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National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

Meet the Staff

Novella Beskid

Novella Fortner Beskid

Assistant Dean for National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

Education/Major(s): Wofford College, BA in English and Sociology;
University of South Carolina, MEd in Student Personnel Services, Higher Education

About Me:  Married 25 years to Jim Beskid, also a Wofford alumni. Together we are proud parents to two amazing children which makes family time together one of my favorite things.  Having worked at USC for more than three decades, the Carolina family is also important to me.

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Horseshoe

Length of Time at USC: 30+ years. Began in January 1984 as a graduate student and have been here ever since!

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Best memory is Pope John Paul II’s visit to USC in September 1987 as a part of USC’s ecumenical year. Being a part of the staff support for the event and attending the program on the Horseshoe and the mass at Williams Brice Stadium was an unforgettable experience. Best part of daily life as a Gamecock is helping students crystalize their dreams and start on the path to achieving them, which is an honor and a privilege.

Jan Phillips Smoak

Jan Phillips Smoak

Director of Scholar Programs

Education/Major(s): Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), Carolina Yoga Teacher Training; M. Ed. in Student Personnel Services, University of South Carolina; BA in Journalism, University of South Carolina

About Me: A born and bred Gamecock, I love to communicate in writing, but also using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As an undergraduate at USC, I was very involved in campus life – Greek life, The Gamecock, and what is now called Garnet Circle (Student Alumni Association). I have only traveled abroad twice – to Cozumel, Mexico, and to France and Italy, but the latter trip gave me great insight into why our scholars enjoy international travel. I have several roles: University administrator, yoga teacher, mom, and wife to a UMC pastor to name a few. I enjoy coffee, chocolate, being outdoors, Food Network and talking with students.

Favorite Spot On Campus: It’s a tie between the Russell House and the Horseshoe. I have fond memories of eating in the Grand Marketplace with friends as an undergraduate student as we planned our social life. Now, I have an office on the Horseshoe. It’s my favorite place to catch up with students.

Length of Time at USC: 20 years! Because of the students’ intelligence and diversity, I never tire of my university work.

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: Gamecock Basketball 2017 Final Four and a WBB National Championship!

Jennifer Bess

Jennifer Bess (Jen)

Director of National Fellowships

Education/Major(s): BA in Religion from Dartmouth College; MA in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton

About Me: I’m originally from Chicago, where I grew up with two younger brothers. I’ve been an academic advisor, a campus minister, and a high school teacher.  When I'm not hanging out at home with my dog Killian, I like to be off traveling the world. My best trip ever was a 500-mile walk across Spain in 2011, on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Feel free to ask to see pictures!

Favorite Spot On Campus: It’s really hard to beat the Horseshoe.

Length of Time at USC: Since January, 2012

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I’m pretty fond of the day I walked out of my office after work and straight into a Hootie concert on the Horseshoe!

Tim Smith

Timothy (Tim) Smith  

Scholar Programs Coordinator


Education/Major(s): Rutgers University, BM in Music Education; Messiah College, Master of Music in Wind Conducting

About Me: I arrived in Columbia from New Jersey, where I was the director of the Marching Band at Rutgers University for 18 years. Working on a large campus is where I developed a passion for guiding students on their way to success.  I love working on a college campus, college sports and I’m thrilled to have joined Gamecock Nation! I love listening to all kinds of music, cooking and working on our house. My wife and I love the outdoors, so we hike, run, bike and take walks with our dog, Jethro whenever we have the chance.

Favorite Spot On Campus: It’s a tie between Williams-Brice Stadium and the Horseshoe, I love the vibe in the stadium on game day. Sandstorm is awesome!  The Horseshoe is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen on a college campus.

Length of Time at USC: Since September 24, 2018

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I’ll never forget my first Gamecock Football Game. Best part about being a Gamecock is being able to see and feel the incredible sense of community on the USC campus every day.

Payge Jennings

Payge Jennings

National Fellowships Coordinator


Education/Major(s): BA in Communication Arts from Salisbury University; MA in International Training and Education from American University

About Me: I moved to South Carolina from a small town outside of Annapolis, Maryland where I was born and raised. In my free time I enjoy trying out new restaurants and coffee shops, taking long walks, and obsessing over all things Disney and Star Wars.

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Horseshoe.

Length of Time at USC: Since February 2019

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I am really exicited about getting into SEC sports culture!

Ali Cook

Ali Cook

Administrative Coordinator

Education/Major(s): BA in Interdisciplinary Studies (emphasis on Sports Administration and Business Information Systems) from the University of South Carolina

About Me: I'm married to Dale (for 15 years!) and Mom to two awesome little boys – Nate (11), a sixth grader at BLMS, and Owen (7), a second grade student at BLPS. Our family enjoys participating in Cub Scout activities together.  I'm Cubmaster for Pack 29. I have attended WoodBadge training through scouting - I'm a good old Eagle!  I’m a third generation gamecock and have a brick on the Horseshoe along with those belonging to my sister, grandfather and great grandfather. While at USC, I was a Carolina Classic and assisted with recruiting football players and other student athletes.

Favorite Spot On Campus: It’s a toss-up between the Horseshoe and Williams Brice Stadium.

Length of Time at USC: 21 years

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I’ve watched USC Football go all the way from winning their first postseason game while I was a student to beating a nationally ranked team (#1 Alabama at the time) to seeing USC host ESPN’s Gameday on the Horseshoe three times in the last few years!

Nathaniel Thomas

Nathaniel Thomas

Communications Assistant


Education/Major(s): Purdue University, BA in Political Science and Law & Society

About Me:I am a Purdue University alumni. I was a student athlete at Purdue where I competed for four years in men's swimming. In my free time, I like to read and hike.

Favorite Spot On Campus: The Horseshoe.

Length of Time at USC: Since September of 2018

Favorite Gamecock Moment/Best Part about being a Gamecock: I remember traveling here my sophomore year of college to compete against the Gamecocks. We were here the night before and a few of us swimmers took a walk on the Horseshoe. I thought that I would love to work here and go to graduate school here! So excited that that thought began a reality!


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