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Pacer Ready, Set, Return

Pacer Heroes

Honoring Our Pacer Heroes

Ethan Reibsome

Ethan Reibsome

“The SGA decided to sponsor the Blessing Box on campus this week, and as Campus Relations senator I decided to use this opportunity to teach my son about helping the community. We went to the grocery store to buy something for someone who might need it and he was ecstatic we got to buy peanut butter (his favorite food) -- he even got to pay for it! When we got to the box he saw all the stuff inside and was so happy to help out himself.”

- Julie Reibsome on her 5-year-old son, Ethan

Demetria Bannister

Demetria Bannister

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of Demetria Bannister, Class of ’16.

Sadly, our Pacer family learned yesterday that Demetria, a third-grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School in Columbia, passed away Monday from COVID-19.

The Counseling Center is available to assist students who knew her.

While at UofSC Aiken, Demetria was involved in Voices of Praise, participated in PUB talents shows, and was a sorority member. She even lead a song during the Omega Phi Alpha national convention in 2014 in Indianapolis.

She has been described as a “sweet, sweet person who had the voice of an angel.” Sometimes, Demetria would go into the SAC gym and sing. Passersby would enjoy her exceptional talent.

“Sweet Demetria. I’m heartbroken. Sing for the King in the heavens, darling. I’ll see you again and wave from the tenor section,” posted fellow Pacer Micah Hurt, Class of ’15.

She often incorporated music into her classroom activities.

“Demi was an amazing person whose smile would light up the room. Her incredible voice and love of music permeated her classroom, which benefitted all learners in her classroom. She will be missed,” said Dr. Judy Beck, dean of the School of Education.

Demetria, known to some as Demi, had been teaching for the last five years. According to news reports, Denise Quickel, principal at Windsor Elementary, said that she “loved her students and never missed an opportunity to advocate for students and public education.”

"While gone from us too soon, Ms. Bannister’s legacy lives on through the lives of the students she taught in her five years as a dedicated educator.”

 - Dr. Baron Davis, Richland Two Superintendent


Pacer Students

Pacers are resilient, resourceful, respectful, and ready to get back to class!

Students’ superpowers of adaptability, flexibility, and assumption of responsibility during the pandemic make them heroes to so many!

Kate, the burro, greeted our amazing students in the Quad earlier this week.  (Thanks to the Caldwell family, the UofSC Aiken Polo Team, and all our equestrians for helping make this a neat experience for us!)

DaKoyoia Billie

DaKoyoia Billie

Right after her premature twins came home from the hospital DaKoyoia Billie, Class of ’11, answered an urgent call for nurses in areas hit hardest by COVID-19.

She left her four children (a 15-year-old, a three-year-old, and newborns) and husband, Marcus, a Class of ’10 alum who is preparing to take the bar exam in Georgia and went to New York City to assist healthcare workers there. Currently, she’s in Texas, taking care of COVID-19 patients in the Lone Star State.

“Many reasons for going bounced around in my head as the pandemic was developing,” said Billie, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Double Knot Society, Compass Leadership, and UofSC Aiken Cheer.

“I knew that the safest, yet most impactful place for me to be was away from family to keep them as safe as possible while helping to save lives.”

One of her greatest joys right now is to reunite recovering COVID-19 patients with their loved ones after they are discharged from the hospital.

Billie says everyone on campus has a role to play in staying healthy and keeping others safe and healthy.

“My advice to students who are gathering outside of classes is to remain vigilant on protecting yourself and those connected to you from coronavirus. 

“While one student who has been exposed to COVID-19 may only experience mild symptoms to no symptoms, the next student may very well succumb to the virus. I’ve seen it occur too many times in this COVID-19 fight. 

“It’s up to YOU to protect yourself and others.” 

She said the UofSC Aiken School of Nursing helped prepare her for the challenges she’s faced during her career.

“I’ve learned that preparation is key. While there is guidance towards success, it’s ultimately up to me to make my goals come to fruition. 

As students return to campus to pursue their own goals, she reminds them to:

  • Stay the course. 
  • Trust the process! 
  • Never give up. 
  • And lastly, when you start to fret, remember why you started!

UofSC Aiken alumna, DaKoyoia D. Billie, MSN, FNP-C, has been featured on various national news programs. Watch one segment here.

