College of Charleston Class of 2024 Ready for the Real World

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The College of Charleston Class of 2024 is primed and ready to take on the next chapter of their journey!

On May 10–11, the College of Charleston will celebrate the Class of 2024 at the spring commencement ceremonies.

These students are an impressive bunch, with a variety of passions, interests, accomplishments, talents and skills. One thing they all have in common, though, is that they have made the CofC experience their own, following their passion and forging their own path to success.

Here are seven members of the Class of 2024 who took full advantage of the opportunities the College offered them while they were here and are now primed and ready to take on the next chapter of their journey!

Amber Anderson, a native of Anderson, South Carolina, sought a place where she could cultivate her individuality while expanding her worldly wisdom.

“I received an email from the College of Charleston advertising the 1967 Legacy Program and advocating for Black students at the College,” says Anderson. “I remember the email including the words scholarship, professional development and study abroad. That really stuck out to me.”

A recipient of the Samuel Freeman Trust Scholarship Fund for the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs; the Jean and Tap Johnson 1967 Legacy Study Abroad Scholarship; the Louise Johnson Small Scholarship; and the Constance Morrison Thompson and Robert F. Morrison Family Legacy Scholarship, Anderson has certainly found her place.

The psychology major will be among the first to graduate from the 1967 Legacy Program, leaving a solid foundation for many to follow.

“The 1967 Legacy Program meant everything to me,” she says, adding that the program’s director, Valerie Frazier ’91 (M.P.A. ’94), provided “a huge support system throughout my time at the College. She would always check up on me and the other members involved with the program.”

One of Anderson’s favorite university memories was sponsored by the program. She had the opportunity to attend the weeklong retreat at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, with her peers and other university students from Georgia and North Carolina, learning about its evolution from one of the nation’s first schools for formerly enslaved people to a National Historic Landmark.

Anderson was also able to partake in a study abroad program.

“As a Legacy Scholar, I went on a two-week study abroad trip to Ghana for one of my business classes,” says Anderson. “The trip was incredible! I took Intro to African Studies, taught by professor Simon Lewis the year before. His class provided an amazing foundation to build upon while exploring Ghana with Dr. [James] Malm, one of my best friends, and my classmates.”

Upon graduation, Anderson will be working full time as a program coordinator at the Medical University of South Carolina under the College of Medicine in the Addiction Sciences Department, something she had done part time while in school. She also aspires to continue to travel around the world, focusing on further developing herself with more knowledge about the world and the people in it.

— Abby Albright

Even before she steps into a classroom, Des Hawkins-Thompson ’21 knows what she wants to achieve as an elementary school teacher.  

“My goal, as a teacher, is to make school a welcoming place,” she says. “I want to make school an inviting environment and make learning fun and accessible.” 

Hawkins-Thompson, who is graduating this week with a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) in early childhood education, credits computer science teacher Celissa Roberts at C.E. Murray High School in Greeleyville, South Carolina, with influencing her decision to get into education. “You could always talk with her whenever you needed anything. She was always welcoming.” 

After graduating from the College of Charleston with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in English, Hawkins-Thompson decided against going to law school and instead chose to enter the classroom. Now that she has earned her master’s degree in education, she plans to use her skills to help elementary students during their young, formidable years.

“It is the time when they are ready to learn, and everything is still a curiosity to them,” she explains. “It is also the critical point in their lives where they learn the basic skills that are needed for future learning.” 

Hawkins-Thompson looks forward to putting her skills into practice when she enters the classroom as a teacher this fall. But she will never forget the people at the College who guided her on this path. 

“I will always remember the staff and the faculty above all,” she says. “They have been the ones to help drive me to continue the course both undergraduate and graduate.”

— Mike Robertson

At her initial visit to the College of Charleston, Bea Lemaster felt a sense of belonging. She found like-minded people who offered support and guidance throughout her time at the College. Her leadership and collaborative spirit in promoting equity, equality and dignity for all led to her receiving the Ketner Crunelle LGBTQ+ Endowed Scholarship.

