Carrying Large Dreams

Katherine Taylor poses for her employee photograph at Thomas Cooper Library.
Courtesy of Katherine Taylor.

By Michael Bauldrick

The entrance to Katherine Taylor’s office brings a bit of color and excitement to the 1970s-era beige walls of the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina. Early in the morning student employees eagerly file inside of the office located on the third basement floor to punch in their time cards and begin their day in the collection maintenance department.

One would imagine that working for a supervisor who has the responsibilities of being a wife and mother of two, while simultaneously enrolled in graduate school, and managing a wedding consulting venture would create stress in the office.

“I was a student here in the past, so I understand it all,” Taylor said. “Just because I moved on to a different phase in my life doesn’t mean I forgot what it meant to work as a student in this department.”

A former Gamecock undergraduate, Taylor, who grew up in the Greenville area, first set foot on campus in 2001. Like most, her heart raced about the possible experiences that college had to offer. Little did she know that her life was going to change forever in the coming years.

The pharmacy major made the decision to change her field of study twice.  First she switched to criminal justice. Eventually she decided on anthropology. “It took an entire semester to decide what I wanted to study, but I wanted to make sure it was something I enjoyed.” Taylor said. As her undergraduate years moved on, she took a part-time job working in the Thomas Cooper Library.

During this period, Taylor met her husband, Chris, who was also working in the department.  “When I first meet Chris I didn’t really like him. It was after he started going out of his way to check up on me after a breakup that I warmed up to him.” Taylor said. She  finished her undergraduate degree in 2006.

Deciding to take the library studies graduate program at the University of South Carolina, Taylor also began working as supervisor of the collection maintenance department, the same department where she worked as an undergrad.

Comparing this new responsibility with managing a household with two young children, she said that the greatest amount of stress comes from keeping up with, and mobilizing 20 college-age student employees.  “The first year as a supervisor was interesting because I found myself being the boss to my husband,” Taylor said, grinning from ear-to-ear.

Whether it’s managing student schedules to coincide with one another or developing a concise way to process the storage of over 1,000 books a week, Taylor’s hands are always full.

“A major reason I’m able to supervise so effectively is because of my fantastic student workers.  If they didn’t have the work ethic that they show every day, things would be an absolute mess.”

USC senior, Shaniece Brown is not new to the workload to the department.  As the internal affairs coordinator, she also has more responsibility than the average worker.

The title of internal affairs coordinator was created by Taylor to allow for a more comfortable and relaxed working environment.  “The boss came up with seasonal celebrations as a way for us to form tighter relationships with one another.  I see my co-workers more than I see my family, so I’m glad that I have the opportunity to get along with them,” said Brown.

In her free time, Taylor can be found assisting friends as a wedding consultant.  The most recent wedding she did took 18 months to plan.  “In the near future, I can see myself owning my very own wedding planning business,” she said. “I’m gaining experience by helping people free of charge. You do a good job and they will refer you to their friends. Sort of like a never ending cycle,” Taylor said.

As her long awaited graduation approaches, Taylor fondly remembers wonderful moments in Thomas Cooper.  Whether it was the weekly departmental meetings or the four-floor library analysis days,  every day features something memorable.  “When you have 20 young employees to talk to every day, you begin to realize how much alike we really are,” said Taylor.

“I don’t think I’m that great of a boss, but those who work for me seem to think otherwise,” Taylor said.  “When it comes to workplace morale, the best piece of advice I can offer is that having empathy for others will take you far.”

Bauldrick is a public relations senior

Empowering Women in South Carolina

Eme Crawford, director of communications and learning, and Ann Warner, CEO, from WREN discuss plans before one of  their local events.
Photo courtesy of Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network

By Betty Lavandero

In an office in the heart of the state capital, the seven employees of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) huddle together for their weekly Monday meeting. Led by CEO Ann Warner, each employee fires off with what she is currently working on. Whether it is an advocacy training or talking to a senator sponsoring a WREN-backed bill, these women are always busy.

Since its founding over a year ago, WREN has gone beyond its mission: bettering the lives, health and economic well being of women and girls in South Carolina. “We have passed budget provisos that provide 12-month birth control access, multi-prong strategies for health education to be evidence-based and pushed major pieces of legislation through one body of legislature. … That is a light in itself because most bills don’t see the light of day,” said Ashley Lidow, the associate director of policy and government relations.

WREN was able to introduce three bills in the last year of a two-year legislative session. It saw two bills cross over the deadline with lots of positive movement: a 12-month contraception supply and a pregnancy accommodation act. In the first, women will be able to be prescribed 12-months of self-administered birth control at one time. In the second, pregnant women will be legally guaranteed certain accommodations in the workforce. This includes lactation breaks, more bathroom breaks and providing a stool for seating.

A key piece to seeing ideas become legislation is the support of local female legislators. Women currently hold 8 percent of the Senate and 14 percent in of the House of Representatives in the S.C. General Assembly. This is among the lowest percentage of women legislators of any state in the nation.

Rep. Beth Bernstein (D-Richland County) is a frequent sponsor and supporter of the legislation WREN brings to the House.

“I have the utmost confidence and trust in WREN and value its support.  The staff is always well-prepared and extremely knowledgeable on the various issues affecting women today, particularly in South Carolina.  WREN makes me a better legislator and advocate on women’s issues,” she says.

In addition to its legislative lobbying, WREN is dedicated to educating women throughout the state. It succeeded in 2016 reaching over 2,000 community members through civic engagement and advocacy. The learning team travels to different cities around the state to offers its  “Advocacy 101″ training. Those can range from small groups to lecture halls full of women eager to make a difference. The training includes explaining the process of a bill becoming a law, who their local representatives and senators are and how to get in touch with them.

From the Upstate to the Low Country, WREN is able to teach women from all walks of life on how to be aware of the issues affecting them.