 She was one of those students who was always so positive and helpful, and one you just always remember. We are so proud of her and her commitment to helping others.” 

- Dr. Thayer McGahee, dean, UofSC Aiken School of Nursing

Pacer Hero School of Nursing

The School of Nursing

A team of faculty and students from the School of Nursing assisted with recent on-campus COVID-19 tests for faculty and staff.

As part of a new agreement with the Aiken Regional Medical Centers, the university will provide courtesy tests throughout the summer.

This effort aids UofSC Aiken in mitigating the coronavirus on the university campus as the hospital will provide periodic testing and analysis. It is just one of several steps the university has taken to prepare for students’ return to campus. 

For more on the partnership, click here.

“UofSC Aiken and the Aiken Regional Medical Centers both agree that helping students and the constituents of the UofSC Aiken campus to remain safe and healthy is a priority, This partnership demonstrates the spirit of community service at the heart of Aiken Regional Medical Centers' mission as well as the humanitarianism and medical expertise provided during the COVID-19 pandemic."

- Memorandum of Understanding signed by Dr. Sandra Jordan, chancellor, and Jim O’Loughlin, CEO of Aiken Regional Medical Centers


Pacesetters & Orientation Team

The 2020 Pacesetters and orientation team have been engaged all summer with incoming first-year and transfer students, ensuring their first impressions and interactions with the university are inviting, engaging, and informative. While they originally planned to conduct traditional in-person orientation sessions, they quickly had to adapt their approach due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“They turned three dynamic in-person programs into interactive virtual programs with only about six weeks’ notice. They have been absolutely terrific all summer.”

- Ahmed Samaha, vice chancellor for student affairs

Instructional Services

Instructional Services

Keith Pierce and his crew in instructional services work behind the scenes to ensure we are set and ready for engaging instruction, archiving historical university events and activities, or preparing numerous video productions, including those needed for virtual orientation sessions this summer and for the UofSC Aiken Archimedes Dialogue Project.Dr. Mark Hollingsworth, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, kicked off the Pacer Graduation Parade while playing the bagpipes.

“Keith Pierce and his team have been nothing short of heroic in their efforts to support the mission of the English Department through their expertise with video filming and editing. The Archimedes Dialogue series, which will soon be available through the Writing Center, features interviews with visiting writers for the Oswald Distinguished Writers Series. The interviews are professional in quality, really like something you’d see on PBS or hear on NPR. Kudos, Keith!”

- Dr. Andrew Geyer, chair, UofSC Aiken English Department

Mark Hollingsworth

Mark Hollingsworth

Dr. Mark Hollingsworth, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, kicked off the Pacer Graduation Parade while playing the bagpipes.

He composed the Pacer March, which is often played for special events on campus.

“Dr. Hollingsworth’s Pacer March was the perfect way to start the parade. It helped make the event festive and gave it a unique flair.”

- Mary Driscoll, vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs


UofSC Aiken Admissions Team

The Pacer Admissions team works day and night (and weekends) to enroll new students at UofSC Aiken.

The last several months have presented everyone with new challenges. The admissions team has met those challenges head-on. In addition to creating a brand new virtual tour, they transitioned to online campus visits. They implemented a very successful communication campaign to engage potential students. Most notably, they coordinated two separate enrollment “deposit-a-thons.” The team worked until midnight on both May 1 and June 1 to help students beat the deadlines to enroll as new Pacers.

The admissions team includes the professionals included here

Ashley Brittain

Ashley Brittain

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ashley Brittain, Class of '08, is a professor in the School of Nursing. She and her family – including two young sons – serve as a foster family in Aiken County. Since October of last year, the Brittains have opened their home to five children.

The month of May is known as National Foster Care Awareness Month. On May 31, the Aiken Standard ran a story about the Brittains and their experiences as a foster family. "Ashley and her husband have a true heart for others and want to share their blessings and love with other children who need them." — Dr. Thayer McGahee, Dean, UofSC Aiken School of Nursing

Kelly Schepens holding owl

Kelly Schepens

Thursday, May 28, 2020

During the period of modified operations, Kelly Schepens, director of student programs at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center, has ensured all animals in the center are fed and cared for properly.