Thanks to her friends and advisor, Susanne Kattwinkle, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Lemaster cultivated this belonging into a degree in theatre management.

Lemaster expresses deep gratitude for the supportive community that has played a pivotal role in shaping her into the person she is today.

“Growing up, I always believed that the only sustainable career path within the arts was becoming a teacher,” explains Lemaster. “Passionate about theater, I focused on taking education classes at the College with the goal of one day teaching others about my passion, all while earning a livable salary. The College disproved that ideology.”

Encouraged by the abundant research and business opportunities behind the curtains, Lemaster shifted from being an education major to a theatre studies major.

Since Center Stage’s reconstruction following COVID-19, Lemaster has been deeply engaged with the College’s student-run theatre organization. For three years, she served as a board member, including as president her senior year. Inspired by her arts management classes, she decided to restructure the for-profit organization using a nonprofit format, viewing this move as the optimal route to achieve success.

Reflecting on her CofC experience, Lemaster cherishes the valuable lessons she has learned.

“I have learned to be a leader, and I hope one day I will be a leader in the arts,” she says.

Lemaster hopes to move to New York City and work on Broadway as a director, but for now she looks forward to work as a stage manager and assistant director for Charleston Opera Theatre’s production of Masterclass in May and continuing her role as a teaching artist with PURE Theatre.

— Abby Albright

After attending a majors and minors fair, Destiny Humphrey determined majoring in arts management would enable her to be involved with her passion – dance. Seeing how marketing impacts the arts industry, she decided to also major in marketing and minor in entrepreneurship.

“I don’t think I could have gone anywhere else where I could combine my passions,” says Humphrey, who has danced in some of the College’s theatre and dance concerts. “For me, this is the perfect degree.”

It also helped that Rebecca Ferrell, assistant professor of arts management, has a dance background.

“Having Professor Ferrell as a role model has really shaped who I am,” says Humphrey.

“As two dancers, we discuss equity issues in the dance industry frequently, both inside and outside of the classroom, and I’m always in awe of her critical thinking skills and the ways in which she utilizes creative problem-solving to tackle current concerns in the dance field,” says Ferrell. “She is exactly the type of future leader we need, and I am happy to support and cheer her on the whole way!“

As a standout student, Humphrey received the College of Charleston Foundation Scholarship, Mattox Family Endowed Scholarship and Charles and Mary Pratt Edmondston Endowed Scholarship. The scholarships gave her the flexibility to serve as a student ambassador for the School of Business and the Arts Management Program, which led to more opportunities.

Humphrey was accepted as a Schottland Scholars program, a one-year leadership training program for School of Business seniors.

“I have had the opportunity to shadow Renée in different areas – from the front of the house to the cast party,” says Humphrey of her mentor Renée Anderson, chief advancement officer for the Charleston Gaillard Center. “She opened doors to opportunities I hadn’t thought possible.”

Humphrey’s commitment to the campus community led to her receiving the Presidential Award for Scholarship, Leadership and Service, the highest award for a graduating senior. Given her remarkable success at the College, Humphrey is destined for great things.

— Darcie Goodwin

Angela Nganga, recipient of the Laurie Lanham Brown Scholarship, the College of Charleston Foundation Scholarship and Horatio Hughes Memorial Scholarship in Physics, always knew she wanted to study meteorology. As the only school in South Carolina to offer a meteorology major, the College of Charleston was the perfect fit.

At the College, in addition to majoring in meteorology, Nganga majored in physics and minored in math. Her courses feed her passion for understanding the science that goes behind natural disasters.

“Having been inspired by classes such as Mesoscale Meteorology taught by Dr. Gabriel Williams, I talked to professor Lancie Affonso about my interest in pursuing research in meteorology,” says Nganga. “He inspired me to seek out Dr. Norman Levine, geology professor and director of the Lowcountry Hazards Center, for research opportunities.”

Since her sophomore year, with Levine as her advisor, Nganga has worked on multiple projects, such as improving high tide predictions using Python; a Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) analysis of the marsh response to sea level rise in Beaufort County, South Carolina; and creating a forecast model for precipitation trends in South Carolina.

“My favorite project was the SLAMM project,” says Nganga. “This opportunity taught me the impacts of climate change on the environment. This project involved analyzing wetland data in Beaufort to project the changes they are expected to experience up to the end of the 21st century. I learned the crucial role that data science plays in ensuring public awareness of natural hazards.”

Not only was Nganga looking for a college that offered her an undergraduate degree but also opportunities to continue into graduate school. CofC offered her that opportunity. After graduation, Nganga will pursue a master’s degree in data science collaborating with Levine.

“The College has helped me to realize how I can make a difference and how to apply my education into real-world scenarios,” says Nganga. “I am excited to stay and work on bettering the communities around me with my continued research.”

— Abby Albright

There’s not enough time in the day for Lilliana “Lilli” Taylor, a self-described early bird and night owl, to check off her to-do list.

A typical day for the Student Government Association president involves meeting with various administrators (including President Andrew T. Hsu), taking voice and piano lessons, interning, going to class, doing homework and squeezing in time for friends. And she does her best to accomplish all this in 24 hours.

Taylor, an Honors College student majoring in public health and minoring in music and medical humanities, is the recipient of the Dr. Deborah A. Miller Public Health Scholarship and spent the semester interning in the MUSC Pediatric Development and Behavioral Medicine Clinic and has plans to go to graduate or medical school. She is also the College’s first Asian American SGA president.

Taylor has always been a go-getter and says one of her proudest accomplishments is her work to combat food insecurity on campus. Those efforts include gathering nonperishable items to donate to the Cougar Food Pantry and ensuring the longevity of Swipe Away Hunger, a program that allows students to donate unused meal taps or unused dining dollars to go to students who can’t afford it. She was also part of a committee that worked to relaunch the Excess Food Distribution Program, which means if there’s leftover food after an event, a notification is sent to students so they can come after the event is over and enjoy a free meal.

As she passes the torch to the next group of student leaders, Taylor recommends getting involved on campus as early as possible: “Meet as many people as you can the first couple weeks because those are the people that you’ll stick with for the next four years of your life.”

— Amy Stockwell

Jack Watson is living proof that the College can transport you in more ways than one. Not long after crossing the Cistern, the Honors College student majoring in international studies and French and Francophone studies will head to Aman, Jordan, to study Arabic by winning a Critical Language Scholarship.

Watson – who is also the recipient of the Swanson Family Endowed Scholarship, the Kathleen Hudson Rivers Foreign Language Scholarship, the Jill Conway Annual Scholarship, the Huguenot Endowed Scholarship, International Scholars Program and The Samuel Freeman Trust Scholarship Fund for the School of LCWA – has been studying Arabic since his first year at the College.

Operated through the State Department, the CLS program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Recipients spend 8–10 weeks abroad in intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment designed to promote rapid language gains and cultural proficiency.

Different cultures and languages fascinate the Newburg, Indiana, native, which is why he found the International Scholars Program at the College so appealing. A joint initiative of the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs; the International Studies Program; and the Honors College, the program focuses on developing students’ comprehensive understanding of global issues and international perspectives.

Watson already has spent a fair amount of time overseas: He spent fall 2022 attending the University of La Rochelle in France and the following spring at the American University in Cairo.

Almost four years after he first arrived on campus, Watson couldn’t be happier with how far the College has taken him.

“CofC provided me the opportunity to study overseas for over a year and still graduate on time with two majors, a minor and with honors,” says Watson, who – upon his return from Jordan – plans to apply for a Fulbright award to study in the CASA program in Cairo before advancing into graduate school. “Knowing that I will go to graduate school in the future, I plan on working for the next few years to gain experience in the field before deciding which graduate program will be ideal for me and my professional ambitions.”

— Tom Cunneff

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