WREN also wants to educate men on the issues that affect the women in their everyday lives. Allen Wallace, a frequent volunteer with WREN, is passionate about what this nonprofit is doing for Columbia women and girls. “Women and girls should never have to rely on men to speak for them. Women and girls deserve their own voice. That should be painfully obvious in 2017, but as we all know, it is not so to many,” he says.

“WREN gives them that voice. WREN’s staff members are in the political trenches daily, keep us aware of the issues that matter and making sure legislators know they will not take away the rights of women and girls without a fight: a loud and public fight, the kind so many politicians fear above all else,” he says.

WREN staff members talk about how difficult it can be to work for a women’s rights nonprofit.

“In this day and age anything labeled with ‘women’ gets criticism. We face a lot of opposition in S.C. to the kind of work we do. A lot of people have pre-conceived notions,” says Eme Crawford, director of communications & learning.

As new advocacy groups organize, younger women are getting involved in women’s issues.  Hannah Schaltenbrand, who interned for WREN, says, “WREN has shown me the importance of gathering in your community to discuss what you believe are the problems and barriers that we face as women, especially as we face a time where our current executive branch is threatening things such as our birth control coverage.”

WREN provides internship and volunteer opportunities for women. “In terms of policy, we see every day across the nation and South Carolina,that there is a lot of legislation that are dangerous to the health and well-being of women,” says Megan Plassmeyer, community engagement coordinator. “We need to empower women to stand up and take a stand through the political process.”

WREN still has issues to address. “This big work that needs to be done, can’t be done by a few people and it can’t be done on behalf of people. It has to be people who also want these changes for themselves and having a say in their future,” says Crawford.

Lavandero is a public relations senior 

A Teacher That Shines Above the Rest

Kalb speaks with a student about Russian literature
Photo by Ali Mullane

By Ali Mullane

Judith Kalb’s office is filled with brightly colored Russian nesting dolls, books from all the great Russian literary heroes and even a balalaika. Students know Kalb is passionate about Russia.

Kalb, the program director of the Russian department and a Russian professor at the University of South Carolina, stands out as a teacher to almost every student who has taken her class. She came to USC with her husband, John Ogden, who was hired to teach Russian at the USC. When she came, the program was tiny, with under 10 graduates each year. She and Ogden set out to recruit more students while still maintaining the closeness of the original program. They began expanding the courses, teaching students with the passion each brings to the department. Soon, enrollment began to increase.

Kalb enjoys the small community of the Russian department. She says that it is the reason the department is so tightly-knit and how she gets to be so close with her students. Kalb’s students are influenced by her enthusiasm and love of everything Russian. As the program grows, she still maintains her relationships with most of the students and is always willing to make time for any student looking for extra help.

Brendan Mooney, a USC graduate, fell in love with Russian literature during Kalb’s twentieth century Russian literature course his senior year of college. The class went over Mikhail Bulgakov’s book The Master and the Margherita. Mooney was transfixed. He became so fascinated by the book that he reached out to Kalb to talk about it outside of class, something he had never done with a teacher before. He recalled many Fridays before class time where the two would discuss the ethical dilemmas and writing styles brought up in the literature. Even today, they catch up to discuss the intricacies of The Master and the Margherita when they can.

Mooney is now pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature. About Kalb, he said, “she has been a big influence on my life and general career path, how I teach, the way I approach things.” The two have now known each other for almost seven years.

Mooney isn’t alone. Other students say that Kalb is by far one of the best teachers they have ever had. Tim Chorazak, a USC junior, has taken two courses with Kalb and is planning to enroll in a third next semester. He says Kalb is special because, “she is one the professors that actually cares if you learn the material, and she actually enjoys teaching and has no problem giving extra help.” Chorazak remembered a time when he had the flu and missed a week of a Russian language class. During the week, he missed an exam. Kalb was quick to help him make up all of his missed work, teach him any missed material and prepare him to take the test.

Lauren Bullard, a USC freshman, agrees, saying, “Kalb is very enthusiastic about teaching Russian and she is such a wonderful understanding professor and is so willing to help you achieve your goals.”

Bullard has even decided to become a Russian major instead of her initial plan to minor in Russian. Kalb helped Bullard look at both requirements and decide what she had time for. Bullard also realized how useful majoring in Russian might be.

Russian is one of the languages that the United States government looks for when hiring college graduates. Even outside of the government, it is a plus to know Russian in the business world.

The usefulness of Russian combined with the current newsworthiness of the country may be a reason that more students are taking Russian classes. Kalb says that when Russia is more newsworthy, students seem to take courses more and have more interest in the culture and world of Russia.

But Kalb’s enthusiasm and energy may be the largest draw for students at USC. When sitting in on a class of Kalb’s, it’s easy to understand why students like her.

In a literature course, she can be found using hand motions in her talking as her voice rises in excitement when she gets to scenes in books that she enjoys. In class discussions, she thoughtfully responds to each student’s idea, discounting no one.

In Russian literature, there are many characters to keep track of with long and confusing last names. To help, Kalb draws stick people to give a visual for students while also adding humor as she describes the characters in more modern terms. If students are still struggling, Kalb will always make time to discuss course material. In a university with over 33,000 students, Kalb makes her students feel that they always belong.

Mullane is a public relations senior.

Building the Future of Basketball

Mike Clark (right), head statistician for Villanova University, looking at head coach Jay Wright (left), after Villanova defeats Creighton University 71 to 50.  
Photo credit to Daniel McGinley

By Daniel McGinley

Basketball is in Mike Clark’s blood.  At the very least, basketball is how his parents met.  According to Mary Clark, she and a friend were enjoying watching the Knicks game in 1985 at Jody’s Club Forest, a very popular crowded bar on Staten Island.  She couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of the two young men besider her who were flabbergasted that Patrick Ewing, the Knicks’ star, was not in the game.  She politely interrupted to tell Pat Clark that Ewing was on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.  Pat Clark’s first thought was “I’m going to marry this girl.”  It was love at first sight and the rest is history.  Mary Clark explains that the Clark family follows professional and college basketball, with college being their favorite.  Apparently March Madness is a crazy time at the Clark household.