She recently participated in the virtual field trip offerings provided by RPSEC and presented viewers the owls, reptiles and amphibians. Kelly has been working closely with teachers served by the RPSEC and has conducted a number of live video sessions, while school buildings were closed. She is currently working to develop plans and procedures for offering programs at the RPSEC once guests are allowed back on campus. "Student groups love getting up close and personal with some of our furry, feathery, and scaly residents. Thanks to Kelly, they will be healthy and ready for our K-12 students when they are able to come back to the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center." – Dr. Gary Senn, Director of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center

John Hutchens

John Hutchens

Thursday, May 21, 2020

John Hutchens, director of special programs at Ruth Patrick Science Education Center, quickly adapted his programs to provide engaging learning opportunities even during a pandemic.

Upon hearing of the public schools' closures, John immediately started working on some ideas to continue enriching K-12 students' educational experiences by providing new approaches to engaging them.

Hutchens' efforts led to several virtual field trips. These virtual experiences highlight several residents who call RPSEC home, including reptiles, owls, and amphibians. Students can learn more about the RPSEC sundials, take an eco-hike through Hitchcock Woods, or explore the longleaf pine ecosystem at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center. All while sitting at their computers.

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, he developed a week-long series of activities for Earth Week, which the public could take part in virtually.

Most recently, the DuPont Planetarium and Evans & Sutherland, the world's leading producer and distributor of full-dome planetarium shows, entered into a partnership to offer the community the Virtual In-home Planetarium (VIP) Experience.

"Because COVID-19 prevents the DuPont Planetarium from offering shows in person, we are excited to offer this VIP experience that allows anyone with an internet signal to view free streaming shows," Hutchens said.

"These shows are great for families, educators, and anyone else that has an interest in the heavens above."

We certainly miss seeing our patrons and K-12 students and look forward to having them back on campus as soon as possible. Until then, we hope they enjoy these virtual experiences. We are extremely grateful to John, who led the effort to make them possible. –Dr. Gary Senn, Director of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center

Jamie Edwards

Jamie Edwards

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dr. Jamie Edwards, director of distance learning, helped faculty quickly transition to remote delivery methods when the coronavirus forced the university to modify its operations.

USC Aiken's Office of Distance Learning is the primary support resource for Blackboard and faculty training for pedagogy and technology for learning. It has created USC Aiken's Academic Continuity Plan for Remote Teaching.

Edwards' quick response and continued support to faculty throughout the semester enabled learning and teaching to continue as seamlessly as possible.

"We are more than tech support. We are learning support. We want to make sure you are ready to continue teaching your students using Blackboard for grading, video conferencing, providing video content, and creating assignments and activities so you can still connect with your students." —Dr. Jamie Edwards, director of USC Aiken Distance Learning

Antuawn Wade

Antauwn Wade

Friday, May 8, 2020

Antauwn Wade, a fine arts major from Varnville, SC, is on a mission to encourage his community, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and recent tornadoes in his area. He's going all over his community, painting angels in storefronts and just about anywhere he can.

He believes this small artistic act will help keep his neighbors and friends going during this difficult time.

"I started drawing at a very young age around, 4th grade. I am a self-taught artist; however, I took my first ever painting class in 2018 and haven't put the brush down since.” – Antauwn Wade, Class of '21

Paul McDaniel

Paul McDaniel

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

"If you aren't prepared to be a nurse after leaving USC Aiken, then you didn't pay attention," said Paul McDaniel. He completed his degree program this semester and has been working in a local hospital for the last few months, caring for patients, some with the coronavirus.

"If you aren't prepared to be a nurse after leaving USC Aiken, then you didn't pay attention," said Paul McDaniel. He completed his degree program this semester and has been working in a local hospital for the last few months, caring for patients, some with the coronavirus.

"The USC Aiken School of Nursing has made me realize that every day can be a challenge and that if I work hard enough, I can handle those challenges." He and all our other nursing grads, faculty, staff, students, and alumni are Pacer Heroes, who are PACER PROUD. PACER STRONG.

“As cliché as it may sound, I just wanted to help others. Every one of us needs help at some time in our lives, and being sick or injured is, for most, some of the worst times of their lives. I wanted to be someone who made people feel better when they were at their most vulnerable. When they really needed someone to lift them up.” – Paul McDaniel, Class of '20

Ali Thompson

Ali Thompson

Monday, May 4, 2020

Ali Thompson, Class of '18, is working some very long hours at Augusta University Medical Center, taking care of patients, including those with COVID-19. She says the USC Aiken nursing program set her up for success in this high stress, very demanding but extremely rewarding career.

