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My Honors College

  • an inlet waterway

Semester at the Coast

In partnership with the Baruch Institute for Coastal and Marine Sciences, our “Semester at the Coast” program will host 10 Honors students with interests in science, the environment or health. The semester will be an engaging and holistic experience with experiential courses, independent research and service projects and will include engaging excursions ranging from historical and archeological sites, cultural events and nature reserves.  Faculty from the University of South Carolina and Clemson University will share teaching and mentorship duties at the Baruch Institute located at the North Inlet Estuary in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Required Courses (14 credit hours total)

Prereq: BIOL 102 or MSCI 311 and CHEM 112
Course Attribute: Honors Science/CC SCI

DESCRIPTION:  This course will examine coastal and estuarine ecology using the relatively undisturbed North Inlet estuary, which is representative of other coastal ecosystems found throughout much of the southeastern US Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as a model system.  The intensive course will give students firsthand experience with current field and laboratory techniques commonly used in ecology research focusing on fishes and invertebrates (hereafter fishes) in a variety of habitats including intertidal and subtidal creeks, marsh pools, oyster reefs, and the surf zone.  Upon completion of the course, students will learn to 1) identify and understand the ecology, behavior, and life histories of common coastal and estuarine fishes, 2) recognize and understand the role of fishes at multiple temporal and spatial scales within the ecosystem, and 3) critically evaluate fish ecology experimental designs and research methods.  Considered together, this knowledge will help students better understand the role of estuarine and coastal ecosystems and the organisms they support in South Carolina and beyond. 

Prereq: BIOL 102 and CHEM 112
Course Attribute: Honors Science/CC SCI

DESCRIPTION:  This course provides an introduction to the factors that regulate the structure and function of coastal ecosystems in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Students will gain firsthand experience with project-based learning in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Topics range from population and community ecology to ecosystem ecology including themes of disturbance, invasive species, and climate change. Upon completion of the course, students will 1) demonstrate familiarity with coastal ecology; 2) recognize and comprehend natural and anthropogenic challenges/disturbances to coastal environments; 3) critically evaluate literature and formulate hypothesis driven questions; and 4) understand the basic principles of experimental design. Class discussions, current literature, and field trips will be used to encourage students to integrate lecture topics and achieve a comprehensive understanding of how the physical, chemical, and biological properties of coastal ecosystems regulate ecological processes.

Prereq: None
Course Attribute: Honors SocBeh

DESCRIPTION:  This course will examine the linkages between environmental hazards and human health, with a special focus on coastal communities. Natural and anthropogenic hazards abound in our world and coastal zones are often places of elevated risk. This lecture-, project-, and field-based course will focus upon natural and anthropogenic risks from biological (e.g., disease), chemical (e.g., toxin), and physical (e.g., hurricane) hazards. Upon completion of the course, students will understand 1) the range of environmental hazards, their causes, and their human health implications; 2) approaches for environmental hazard mitigation; 3) the unique challenges faced in the South Carolina Lowcountry and other coastal zones.

Prereq: None
Course Attribute: Honors Humanities or Honors HistCiv/CC AIU

DESCRIPTION:  This course will examine the unique culture and history of the South Carolina Lowcountry with a special focus on broader Gullah culture via historical sites on Hobcaw Barony as well as in Charleston and Georgetown, SC.  Experiential learning, often in the form of Field trips (e.g., Gullah Gullah Tours, Gullah Museum, Ft. Sumter, Hobcaw Barony archeological sites) and guest oral histories will be the primary vehicle for learning; with preliminary site research and rigorous reflection required by all students.  Local foods will also be explored as a route to gain perspective on coastal cultures. Upon completion of the course, students will understand 1) general Lowcountry history and how it has influenced culture, especially Gullah culture, since colonization; 2) how the unique coastal resources available and natural hazard frequency shaped Lowcountry cultures; 3) efforts currently being undertaken to preserve Lowcountry cultures and acknowledge the legacy of our past.

Optional Courses

  • Independent undergraduate research (SCHC 497, 3 credit hours)
  • Optional online asynchronous course from USC (3 credit hours)

These courses will explore critical social, economic, and environmental topics; including urbanization, sea level rise, climate change, coastal flooding, and other timely subjects.  Our lab sits within a chain of relatively preserved landscapes at the intersection of the 14th and 2nd fastest growing metropolitan areas in the US. This semester will prepare students to address the challenges and opportunities of our rapidly developing coasts.

Honors Semester at the Coast Faculty

  • William Strosnider, ecological engineer and director of the Baruch Marine Field Lab, will serve as co-director of the Semester at the Coast program and teach the Environmental Hazards and Human Health course.

  • Matthew Kimball, fisheries ecologist and assistant director of the Baruch Marine Field Lab, will serve as the co-director of the Semester at the Coast program overseeing day-to-day program activities.  Kimball will also teach the Coastal and Estuarine Ecology course.

