Affiliate Spotlight: University of South Carolina

May 27, 2013 - PLTW is grateful for its strong network of affiliate university partners who share the vision of preparing America’s students for the global economy. The most important roles of the affiliate universities are hosting Core Training Institutes throughout the summer to train PLTW teachers, providing support around program quality assessments and certification visits, and preparing counselors through counselor conferences.

In our first PLTW Affiliate Spotlight, we are proud to profile the University of South Carolina. The University of South Carolina has been a PLTW affiliate since 2002 and hosted its first Core Training offerings in 2003. Since then, the university’s Core Training offerings have grown immensely, along with its College of Engineering and Computing enrollment. Affiliate Director Donald Griffith and Affiliate Assistant Krystal DuBose have begun experimenting with Ongoing Training and Counselor Conferences as well, and they are making an impact for PLTW students and teachers throughout the state of South Carolina and beyond.

One of the areas where the University of South Carolina has excelled the most is in the area of Core Training. This summer, USC will offer Core Training sessions for 27 different courses at a total of four locations—the main Columbia, S.C., campus; the USC School of Medicine; the Hilton Head Island regional campus; and in Orlando, Fla., for Florida PLTW teachers in the absence of a Florida affiliate university.

“When I came on board as the Affiliate Director in 2006, I felt the need to build the program to be a one-stop shop,” explained USC Affiliate Director, Donn Griffith. “We kept adding courses, put together a five-year plan, and now we offer everything….It also makes it a lot easier on a school district [to be able to send all their teachers to one location].”

“Krystal and I try to do everything we can so that when the teachers leave here, they’ve had a stellar experience. We want teachers to go back and tell students what a great experience they had. It plants the seed for students.”

That seed-planting is producing wonderful fruits. In 2005, USC’s College of Engineering and Computing had an enrollment of 254 new freshmen. In 2011, that number had grown to 476 freshmen, and this year, USC’s College of Engineering and Computing is set to welcome 652 new freshmen—making it the fastest growing college at the university. Griffith says 60 percent of entering students say they took PLTW courses while in high school.

Through an annual grant, USC reaches out to South Carolina PLTW students through its annual PLTW Engineering Competition, held during spring break. The school also provides scholarships to PLTW four-course completers---$1,000 to students attending an in-state engineering school, or $500 to students attending a technical college that offers engineering technology.

In addition to offering Core Training for each PLTW course, Griffith and DuBose support PLTW in South Carolina through Ongoing Training and Counselor Conferences, events Griffith says they’ve experimented with in recent years. Last year, USC offered the traditional Counselor Conference in June, as well as a virtual conference, which they piloted with one school district. The virtual conference included several pre-recorded sessions. At the end of each session, Griffith and DuBose were available by Skype to answer questions. In the afternoon, counselors went to a certified PLTW school nearby and talked with students, facilitated by a questionnaire Griffith and DuBose had developed. Griffith says the reaction was positive; in fact, they plan to host at least three virtual Counselor Conferences during the upcoming school year.

Griffith attributes USC’s success as a PLTW Affiliate University to the wonderful group of people he’s fortunate to work with, both inside and outside the university, including South Carolina State Leader, B.T. Martin. “We call each other every morning between 6:30 and 7 o’clock. We have a unique relationship between the University of South Carolina and our State Department of Education. We were very fortunate to align from the very beginning in support of Project Lead The Way in our state.”