So, it was no surprise to Mike Clark’s parents when he told them he was planning to apply for a student manager position at Villanova when he began college there in 2011.  Mike was interviewed by the assistant coach, Baker Dunleavy, and given the job on the spot.  

Dunleavy, who recently left Villanova to become head coach of Quinnipiac University, spoke very highly of Mike Clark and hopes he will join him at his new school in the future.  Interviewed by phone, Dunleavy praised Clark.  He says that because of Clark’s analytics templates, the coaches were able to prepare against formidable opponents, play the right combination of players, and analyze performance.  This all led to the team’s success – and Dunleavy says Clark’s contributions were partly the reason for Villanova’s national championship in 2016.  

Jay Wright, head coach of Villanova Men’s Basketball team said “Mike was with the program for four years and continually impressed everyone on the staff.”  

Starting out as a freshman, Mike had the usual “rookie” tasks such as doing the team’s laundry, setting up for practices that began at 6 a.m., and handing out water and towels during the games.  Mike did not travel with the team as a freshman, but did not miss much, as the team was not very successful.  Wright explains that thankfully Mike became interested in basketball analytics after reading several books during the summer before his sophomore year.  Coach Wright says at the memory of the day when Mike approached him with the basics of the program for the team.  Coach said, “I had heard of teams using analytics but had no idea how the heck all these numbers would mean anything to our team specifically, so I dumped him on my assistants,” Wright said.  Turns out, Mike had the beginnings of a phenomenal program there and with some help from experienced coaches, developed what has become the cornerstone of our team’s game plans.”  

Asked if advanced analytics are important to his team, Coach Wright says with an adamant, “Yes. You have to consider how much the three-point shot is used and now with hands-free defense – it’s a necessity.  With the tough competition in our league, the Big East, we have to pay attention to all the statistics.  We are trying to take in ideas all the time and use the ones that fit our personnel.  Mike Clark’s analytics algorithm helped us make that change.  Now in addition to studying a lot of film, we have these stats that have obviously been working for us.”

Clark remembers he became interested in analytics that summer after reading a book by Stephen Shea.  Clark admits to having a good math mind combined with a passion for basketball.  He was intrigued with the concept of using analytics algorithms at Villanova.  

Clark says that statistics are facts and every situation can be analyzed in numerous ways.  At Villanova, a basic beginning was to decide which players should be on the floor at the same time in order for the best chance for success.  In order to accomplish this goal, a database had to be created.  A team of three managers took tedious statistics during every game of the season.  

One of these managers, Jack McGinley, nostalgically looks back at this time. “It was hard work.” McGinley said.  “I remember being in the stat room with six televisions projecting the game simultaneously.  We had every angle in order to keep track of every possible statistic.  We missed out on actually being at the actual games, and not being a part of the crowd – but knew we were part of something big.  Sure enough, Villanova now has a national championship trophy in their case and that is in part due to Mike’s analytics program that we helped him create.”  

Ryan Arcidiacono, captain of the championship team and current player for the Chicago Bulls, graduated with Clark in 2015-16.  “Arch” says that early on, the players did not give much credence to Clark’s analytics program.  “We thought that most of the information that coaches get from analytics were just a mechanism for coming to the most obvious possible conclusion.  But we were proven wrong.  The coaches began using some analytics approaches and we experienced success.  There are no doubts in the players’ minds that the statistics used to make our game plans had a definite effect on the results.  Knowing every stat meant something motivated us to play hard and dive for every ball.”

Clark finally traveled with the team and as a senior, was the official scorer, sitting at the table at half court for every game.  Clark says that he was sorry when that season was over, as “I will never have such a great seat again for a basketball game.” Clark is proud that the analytics program continues today with another set of managers in that stat room.  

Upon graduation, Clark was offered a graduate assistant position as video coordinator.  He says that he jumped at the chance to continue with this top notch program.  He proved he was instrumental in the continued development of the team analytics that eventually led to the championship in 2016.

Clark applied to the National Basketball Association Associate Program in the February before his master’s graduation.  It was his dream to work for the NBA and bring his analytics algorithm with him.  As one of thousands to apply, Clark is proud that his resume was chosen for that first interview.  The NBA was impressed with his vast experience and after several interviews, Clark got the job.  

After finishing the associate program which consists of three month cycles in various departments, Clark has settled in the analytics department.  Clark’s duties with the NBA include “acting as a liaison between the NBA league office and the teams of the NBA.

 I provide research, strategic insights, and quantitative expertise to the league in order to increase revenue, help them make informed decisions and control expenses.  Could I be working behind a desk at Bank of America right now?  Sure!  And I’d be making a lot more money but I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.  This is where I belong and I hope to expand my knowledge of analytics and bring that to professional and college teams.  I am living the dream.”

McGinley is a public relations senior.

A safe place for student-athletes to study

The Dodie mural honors the most recent class of student-athlete graduates
Photo by Michael Stewart

By Michael Stewart

You can probably spot most student-athletes on a college campus.  At the University of South Carolina just look for the people draped in Under Armour shirts, sweatpants and hoodies.  They will be rushing around campus from place to place just trying to be on time.

“Weekends are really the only time that I have to myself and just Saturday at that,” says Gabrielle (Gabby) Brassard, a freshman member of the equestrian team.

She tousles her hair to tie it off as she clenches a pencil between her teeth.  Her face is happy but drawn.  The type of face that is screaming out for sleep but is not getting much of it.

“I have practice and weightlifting three days a week. And on the days that I have practice, I have to plan an extra hour or so to drive to the barn since it isn’t close. Then I have to drive back to get to study hall.  It can take four hours out of my afternoon.”

Study hall is in the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center.  Brassard, like most freshman athletes, is required to attend.

