10 Alums’ Advice for Graduating Students

10 Alums’ Advice for Graduating Students

For many students, the highs of commencement can come with the uncertainty of what’s next.

Jobs, graduate school, gap years, service: Whatever path grads take, embarking on the next journey after commencement can be more than a little scary.

Sometimes a bit of good advice can help set you down the right path. And who better to give a CofC grad advice on the future than some of the many Cougar alums who have walked across the Cistern in years past?

Here’s what 10 College of Charleston grads want the Class of 2017 to know as they embark on their next journey.

Glenn F. McConnell ’69

“Your graduation from the College should be your beginning of a lifetime of learning. Learning as much as you can about as many things as you can all the way through life is so important.”

McConnell is the president of the College of CharlestonA Charleston native, McConnell was elected student body president while he was at the College and was an active member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He also was a recipient of The Founders Medal, the highest award bestowed by the College. He was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1980 and became President Pro Tempore in 2001. In 2012, he became the 89th lieutenant governor of South Carolina. During his more than 30 years of state service, McConnell was regarded as one of the most respected, influential and effective leaders in state government. 

South Carolina Rep. Sylleste Davis ’83

“I would tell new graduates what was said to me after I was elected to office: Be yourself, follow your conscience, take action and have fun!”

Davis represents parts of  Berkeley County in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She was elected to the seat in a special election in 2016. She was also a former manager at Santee Cooper, the state’s leading power company, and is a member of the College of Charleston Alumni Association’s board of directors. At the College, she was active on campus and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She went on to get her master of the arts degree in computer and information technology management at Webster University.

Brian Rutenberg ’87

“My advice for a 2017 graduate of the College of Charleston, read the poem The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver. Art is a contract with every human being who has ever lived, or will live; it exposes the threads that connect all of us. Peering into someone else’s heart gives you a greater purchase on your own, expanding your awareness. Within expansiveness lies empathy. Art is empathy and it will save the world.”

Rutenberg, originally from Myrtle Beach, is considered to be one of the finest American painters of his generation. He is a Fulbright Scholar, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, a Basil Alkazzi USA Award recipient and has had his works exhibited in museums across the country. After obtaining his bachelor of fine arts from CofC, Rutenberg went on to earn a master of fine arts degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he now lives with his wife and two children. 

Alicia Moreau Shambo ’89

“The road of life will take you around many corners, up many hills and into unforeseen situations where you must conquer your fears, charge straight ahead and do the greatest good for the greatest number. You can not always see your destination with the first step of your journey, so be your own architect and build upon your dreams.”

Shambo, a global accounts manager at HelmsBriscoe and an employee-employer liaison for the Department of Defense agency ESGR, served as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman for 12 years. She is perhaps best known for her heroism during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, when she rushed to the aid of many victims, including a college student in what became one of the most iconic images of the tragedy. Shambo was later awarded the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Public Service for her actions. 

Steve Swanson ’89 

“In today’s world there is one constant: change. Instead of resisting change, embrace it. Look for the opportunities those changes bring. Those who do will realize extraordinary success.”

Swanson is the founder of the trading technology company Automated Trading Desk, which was acquired from Citigroup by the trading firm Citadel Securities. The mathematics major is a member of the School of Business Board of Governors and the recipient of the 2017 Alumni Award of Honor. He and his wife Emily ’89 are two of the College’s most generous alumni donors in the institution’s history.

Cary Ann Hearst ’01

“Fling yourselves out into the world with gusto because life is short. Learn to manage time – even if it’s spent at leisure, do it deliberately and with presence of mind. And don’t be overly anxious about the future: Time worrying is time wasted.”

Hearst is half of the highly acclaimed rock/folk duo Shovels & Rope. She and the other half – her husband Michael Trent – have released five studio albums together and won two awards at the Americana Music Association Awards in 2013. Shovels & Rope is a fixture in the music festival circuit and has performed on “Late Night With David Letterman,” “Conan” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” Hearst, a Nashville native, studied history at the College and began performing as a solo artist while in Charleston.

Tabetha Boyajian ’03

“People will judge you no matter what you do. So go ahead and do something you are passionate about.”

Boyajian is an astrophysicist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In her previous post as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, she was the lead author of the 2015 paper, “Where’s the Flux?”, which investigates the unusual light curve of a star that has since come to be known as Tabby’s Star (or Boyajian’s Star), making the Atlanta native the first woman to have a star named after her. Boyajian studied physics at the College and went on to earn her doctorate in astronomy at Georgia State University.

Dr. Ebony Hilton ’04

“There is a price for success, but the price should not include the sacrifice of your happiness – nothing is worth that. But If you follow your passion, chase your dream, the pursuit of success won’t feel like work at all… it will feel like purpose. And there is nothing more fulfilling than living a purpose driven life. So be happy. Be successful. And be blessed. It’s that simple.”

Hilton is the first black female anesthesiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is an active mentor with the hospital’s G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Loving Ourselves Successfully), which mentors seventh- and eighth-grade girls in the Lowcountry. The Spartanburg native graduated magna cum laude from the College with a triple major in biochemistry, molecular biology and inorganic chemistry. 

Chris Brown ’05

“Never underestimate the value of a good work ethic. No matter where you land right after CofC, do that job well because you never know where it will get you.”

Brown is the co-founder and production manager of Holy City Brewing, a craft beer brewery in North Charleston, South Carolina. Holy City beers can be found in restaurants, bars and stores across the state, and the company founded in 2011 boasted annual revenues of more than $2 million in 2016. Brown, a geology major, has brewed a “Tripping Brick” pilsner in honor of the precarious sidewalks around campus and “Holy Evolution,” an homage to the College’s Geology Department.

Lulie Wallace ’09

“Don’t be afraid to take a risk on yourself!”

Wallace is a painter and textile designer whose work has appeared on everything from seed packets and bedding to pieces by national retailers such as Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, One Kings Lane and Serena & Lily. The Columbus, Georgia, native studied studio art at the College and has a studio in Charleston.