"The clinical experiences I had during my time in the School of Nursing were vital to my nursing career. Nursing is a very hands-on profession, and the only way to gain that experience is through clinicals."

While Ali has been in the real world for a bit, she remembers what it's like as a student.

"Nursing school is meant to be very, very difficult. It is designed to create nurses who can think critically while under stress. Take each class day by day, exam by exam, and you will be graduating before you know it."

"Nursing was a natural choice due to the huge range of career opportunities, the ability to work hand-in-hand with a variety of health care providers, and the opportunity to use clinical skills and critical thinking to best care for a patient." – Ali Thompson, Class of '18

Alexis Zimmerman

Alexis Zimmerman

Friday, May 1, 2020

USC Aiken alumna, Alexis Zimmerman, is sharing the university's message of H.O.P.E. as she takes the Shepeard Community Blood Center's mobile unit on the road, this time to get a donation of blood from Sandy Talbott, the coordinator for parent and family relations.

Alexis, a member of the Class of '14, majored in exercise science. Many thanks to Alexis for helping ensure an adequate supply of blood in the CSRA.

Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person – the gift of life. A decision to donate blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components – red cells, platelets and plasma – which can be used individually for patients with specific conditions. –The World Health Organization

Forrest Ayers

Forrest Ayers

Friday, April 24, 2020

USC Aiken alumnus, Forrest Ayers, recently volunteered to go to New York to help healthcare professionals take care of COVID-19 patients. The Aiken native graduated from the USC Aiken School of Nursing in December 2017.

He credits the nursing faculty for preparing him for the challenges he's faced since graduation, and those he anticipates, await him in NYC. "I always felt that my nursing professors were dedicated to my success. It was the kind of dedication that you only can receive when there are not 100+ students in a lecture hall. They took the time to get to know me and always expressed concern when I struggled. Their guidance and mentorship were invaluable. I am blessed to say that some of them still contact me to see what I am doing with my nursing career."

We are proud of Forrest for taking this bold step to confront COVID-19 head-on, providing compassionate, competent care to patients in the epicenter of the country's pandemic.

"For me, it is a moral dilemma to sit here in Aiken and wait and see if the COVID-19 pandemic gets worse when I know people are dying right now in New York because there are not enough nurses (and many other healthcare personnel). They are asking for assistance, and I have never been the person to say no to someone who needs help." – Forrest Ayers, Class of '17

Joshua Bush

Joshua Bush

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

We remember the life, sacrifice, and dedication of Joshua Bush, a first-semester nursing student who bravely cared for COVID-19 patients in a local healthcare facility. Sadly, Joshua passed away Friday, April 17, from complications related to the virus.

The university will celebrate his life by planting a tree in his honor near the School of Nursing. "This is heartbreaking news for all of us. He was a kind and gentle man, always ready to help others. He will be missed so very much.” – Dr. Thayer McGahee, Dean of the School of Nursing

Hanna Hall

Hanna Hall

Monday, April 20, 2020

Hanna Hall is a junior nursing major currently working as a patient care technician at Aiken Regional Medical Centers.

“The nursing program has instilled in me a solid base in nursing fundamentals. I have been able to take practices learned throughout the program into the healthcare field while caring for patients, not just COVID-19 patients. It has been an honor being able to help fight the pandemic, and the experiences related to it have been life-changing. Now I know I am in the right profession because there is nothing else I would rather do.” – Hanna Hall, Class of 2021

Drew Geyer

Andrew Geyer

Friday, April 17, 2020

Congratulations to Dr. Andrew Geyer, chair of the English department, upon his induction to the South Carolina Academy of Authors Literary Hall of Fame.

This honor places him in the same category as other prominent South Carolina writers such as Pat Conroy, Nikky Finney, and James Dickey.

Read more about Dr. Geyer's accomplishment

“Andrew Geyer is an incredibly talented and worthwhile writer. The stories and characters he weaves are unique enough to pique interest and grounded enough to relate to the everyday reader. His stories and novels allow readers to build true-to-life connections with his fictional characters and, in the end, help readers and young writers alike gain a better understanding of themselves.” – Anna Norris, Class of 2018