While student-athletes don’t jump for joy over study hall at 1302 Heyward St. they recognize its importance.  The building provides student-athletes with a perfect place to focus on studying without the distractions of home.  Even student-athletes no longer required to attend study hall often themselves there.

Nakita Gray transferred from North Carolina A&T to USC, to compete in the high jump, halfway through her college career.  She was impressed with the difference in the amount of academic attention given to student-athletes.

“I wasn’t required to come to study hall for years but I still was in there every night with a tutor or a mentor,” says Gray, a May 2017 graduate of USC.  “It was one of those things I appreciated a lot after I left.”

Gray recognizes how much the enrichment center helped her on her way to graduate.  Being able to meet and talk with her advisor any day that she wanted was a security blanket.  And anytime she needed a tutor all she had to do was ask.

The Dodie, as most students call it, is named for Dolores F. Anderson, an elderly benefactor from Greer, South Carolina.  Anderson donated $6 million of the building’s $13.5 million to the construction cost.

According to the Jan. 31, 2010 article in The State newspaper, Anderson asked then-athletic director Eric Hyman what head football coach Steve Spurrier needed most and his response was an academic building.

The building opened in January 2010 at 40,500 square feet. According to the official USC website, it features three computer labs, a full-service kitchen, dining room, 20 tutor rooms, 21 offices, seminar rooms and two study lounges.  USC administrators visited other athletic academic centers in the South to get an idea of what they wanted in the design of the Dodie.

“We went to schools from the SEC East and West.  And we went to Clemson,” says Raymond Harrison, former USC director of life skills. “I really liked Alabama’s center. They renovated their old football dorm.”

Harrison, new N.C. State University associate athletic director, says strong academic enrichment programs and well-equipped facilities are central to student-athletes maintaining strong grade point averages and graduating.

Not everyone sees the athletic centers as money well spent.  Brennan Doherty, a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel and former sports editor of The Daily Gamecock, cautions against equating as evidence that athletic buildings correlate with smarter student-athletes.

“It’s window dressing in some ways. It’s easy for specific schools to present themselves well academically if they want to.  A lot of the metrics that they use are not worth very much, like APR. In some ways, these large complexes also really isolate athletes from the rest of the student population on campus.  I mean, yes, you can have classes with them, but with the creation of buildings like the Dodie and 650 Lincoln, you rarely interact with a student-athlete.”

APR or academic progress rate is a measure implemented by the NCAA in 2003.  It was a part of large academic reforms attempting to hold schools more accountable.  It is a team based metric accounting for student-athlete retention and progress each term.  The criticism with APR is that it is not a comparable statistic between schools.

“I’d say it’s flawed because it only includes students that receive financial aid for athletics,” says Doherty.  “Not all varsity athletes get money, especially in sports that don’t make money.”

According to the Sept. 25, 2010 article in The Post & Courier, athletes used to study with the rest of the students in the library or in their dorm.  But in 1991 Clemson built Vickery Hall, designed specifically for the use of student-athletes.  Since that point, the construction of similar buildings has seen an uptick on major college campuses, especially the ones that focus heavily on athletics.

At USC, athletes can seem especially isolated. The opening of 650 Lincoln, a university housing complex where many student-athletes increases that.

“We just have completely different schedules from other students,” says Brassard, the USC equestrian. “I like living in 650 because we go to bed early during the week and if I lived in a regular dorm it might be loud a lot of nights with people going out and I just could not deal with that.”

While these buildings have popped up quickly for large schools, mid-level and smaller institutions lag behind.  Doherty says that one reason for this could be the large price tag that comes with these buildings.  $13.5 million to build a study hall is money that smaller schools just do not have, considering it impacts such a small amount of the student body.

While some student-athletes at smaller schools may wish they could have facilities like the Dodie, not all do. Zach Edgar, a sophomore offensive lineman at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, is happy with his experience.

“I don’t like being singled out, so I wouldn’t like that. But at Centre, I’m just another student who just happens to play football too. It would be weird to only see other athletes.  I think it’d make it a lot easier to study, but I’m thankful for what we’ve got.”

Whether large facilities like the Dodie are successful in preparing student-athletes for their post-graduate endeavors is a question that cannot be answered by statistics.  Raymond Harrison certainly believes they do.  The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes at N.C. State is similar to the Dodie’s program.  According to the Sept. 28, 2017 article in The News & Observer, N.C. State is also constructing a boutique dormitory for athletes similar to 650 Lincoln to better streamline their schedules.

Stewart is a multimedia senior

CreateAThon: The 24 Hour Challenge

Brendan Middleton being filmed for an interview at CreateAThon 2017.
Photo by Lexi Hill.

By Lexi Hill

The lecture room erupted in laughter, a noise that would become a staple during the next 24 hours. Well, that and the sound of the coffee machine re-upping for an new batch of mugs. “Welcome to CreateAThon 2017,” bellowed University of South Carolina Professor Scott Farrand, “Does anyone know why I’m playing this song?” Shawn Mendes’s voice grew louder, and the chorus played again: “There’s nothing holding me back…there’s nothing holding me back…”

Proudly smiling, Farrand looked around the room waiting for an answer, until he excitedly answered the question himself. “Well, we’re not going to hold back during the next 24 hours,” Farrand said. “You’re going to have a lot of ideas; some good and some bad, but you just have to keep working.”

That’s exactly what the 80 student volunteers and 20 mentors did while they worked and then re-worked marketing and communications resources for seven local nonprofits. The idea behind CreateAThon evolved 19 years ago when Teresa Coles and Cathy Monetti, both working at the advertising firm Riggs Partners in Columbia, South Carolina, wondered if their team could pull an all-nighter for charity.

