SMC Welcomes The First Bachelor’s Degree Students
By Lisa Mincey Ware
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2019 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
After two years of record-breaking freshman enrollment levels, this year’s summer orientation for new students included another milestone class: The first bachelor’s degree students in SMC’s history were officially welcomed to campus during a special orientation session on August 20.
“You’re a historic group,” said Dr. Jonathan Keisler, Chair of the BA Program and Professor of Business, as he kicked off the session. “I’m happy to celebrate with you today.”
All of the 45 new junior class members are former SMC students, either rising sophomores or students who returned to SMC after a short time at a different four-year institution. The College’s goal was to keep this first class small to manage growth responsibly, says Dr. Mark Gibbs, SMC’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We’re incredibly excited to have juniors on campus,” he says. “We feel confident about the excellent academic experience we can provide to them and in our plan to continue adding additional students as we grow to our goal of 1,000 by 2020, which we are on track to do.”
For a group of students already familiar with the College, junior Orientation was more about marking the historic nature of the class and taking care of a few details. Students were introduced to the faculty coordinators for each of the four bachelor’s degree concentration areas (business, English, history, and religion) and the Camak Core (the career development component of the degree). They also met the Pioneer Advising Center team, the College’s new group of professional academic coaches, and learned how the team would be available to assist them.
“You’ve got a 100 plus people pulling for you,” said President Cochran during his remarks to the group. “We are here to help you become the absolute best you can be.”
Jimmy Painter of Gaffney Inman, South Carolina, says the support he got at SMC during his first two years drew him back to complete a bachelor’s degree — even though he initially enrolled at a different school. “Four days ago, I made the decision to come back to SMC,” he explains. “I transferred to another college, and I just felt like a number to them, not a person. Here, everyone makes sure I’m on the right path and that I’m okay and where I need to be.” He plans to study English and religion for his two B.A. degree concentrations, and to take advantage of the Camak Core to discover the best career path.
“I want to get plugged into all of the different internship opportunities, try a number of things and see what I like,” Painter said. “But I’m also looking forward to studying religion because I’m a Christian, and I think it’s important to understand your own faith and its history.”
Keajha Sullivan of Spartanburg also returned to SMC to complete her bachelor’s degree after being disappointed by the experience at another four-year school. Like many Generation Z students (those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s), Sullivan wants to be an entrepreneur. “I’m planning to study business and history, and I want to learn the skills I need to launch my own cosmetics line,” she said.
“The Camak Core will help me understand how to manage and grow a business that serves a diverse customer base.”
As part of their special Orientation, the students were presented with an SMC-branded portfolio as a symbol of the strong career preparation component of their degree. The Camak Core, SMC’s signature career development program named for the college’s founder, is required for all bachelor’s degree-seeking students.
“We know employers are looking for students who not only think critically, problem-solve and communicate well — just a few of the skills students learn in liberal arts colleges like SMC,” says Courtney Shelton, Vice President for Design and the Camak Core Coordinator, “but they also want soft skills, and the Camak Core is designed to teach those so that our students will have an edge when they graduate.”
If all goes as intended, these students will make history again in spring 2021 when they receive their diplomas and graduate as the first bachelor’s degree class. Until that time, they plan to enjoy their status as upperclassmen as much as possible.