Thankful for community

We’re coming together to reach out to the world.

By Elizabeth Davis

You can imagine my delight as I watched students move on to campus in August. After more than a year of pandemic precautions, we were poised to return to some semblance of normalcy.

I am thankful for the relatively high vaccination rates of our students, faculty and staff, which have allowed Furman to once again enjoy the learning and living benefits of a residential campus. It’s exciting and gratifying to see students out and about, going to class in person, meeting with their student groups, filling the Dining Hall, enjoying football games in the stadium and engaging with their professors.

I know our students are thankful that our engaged learning experiences –from study away to internships and research, to connecting with alumni for career advice –have mostly returned to normal.

The pandemic has been difficult at best and devastating for many in the Furman family. As a university, we were thrown into unprecedented change and challenges.

Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve all learned from the pandemic is the value of community. Being part of something greater than each of us individually is a tremendous asset during times of crisis. It’s also one of the greatest advantages to a Furman education.

One way we extend the Furman community is through our institutes. It’s rare for liberal arts and sciences universities to have one institute, much less four. Our institutes are built on a solid foundation of academics, highlighting Furman’s long-held belief that solving our communities’ most pressing issues requires a multidisciplinary approach.

The Riley Institute, Furman’s first institute, has two main objectives: advance social and economic progress in South Carolina and beyond, and provide unmatched opportunities for Furman students. Through its Diversity Leaders Initiative, the institute has engaged with more than 2,300 people from across South Carolina. Fellows in the program have implemented nearly 300 community action projects across the state, from a food truck that serves free meals to children during the summer to a luggage drive for foster children.

The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities designs innovative ways to teach and learn about sustainability to promote communities that are socially just and equitable, environmentally sound and resilient, and economically viable. They are responsible for Furman’s being recognized as a top-10 sustainable campus. In July, The Shi Institute’s Community Conservation

Corps was recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for “benefiting society. ”Furman was the only U.S. institution among the six honored in this category.

The Institute for the Advancement of Community Health gives our students experiences with the community in research and other activities with a commitment to health equity, justice and diversity. More than 40% of Furman students pursue careers in the health sciences, and since 2016, more than 800 students have participated in health internships. Among other programs, IACH created the first Medical Legal Partnership in South Carolina and the only one in the country at an undergraduate institution.

The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, our newest institute, has already made great impacts by creating a state-wide venture pitch competition for our students, launching the Summer Business and Entrepreneurship Boot Camp and teaming with Greenville and South Carolina business and civic organizations to create GVL Starts to connect aspiring entrepreneurs to mentors. It has also gained recognition globally by being named an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.

Whether we are celebrating our community’s return to campus or our outreach to the world, there is plenty to be thankful for this fall. We hope you and yours are well, and that you’ll visit us soon, either virtually or, now that it’s possible, in person.

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