  • Stephanie Whitmire, biogeochemist and research scientist with Clemson University, will teach the Ecosystems of the South Carolina Lowcountry course.

  • Steve Williams, an award winning columnist with the Post and Courier newspaper, will co-teach the Low Country Culture and History course with William Strosnider. Williams is also the author of Ebony Effects: 150 Unknown Facts about Blacks in Georgetown, SC and The Content of their Character, a video documentary of unsung heroes of Georgetown.

  • Bruce Pfirrmann, fisheries scientist and research resource specialist with Baruch Marine Field Lab, will assist with the field components of all courses.

Program Benefits

Students will be provided a single room in the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory dormitory.

Dinners (included in program fee) Monday through Thursday will be coordinated group events focused on Lowcountry cuisine and natural resources.

Regional guest chef will be invited to cook with the students on location monthly.

The dorm has a full kitchen where students can store food and prepare their own meals for breakfast, lunch and weekends while on-site.

Field trip meals will be provided.

Adhering to evolving main-campus COVID-19 protocols.

Fire pit gatherings
Fishing in the Kimbel Pond
Biking / running from the Kimbel Center to Clambank Landing
Sports and games

  • Disc golf / bocce / ping-pong / volleyball / basketball / beanbag toss / can-jam / kickball / soccer / ultimate frisbee / flag football

Marsh boardwalk meditations
Lab projector movie nights
Stargazing campouts
One local cultural music event hosted in our small conference center.

Main-campus COVID-19 protocols will be followed in the dormitory and shared living spaces.


  • Hobcaw Barony
  • North Inlet/Island
  • Winyah Bay
  • Yawkey Wildlife Preserve
  • Huntington Beach State Park
  • Santee National Wildlife Refuge
  • Francis Marion State Park
  • Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge
  • Ace Basin Wildlife Refuge
  • Georgetown Gullah Museum
  • Charleston Harbor
  • Georgetown Harbor
  • and more


  • Myrtle Beach
  • Charleston Downtown
  • Murrells Inlet
  • and more

All trips dependent upon congruence with evolving main-campus COVID-19 protocols.

Independent Undergraduate Research

Projects will tie into ongoing research and result in scientifically valuable results.

Research projects may include:

  • Floating treatment wetland design and application.
  • Coastal fisheries research, with a focus on juvenile fish.
  • Microplastics and the coastal environment.
  • Larval fish and invertebrate dynamics over time.

Participating students will submit abstracts to Discover USC for on-campus presentations that will hopefully springboard to subsequent presentations at national or regional conferences. 


UofSC Tuition
All courses associated with the program are UofSC courses and students will pay tuition directly to UofSC through the regular channels.

Program Fee: $9,450

The program fee includes the following:

  • Single room lodging in Baruch dormitory.
  • Meals (Mon.-Thurs. group dinners, meals during weekly field trips, one local guest chef per month).
  • Extensive access to Baruch facilities.
  • Transportation for program excursions (i.e., boat, boat captain, truck, van).
  • Staff support and program extras (i.e., local musicians, sporting equipment, other cultural events).

Semester at the Coast Scholarship

The South Carolina Honors College is pleased to provide financial support to students participating in the Spring 2021 inaugural Semester at the Coast Program.

In order to be considered for this scholarship program, you must complete a scholarship application, be an Honors College student in good standing with the SCHC and the university and have submitted your $500 deposit to secure a spot in the program.

Please note that preference will be given to Honors students demonstrating academic excellence and financial need.

Application deadline is Dec. 1, 2020.

How do I sign up?

To secure your placement, submit a $500 deposit by the Dec. 1, 2020 deadline. (Spots will fill quickly, so the earlier you deposit, the better!)

Prerequisites for the program are BIOL 102 or MSCI 311 and CHEM 112 or the AP/IB equivalents.

For more information, contact Kevin Metcalf at


Do you currently live on campus for the 2020-2021 year?
Students currently living in on-campus housing need to submit their $500 deposit by October 30, 2020 in order to have their housing contract canceled for Spring 2021 without any financial implications.

What if I don’t meet all of the pre-requisites noted for this experience?
Each student’s situation is different, and we are happy to look at what courses you have, and or are currently taking to determine if you would be a good fit.  Please email Kevin Metcalf,, to inquire about this further.

Will there be Wi-Fi on the property?
Yes, there will be Wi-Fi, and access to the internet on the property.  So for students needing to work on other courses online, their senior thesis topics virtually, etc. may be able to do so.

Are there scholarships available to help me pay for this experience?
Yes, scholarships are available to students who submit their $500 deposit to attend.  We will also be enrolling everyone into a payment plan to help break up the total cost in more manageable payments.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.