Now, that company initiative has grown into a national CreateAThon network, amassing 100 partners and more than 3,500 completed marketing and communication plans for nonprofits. However, it wasn’t until recently that universities started participating in this 24-hour challenge.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina joined the initiative five years ago when Scott Farrand, a journalism professor, teamed up with Karen Mallia, an advertising professor. “I got involved because I was looking for a way to give students in the journalism school a chance to create some live ads or public relations material,” said Farrand, whose CreateAThon title is the Co-Conspirator.

“The first year, we had four or five clients and we barely got those. We also had to work hard to get students to do it. Now we have two additional classes to help prepare for the event,” Farrand said. These two classes, a special leadership class taught by Mallia and an event management class by professor Haylee Mercado began preparing in August. While the event management team worked to get food and event necessities, the leadership class worked with the nonprofits participating in this competition to assess needs and develop creative strategies. All this preparation is then presented to a team of student volunteers and mentors who have 24 hours to create tangible, visual designs for a presentation at the event’s close.  

There were eight teams this year, all led by students in Mallia’s class. Team leader Phillip Burrows signed up for this class without knowing what it really was. “I’m a senior advertising major, and this class seemed like a cool way to test my skills.” As the semester continued on and the date for CreateAthon drew near, Burrows didn’t know what to expect, like a lot of his counterparts.

“I’ve never done a 24-hour, just get all of the creative juices in your body out deal, but it was cool! I got to explore all my creative thoughts and had a great time,” he said. Burrows and co-leader Karie Grace Duncan,  a senior multimedia journalism student, led a team of five in addition to two mentors. The organization they worked with was Kids’ Chance, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to kids whose parents have been injured or killed in workplace accidents.

Within minutes the team’s first interviewees arrived, twins Brendan and Brandan Middleton, who had won scholarships that year. The team hurried to the photography room to film them. Their work had officially begun.

The other teams, separated into different rooms in the journalism school, were also beginning to get to know each other and figure out what their goals should be. The first check-in, known as “bragging time,” was scheduled for 11 p.m. and no one wanted to be in the last spot.

Emily Entwistle, a senior public relations major, and her co-team leader were planning to interview volunteers early the next morning. “We’re hoping to film a Jersey Shore midnight interview with team members to show what it’s really like staying up all night,” she said. In addition to creating activities, the CreateAThon social team also live-tweeted and took pictures throughout the 24 hours.

Before they knew it, the clocked chimed 11 p.m.  and everyone was called back into the auditorium for feedback. The room fell silent as the presentations began, but for the occasional, “Oh I love that” or comments about how the branding could be refined. At the end of the hour some teams left, relieved with the reassurance that they were headed in the right direction, while others scrapped it all and went back to the drawing board.

For the Kids’ Chance team in particular, it was back to the drawing board. In fact, it took a few more hours before they were headed in the right direction. At the end of the 24-hours though, they were ready to present.

“When I think about what all of the volunteers did in a 24 hour period period it just blows me away,” said Angie Kohl, the executive director of Kids’ Chance. “There’s no way we could have done in months what you guys did for us in one day. We have a very small budget and no man power, which is pretty common for nonprofits,” said Kohl.

The event doesn’t just provide nonprofits with the resources they need, though. Savannah Cerniglia, a sophomore visual communications and media arts student, thinks of the event as a networking opportunity for students. “It’s funny because my friends have been calling this ‘Sav’s Nerd Thing,’” Cerniglia said. “And it totally is! All of the students and mentors here are passionate about these nonprofits and creating content that can help propel them forward,” Cerniglia said. 

One mentor, Jennifer Hammond, a management supervisor at the advertising firm David&Goliath in Atlanta, Georgia, considers networking one of the most valuable aspects CreateAThon has to offer. Hammond attributes her passion for this program to her time as a student at the University of South Carolina: “I want to give back to the school that gave me so much, so if I can help create something and teach students about creating in the real world, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”

At the end of the day, giving back and this “nerd-unity” is the atmosphere that keeps this event going. A day isn’t a long time, but with a team of talented students led by mentors and the CreateAThon co-conspirators, anything is possible.

Hill is a multimedia journalism senior.

Showing Up Is Half the Battle: Wes Saunders and the Persisting Football Dream

Weslye Saunders training at Flamingo Park, Miami, FL
Photo courtesy of Wesyle Saunders/Instagram

By John Wagoner

In 1973, Barry Saunders took a bus to Chapel Hill to try and get legendary Tar Heel head coach Dean Smith’s attention and get a scholarship to play for the University of North Carolina, as he told The State.

Over 50 years later, his son, Weslye Saunders, flew himself to Seattle and Indianapolis to try and get the attention of the head coaches of their professional football teams, and regain a spot on a National Football League roster.

Proving that history tends to repeat itself, neither of them left with what they came for. The difference? Weslye Saunders is still vying for an NFL contract, and he has not been on the field in three years.

Saunders was the late bloomer of the star-studded 2007 recruiting class for South Carolina, but when he bloomed, Gamecock fans took notice. Staying after practice with his quarterback Stephen Garcia paid off for Saunders, as he had a field day against the Gamecock’s Upstate rival.

He accounted for two of the four touchdowns in that 34-17 victory over Clemson that kicked off a five-game winning streak. David Cloninger, long-time South Carolina beat reporter, recalls thinking after his performance in that game that Saunders “was going to play on Sundays.”

“That’s one way to go out,” in Saunders’ words.

His senior season would never come. A series of suspensions left him watching his former team beat the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide from the student section on their way to a date with the Auburn Tigers in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

“A bad attitude” got Saunders suspended in January 2010, according to Cloninger. Saunders still participated in spring practice. Then in early summer, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, came calling over a string of social media posts pegging Saunders at a party funded by a sports agent in Miami. Saunders said the issue at hand “wasn’t even the monetary amount…it was the favors.” The bigger issue would end up being what the NCAA would dig up while investigating Saunders.

He and nine other Gamecock football players were staying in the Whitney Hotel, now known as the 700 Woodrow apartment complex. The situation was considered off-campus housing, a move approved by the school.

