Pictured above: Mentors Alexis Quevedo Galan and Patrick O’Reilly and mentees Nathaniel Adams, Maria Carvalho, Christa Joby and Natalia Colon in the Mentoring Matters program, which will be be a central component of  Launchpad for Success, a new career development program for incoming students of color. (Photo by Heather Moran)

The College of Charleston, under the guidance of the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID), is expanding programs and initiatives aimed at better supporting first-generation and underrepresented minority students to help ensure they feel welcome on campus, successfully earn their degrees and are workforce ready upon graduation.

“As we all know, the College of Charleston is a place of incredible opportunity,” President Andrew T. Hsu says. “Since my first days on campus in 2019, I have met many different people with so many different stories … stories of challenges and extraordinary achievements. The College, I am proud to say, is home to many diverse people with diverse backgrounds. But we, as an institution, can always do more to promote diversity, equity and inclusion – therefore, making the College of Charleston even greater than it already is.”

The effort is being driven, in part, by the College’s new 10-year strategic plan, which identifies student experience and success as one of the institution’s three main pillars and includes diversity, equity and inclusion as one of CofC’s seven core values.

“This is a year of action,” says Rénard Harris, CofC’s vice president of access and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “We want to make the campus better for everyone: Black, white, students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Chief among these efforts is Launchpad for Success, a collaborative initiative between the OID, the Career Center, the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) and the Center for Excellence in Peer Education. The goal of the program is to help incoming Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, African American and Indigenous freshmen get a head start on postgraduate success through career development workshops and mentoring.

RELATED: Learn about the Diversity EDU training program and Critical Conversations initiative.

An outgrowth of MSPS’ SPECTRA and Mentoring Matters programs, which support incoming students of color, Launchpad for Success will include career readiness workshops, virtual social opportunities and academic achievement checkpoints, among other services. To ensure students are fully supported, they’ll have an assigned mentor through both MSPS’ Mentoring Matters program and the Center for Peer Excellence in Education.

Launchpad will also include a blog featuring posts by faculty, staff, alumni and community members on topics such as overcoming fear and redefining failure. A monthly playlist curated by student organizations, such as Student Ambassadors and the Asian Student Association, will help students become familiar with student organizations on campus.

“The overall purpose of the blog is to reinforce what students are learning through Launchpad,” says Kim Gailliard, program coordinator for the OID, noting that students will be able to connect with the blog writers to learn more about the steps they’ve taken to overcome obstacles and reach career goals. “And because participation in student organizations can offer opportunities to grow in the areas of leadership and teamwork, the curated playlists are a strategic way for student groups to market themselves to incoming students of color.”

Rochelle Johnson, director of MSPS, says she began exploring ways to expand the Mentoring Matters program in 2019 after she noticed a trend that former SPECTRA/Mentoring Matters students were experiencing challenges with finding jobs or determining what career path to choose after graduation. A pilot program, entitled Reboot, for Mentoring Matters students began in the spring, with specific programming around career readiness and leadership development.

“Data shows that our students of color could use some help in maximizing their employment opportunities and salary potential,” says Jim Allison, executive director of the College’s Career Center. “And we can definitely help our students and alumni with those elements.”

To do that, the Career Center is hosting a series of workshops specifically for Launchpad students for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Topics include email etiquette, resumé and cover letter writing, how to use the job platform Handshake, choosing a major, the importance of experiential learning and internships, and how to build a professional network.

“We want to make students more aware of the resources available to them and how they can start to take steps toward building a career as they work toward graduation,” says Johnson. “Launchpad offers students more tools and helps them to be more prepared for what comes next.”

Other new and continuing CofC diversity and inclusion initiatives include:

  • The expansion of Crossing the Cistern, a momentum program serving sophomores, juniors and seniors, to the College’s seven schools. The shift will grow the program from around 13 students to up to 70 students a year.
  • An expansion of OID diversity education and training to a four-meeting series that collaborates with MSPS to address diversity education around both racial and LGBTQ+ issues.
  • The continuation of Safe Zone 101 and In the Zone trainings and workshops to expand knowledge around LGBTQ+ issues through MSPS.
  • The creation of the Inclusion, Equity & Diversity Action Council within the Athletics Department that will offer additional training and program opportunities to student-athletes, coaches and staff to reinforce the College’s ongoing commitment to diversity.
  • The development and launch of the 1967 Legacy Program, a four-year scholarship, mentoring and academic program for African American and international African students.
  • The establishment of a Campus Inclusion Team, including a reporting form, to help address concerns about possible exclusion or bias on campus and to provide educational resources and support.
  • The Alumni Association has created a webinar series to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at the College. The first two are open for free registration: