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Proposal for Graduation with Leadership Distinction

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements?

Requirements for each track include 5 components: core experience, enhancement experiences, coursework, presentation or publication, and e-portfolio (or alternative to demonstrate integrative learning and leadership). See Graduation with Leadership Distinction Requirements (PDF) and application packets for each track for greater detail.

Why a 3.0 GPA?

Standards for graduating with Leadership Distinction are rigorous, but emphasize talents and skills that differ from purely academic recognitions. While students must demonstrate solid academic performance (3.0), graduation with leadership distinction provides an opportunity for a student who leads outside the traditional classroom to be recognized. Consider a student who engages in high levels of community service, takes the initiative to investigate local issues impacting his/her service work, leads other students in getting involved to make a difference, articulates the significance of his/her work, and applies lessons learned to new challenges. Graduation with Leadership Distinction recognizes these kinds of contributions in a way that a GPA alone does not.

Why 300 hours of community service or the equivalent in professional and civic engagement?

Three hundred hours is the national standard for similar recognitions at other institutions and is the accepted standard of service-learning leaders.

Why would a student want to do this? Why should the faculty support it?

Graduation with Leadership Distinction is a way for students to be recognized who

  • excel at integrating experiences beyond the classroom with academic work and
  • are able to apply what they have learned to lead by creating and implementing solutions in real world contexts.

Student experiences that contribute toward Graduation with Leadership Distinction enrich and support students’ academic work. Faculty can use this program as a way to encourage students to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations, then bring that experience back to the classroom.

Won’t this take away from the academic focus that is the heart of a university education?

Students have at least 90 waking hours per week outside of class to use at their discretion. Research in higher education has shown that students typically spend about 15 hours per week studying. While some students study more, this still leaves significant time for students to choose either purposeful activities such as those required in graduating with leadership distinction or other activities. The pathways of Graduation with Leadership Distinction are in areas in which research has shown student engagement contributes to greater retention and higher graduation rates (community service, global learning, research, peer leadership and internships). In addition, the requirements for Graduation with Leadership Distinction enhance academic work as students integrate within and beyond the classroom experiences and apply them to lead.

How will logistics be handled? Who will keep track of everything?

Individual students are responsible for tracking their progression with support that will be provided by the Office of USC Connect via web-based information, workshops, and supportive documents. Each student will complete an application that includes detailed information regarding how each component of Graduation with Leadership Distinction is met. See GLD Community Service Application, GLD Global Learning Application, GLD Professional and Civic Engagement Application, and GLD Research Application. Over time these documents and other support will be integrated into the university’s new student service technologies (i.e., Banner and DegreeWorks).

How will this be paid for?

Existing programs and offices including USC Connect; the Carolina Leadership Initiative; and the Offices of Undergraduate Research, Study Abroad, Student Engagement, and Community Service Programs; and University Technology Services will support the development of materials and services required for the implementation of Graduation with Leadership Distinction. The existing offices and structures have the capacity to support the initial implementation of Graduation with Leadership Distinction.

How do we ensure honesty, integrity, and quality?

Students must attest to and are expected to follow the Carolinian Creed throughout their participation. Core experiences are verified by appropriate university offices in close partnership with on-site providers and direct supervisors. Required courses are verified through transcript review. The presentation must be made at a university sponsored or professional meeting confirmed through appropriate documentation. The e-portfolio is a student’s ultimate representation of his/her experiences and ability to apply learning to lead. E-portfolios will be assessed by trained reviewers and/or faculty members.

When do students begin to work on graduating with leadership distinction?

Students will be encouraged to consider working toward Graduation with Leadership Distinction in their first-year (whether a freshman or transfer student). Information will be shared in orientation materials, UNIV 101, and through USC Connect and the Carolina Leadership Initiative. Students can change tracks or opt-in at any time as long as they complete requirements at least 8 weeks prior to graduation. Students can change tracks and there is no penalty for choosing not to complete requirements after beginning. Students who earn Graduation with Leadership Distinction with an associate’s degree and transfer to a baccalaureate program can build on their work at the associate level (i.e. folding in the hours already earned toward core experiences and coursework and adding to their e-portfolio). They must complete enhancement activities and a presentation at the baccalaureate level.

How will advisors and student services personnel be kept informed?

While it is an individual student’s responsibility to select Graduation with Leadership Distinction and complete all requirements, faculty and staff professionals advising students will be kept informed through the University Advisors Network, the Advisors' Forum (once per semester), the Assistant and Associate Deans' Council, regular e-mail communications, a detailed website, and other face-to-face meetings as needed/requested. As we transition to Banner and DegreeWorks, these new systems will be used to provide detailed information on requirements and individual student progression toward graduating with leadership distinction.

How will changes be made to requirements (e.g. courses options)?

Input on requirements is welcomed. Once the proposal is approved by Faculty Senate, the Office of the Provost which will invite faculty input in regular reviews to update requirements as needed (e.g., adding newly developed or revised courses). Course updates will also be encouraged on an ongoing basis.

What about the existing graduation with distinction in research?

Departmental recognitions of Graduation with Leadership in Research will remain and are not considered in conflict with Graduation with Leadership Distinction. Students can graduate with both Graduation with Distinction in [MAJOR] and Graduation with Leadership Distinction in Research, provided all requirements are fulfilled.

Can a student graduate with leadership distinction in more than one track?

Yes, as long as all requirements are fulfilled.

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University of South Carolina
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Irma Van Scoy, Executive Director
Damara Hightower-Davis, Assistant Director
Natalie Smith-Kenner, Administrative Coordinator
Nicholas (Nick) Vaught, Student Services Coordinator

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