As the NCAA began to investigate, it found out that there were players several months late on rent. Steve Spurrier, head coach at the time, told the media in August that he encouraged the players to settle their debts and move out to avoid further trouble. All the players heeded their coach’s warning, except Saunders. By his account, Saunders stayed to try and right the wrongs and clear his name from any wrong-doing. He “ended up digging [himself] into a bigger hole.” A $5000 hole. Saunders applied for a loan “against [his] future earnings,” to cover his debts at the Whitney according to Cloninger.

“Wesyle Saunders is not a member of our team anymore.”

Head coach Steve Spurrier’s words to Travis Haney of the Charleston Post and Courier echoing a press release from the university earlier that day. Saunders had been suspended for some time after missing team meetings and showing up late to practice.

Even though he says the “NCAA really wasn’t the one calling the shots, it was the school,” Saunders flew himself to the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. To no avail, he tried to clear his name. He felt like the school was just trying to wash their hands of him and move on, even after settling his debts. Saunders heard the message loud and clear.

With South Carolina in the rear view, Saunders still had a high draft stock in his eyes. So he took his talents to Texas where he trained for the NFL Draft combine on Nike’s dime, as a potential sponsor. One month in, the tunnel lost its light at the end. Saunders broke his foot after overextending himself, never having been injured before.

With tunnel vision in full effect, he participated in both the NFL Draft Combine and South Carolina’s Pro Timing Day for scouts on that broken foot.

Expectations were waning for Saunders. Bleacher Report had him ranked as the 11th tight end and 229th overall prospect in the 2011 Draft, and Walter Football claimed “It is unlikely some team will spend a draft pick on an underachiever with serious character concerns.”

No one did use a draft pick on Saunders, but he still signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and made the regular season roster as their third-string tight end. Saunders even notched his first and only professional touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in November of that same year. Then, just two months later he was back to square one, he had been suspended for Adderall use.

By his own admission Saunders got the pills from his brother, and took them to counteract the sluggish effects of his pain medications for his broken foot. He also says he was unaware of the rules regarding the use of Adderal in the NFL. The league puts on various rookie orientation activities designed to help them understand these rules, but Saunders did not participate in these due to his late signing.

“I shot myself in the foot once again,” Saunders said.

The Steelers released him following that suspension in 2012 but after signing with the Indianapolis Colts, Saunders was suspended again by the NFL for eight games. This time he was suspended for an expired Adderall prescription. He battled with his replacement, Jack Doyle, after returning to action in 2013 but the Colts ultimately decided on Doyle after Saunders was released from his contracts twice in 2014.

Saunders was confident that his physical abilities and NFL connections win out for him in the end.

That was three years ago.

The calls never came for him, so he went to them; just as his father had done all those years ago.

He flew himself out to Seattle prepared to show off his skills to the Seahawks coaching staff; he was promptly banned from their training facility and left without an agent after a falling out over the decision to go to Seattle. Before he got to his next stop, the Colts got a call he was coming – and banned him from their property too. Saunders frequently posts the internal memo the Colts sent out about his banishment from their facilities on social media, riddled with harsh language and swift action against him when he got to Indianapolis.

He supposedly had a strong relationship with the decision makers at the Colts, but he has not heard back from anyone at the Colts since this memo was published in June. My phone calls to the Colts about him were not returned either.

Around this time, the word “blackballed” began being thrown around. Some said Saunders had been blackballed by the NFL for showing up at team facilities, even he himself becoming suspicious there was collusion. In typical Wes Saunders fashion, he got on a plane again to New York City to try for a meeting with the NFL commissioner, and again nothing came from that either.

Saunders is still training, still promoting himself on Twitter using #WhyNotWes, and back in Miami. A man that is self-described as “unemployed,” Saunders takes advantage of his membership in the NFL Players Association by utilizing free training plans and meal plans to stay ready when that phone rings. He uses social media to craft the image he wants people to see; constantly posting his workouts, highlights and charitable work in the Miami community. He has adopted a vegan lifestyle and claims to be in the best shape of his life now, down 25 pounds from the last time he played.

Saunders knows he’s getting old (for the NFL at least) at age 28, so he’s promising himself one final year before he is officially out of his prime. His former teammate Stephen Garcia echoed that, “it’s crazy he’s not on an NFL team right now.”

The legacy he leaves has to yet to be seen. If you take a look through his Twitter feed, you will find a littering of fans of all his former teams asking why he is not on a roster. Saunders volunteers his time speaking to kids about life after making mistakes. But for some, like tenured Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette, they may only “have minimal recollection of him.”

Saunders rattled off a litany of skills he is prepared to put to work if football does not work out, such as writing, personal training and his experience in motivational speaking. World Wrestling Entertainment looked to test his physical skills in the ring after he was brought in for a tryout earlier this year. It would not be unprecedented for a former Gamecock football player to get between the ropes (see: former All-American Del Wilkes as “The Patriot”) but World Wrestling Entertainment could not be reached for comment as to their specific interests in Saunders.

But for now, you can find him every day in the sands of South Beach or at Flamingo Park working on the skills that gotten his this far: football skills. The dream he just cannot seem to give up.

Wagoner is a broadcast journalism senior.

WIS Keeps Old School New

Samantha Bleiweis prepares to anchor the 6 p.m. news at WIS-TV. 
Photo courtesy of Samantha Bleiweis. 

By Grace McKenna

At 9:30 a.m., the newsroom sits completely silent. Glowing computer monitors stare at each other from across the web of workspaces. Downstairs, the bright lights of the WIS-TV news set are dimmed.

But just down the hall, the murmur of voices and clinking of coffee mugs promises the beginning of the news day. In a glass-walled conference room, reporters and producers gather around an oblong table and scratch out ideas on a white board. Here, they decide the news for the day.

