held the African National Congress alliance together and with him gone and a new generation of voters that did not experience apartheid, I think we’ll see a shift in politics.”

[Related: Mandela’s Death Leaves South Africa Without its Moral Center.]

Simon Lewis can be reached at or 843.953.1920.

Office of Media Relations

Mike Robertson
Senior Director of Media Relations

Melissa Whetzel
Director of Media Relations

Avery Research Center Hosts One of the First Conferences of its Kind


Black sexuality and gender identities have traditionally been taboo topics – until recently. This fall the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center will host one of the first academic conferences to explicitly focus on these topics and more. “Unleashing the Black Erotic: Gender and Sexuality – Passion, Power and Praxis” will include panels ranging from “Women, Sex, and Hip Hop” to the “State of the Field,” which will feature nationally influential scholars. Renowned journalist and feminist author, Joan Morgan will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 4:00 p.m., and this event is free and open to the public. The entire conference will be held from September 18 through 21, 2013 at the Avery Research Center (125 Bull St.). View registration information and full schedule here.


Read a Chronicle of Higher Education article on the rise of black sexuality.


For the second year in a row, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture’s annual conference is breaking ground. Last year’s Black Power conference also drew national attention, including an article in USA Today, and brought international scholars to the College’s campus.


“It is so important that we talk about these issues now, and it is so important that we talk about them here, in Charleston, South Carolina,” says Patricia Lessane, director of the Avery Research Center. “We want to host work that is interesting, work that is being done around the world, and yes, work that is edgy.”


The late African American poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde  argued that the “erotic” involves various forms of personal pleasure, from sexuality and physical appearance to art, music, poetry, and performance. During the 1970s, Lorde advocated for African American women to empower themselves by embracing the erotic as part of the black feminist movement. Conference organizers highlighted Lorde’s definition of the erotic in their call for papers and panels, which yielded a record number.


Consuela Francis, College of Charleston professor of African American studies explains, “We will come together to examine what it means to be black, female, male, gay, straight, and anything in between. In doing so, we acknowledge our agency and power, and collectively unleash the black erotic.”


“This conference is very unique,” Lessane adds. “The interdisciplinary nature of ours, and the focus on different black sexualities really makes this conference one of the first of its kind.”


In addition to the panels, there will also be a dramatic performance by E. Patrick Johnson that is free and open to the public. The one-man-show is entitled “Sweet Tea: Stories of Gay Black Men in the South.”


This conference is hosted jointly by the Avery Research Center and the African American Studies program at the College of Charleston. For more information, contact or 843.953.7609.