“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
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
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!)
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
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
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
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 https://www.usca.edu/admissions/find-your-counselor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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," Hall said.
Congratulations to Dr. Drew 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.