The traditional “morning meeting,” among other traditions at WIS, lends an air of authenticity to the newsroom’s culture. Anchor and reporter Sam Bleiweis says that air makes WIS unique in the modern news world.

“I can remember walking in the door and someone telling me ‘Yeah, we do things kind of old school here,’” Bleiweis said. “I’ve seen that yeah, we do stuff old school because we know that it works, but we’re also evolving in certain ways too.”

The “old school” nature of the station stems from its long history as the Midlands’ powerhouse news source. When WIS first signed on the air in 1953, it owned the only VHF bandwidth license in the area. According to Randy Covington, WIS news director from 1991 to 2001, most of the news viewers in South Carolina only had access to VHF channels at the time.

“WIS had an enormous head start in this market, just by the fact that it was a VHF station,” Covington said.

Since that first broadcast in 1953 (appropriately a University of South Carolina football game), the station managed to maintain its standing as the top-rated station in Columbia. And its success expands past the city line – WIS is the second highest rated NBC affiliate in the nation and won five Southeast Emmys last year for its broadcasts.

Even with an automatic advantage from the VHF kick-start, Covington believes the human element drives WIS’s success.

“Bottom line, if you look at the history of the station, it’s really good people, really good hires,” he said.

Covington reflected on one such hire, Susan Audé, an anchor who happened to be in a wheelchair. In 1996, when the Olympic torch passed through Columbia, WIS nominated Audé to carry it.

“We nominated the most popular anchor in Columbia,” Covington said.

According to Covington, the entire WIS team was thrilled to air Audé’s stretch with the torch live on the news at noon. But when they arrived at the event with their live truck, a public relations representative for the event told them there was a camera truck that had to ride ahead of Audé. WIS wouldn’t be able to film in front of it. Covington said the whole team was frustrated and angry.

“This is South Carolina,” he said. “There was a sense that Susan Audé, carrying the Olympic torch in her wheelchair, should be on television.”

Instead of being discouraged, Covington got creative. As the Olympic camera truck pulled out, two police cruisers swerved in to block it, allowing the WIS news truck to get the shot. Covington says that spirit of community is unique to a station like WIS.

“It’s more than a TV station, its kind of a part of the fabric of life,” Covington said. “Historically it’s been more than just ‘here are the fires and traffic accidents.’”

Reporter Caroline Patrickis says that same community engagement helps her produce deeper pieces every day.

“It doesn’t come from the newsroom,” Patrickis said about her most successful stories. “It comes to me when someone comes to me with their trust and asks me to look into this and you do and it blooms.”

Patrickis said the most significant story she has written as a WIS reporter all started as a Facebook message from a viewer.

“A lot of people know, including the local governments here, that we, that our station, WIS, has such a big reach,” Patrickis said. “So we can get answers when we put their story on and we can hold people accountable.”

Former WIS intern Hannah Treece said she also noticed the deep connection between the station’s reporters and the community during her time at WIS.

“Their reporters are in constant communication with the people in the community,” Treece said. “They’re not just waiting to see an article in The State and turn that into a story, they’re actually going out and trying to get the stories before anyone else gets them.”

But with a legacy comes the challenge of adapting to a changing news environment.

According to the Pew Research Center, viewership of 7 p.m. newscasts dropped 5 percent in 2015. The growth of digital platforms and social media constantly pushes local television stations to be faster and more aggressive.

Covington says that speed is one of the biggest challenges facing the news media today.

“Being a journalist in TV news always was hard. It’s harder now because of the speed,” he said. “Because of the speed often the reporting suffers, you have to constantly be going on TV rather than learning more about your story.”

Bleiweis agrees, saying that her goal is always to remember that, while being fast is important, being accurate is the key to good journalism.

She said WIS recently aired a story about a middle school student receiving a threatening video of some fellow students brandishing guns. While WIS could have run the video as soon as it obtained it, the station held off until getting all of the details from the school and police.

“We could have posted that video and it would have been, you know, click, click, click,” Bleiweis said. “But we were conscious enough and smart enough to say ‘Hey it’s not worth putting this kid in danger.’”

For Bleiweis, maintaining ethical standards circles back to developing a careful newsroom culture that slows itself down, instead of sprinting to keep up with digital media.

“There’s more scrutiny than ever because of the fake news thing,” Bleiweis said. “I think that we have to slow down and say ‘How can we be even more vigilant in the light of that criticism?’”

Patrickis talked about the pressure digital news sources put on traditional local news.

“Some people say that local news is dying, because you can just get it right here,” Patrickis said, tapping her cell phone on the table. “You check this before you turn on the TV, if at all. You don’t have to turn your TV on to get the news anymore.”

Despite that change in media consumption, Patrickis thinks television has a special role in informing the public, one the web can’t replace.

“When big events happen in your town, you’re able to tell a story more on TV than you are on the Internet,” she said. “There’s emotion behind it. There are real people. That’s what people want to connect with.”

Covington says local news stations influence their communities, but that activism has to be part of the station’s culture as it is at WIS. “When the guy who hired me said, ‘You can make a difference in South Carolina,’” Covington said. “That’s how a station like WIS makes a difference.”

At almost 6 p.m., the newsroom bears no resemblance to the quiet sanctuary of the morning. Screens light up with reporters setting up live shots and anchors scurry across the room, hooking microphone packs around their waists.

Now, finally, they present the news of the day.

McKenna is a broadcast journalism junior.

Food Influencers Take Instagram by Storm


USC student is scrolling through her Instagram feed.
Photo courtesy of Lacey Brown

By Lacey Brown

Mid-morning on a Friday is usually a busy time. During the hustle and bustle at Immaculate Consumption, various groups are chatting about work, school, and relationships. Some are actively working others are just trying to enjoy a day off. Tati Chin simply sipped on her sea salt caramel latte soaking it all in. Chin was one of the latter who was enjoying her weekend off.

Chin runs her own self-branded blog that focuses on food and wellness, The blog features homemade recipes that she comes up with herself. When asked about what inspires her, she suggested that getting out and finding new ingredients can spark an idea. “If I see fresh heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market, then that’s it. I’m going to create a recipe with heirloom tomatoes,” she says.

Food related Instagram accounts have become increasingly popular over the last few years because of the community they build. Bloggers have the opportunity to reach people in more ways than one via this platform. They can use the platform for short-form videos, stories and promotions to share all of the plates they come across. It’s the one-stop shop for all of the things that followers may be looking to scroll through. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can just be simple and useful.

Chin isn’t the only one that is using social media to share her recipes and love of food. Julia Fonshell, a junior at the University of South Carolina, uses her food Instagram account to stay connected with her friends from back home. Fonshell says, “We’re all from New Jersey but we all go to school in different places. This was a fun way to stay connected.”

Staying connected seemed to be a theme between everyone. Hope Woolf, a senior at USC, uses her account as a way to look back on the memories that she shared with her boyfriend. Her account started as just for fun much like Fonshell and her friends. Woolf said, “The best part is getting to look back on all the fun dates I get to go on.” Using Instagram is a great way to create a virtual keepsake. Users can actively search for what they’re interested in. The food account community is large in number but small in actual feel. “It makes the world seem a little smaller,” Fonshell said. There has been a significant increase in this community of being able to share what you love.

For these food influencers, their love affair with food dates back to childhood. The common denominator was that they all sat down for family dinners as children. “My mom cooked a lot, pretty much every night,” Chin said. “My mom is from the Midwest and my dad is Jamaican and Chinese. Clearly there was always a sit down meal, but there’s something nostalgic about sitting down with the people you love over food.” The sit-down meal has become a staple in a rapid paced life. “My parents were huge on family dinners,” Fonshell said. “Even though we were super busy and had different schedules, we would wait for everyone even if it meant having dinner late at 9:30.”This led to food always being a staple.

As fun as it is to share with the world, that doesn’t mean it is without challenges. “The hardest thing about food blogging is keeping people engaged,” Chin said. “I wish there was a way to keep track of who is actually following through in preparing and not just reading or seeing the content.” Her challenge is one that many creators face because how can you create if you don’t know what the followers really want.

Being consistent is one of the hardest parts of using social media. With tastes changing and life taking a large role, sometimes it’s almost impossible to keep up the creativity. Every post has to be unique and eye-catching. For example, Woolf’s account is based around dates with her boyfriend: same pose, everywhere they go. “It’s hard to do steady postings when we don’t go out that often,” Woolf said. Whether the account has thousands or just a few hundred followers, the content has to clear and consistent.

Content is probably the most fun part of running a food Instagram account. “You have to consume content to create content.” Chin says. Watching other creators can spark a new idea or a new recipe. “I really like people who got into food unconventionally like Action Bronson or Tia Mowry. They didn’t start out as professional chefs, they got into food because it tastes good,” she says. The best combatant for a creative block is seeing what others are doing. It’s also a good time. Fonshell says, “We all follow @Freshman15 and we watch the Food Network Snapchat stories. And then we all share it with each other so it’s a lot of fun for us.”

The fun and easy access is what keeps it going. Since these niche accounts have become a household name, influencers have to look ahead to the future to keep up.

For Chin, she sees her blog being more of a reference point in the future. In three years, will be a site where people surprisingly don’t spend as much time. Fonshell and her friends plan to keep their account as simply pure fun. In either direction, the accounts will cater to every follower’s need.

The world uses social media to escape everyday life. It’s become an important part of how we connect and relate to others. Food Instagram accounts are what help us make food more than fuel. Notice that our cities and colleges have accepted these platforms as a forum for what’s new and how they can improve their own lives. Each and everyday someone new is inspired to cook a new meal or try a new restaurant because of what he or she is seeing online. These influencers are just the beginning of what could be another turning point in the social media revolution. And we know that chewing, sipping, slurping and savoring will never out of style.

Brown is a public relations senior

Observation – Where Judgment Exits Kindly

By Lesley Hitson

Human beings fascinate me. I’m always curious as to what makes different individuals tick – simply for the knowledge to enhance understanding and compassion of others. I also find joy in discovering what ignites other people’s passions. Hearing someone talk animatedly, particularly in a one-on-one conversation, gives me life and energy.

At the same time, as an ambivert, I also relish in merely being a listening ear or simply an observer. Amidst my free time and brief work distractions, I often take the opportunity to people watch. Dependent on the location, person(s) and situation, my thoughts and reactions may be lighthearted or intuitive.

Occasionally, observing people is a conscious decision, such as when my roommate and I open our apartment window to watch students cross the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center bridge and tell them, “Beautiful weather we’re having!” We typically don’t receive responses, as most students wear headphones when walking around campus (classic anti-social college culture). But, about two weeks ago, my roommate and I accidentally scared a cyclist, which had us in stitches from laughing. Note: He wasn’t injured, only frazzled.

However, most of the time, people-watching naturally occurs – a person’s voice, tone, action, etc. steal my attention. It is in those eye-grabbing moments, that I can toss my contacts and glasses aside. I could spend my whole life seeing the same people over and over again yet never truly see them. I mean, only knowing a longtime co-worker’s basic information, i.e., first and last name, is quite different than being able to discern that same co-worker’s well-being.

Now, I know that people-watching may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some individuals consider it to be silly or odd (to put it politely), which is perfectly fine. We all have a right to our personal opinions, so to this, I say to each his own. I feel many individuals who think people watching is creepy may have trouble seeing how it could serve a greater good. For example, in my life, studying people often serves as a reminder that we’re all human – awkward, beautiful, unique, funny, clumsy and interesting. We have many more similarities than differences. But, if more people made a conscious effort to study/observe individuals who differ from them in demographics and psychographics, then our world might have greater understanding and appreciation of all persons who inhabit it.

Hitson is a public relations senior