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College offers more than an academic degree

By Catalina Duran Ballen | June 8, 2023

The experience of going to college includes values beyond earning a degree.

Employees at CSU recently shared some specifics with me. Some similarities were seen in their responses, but the range of answers was evident, age and generation differences aside. 

Critical thinking was a specifically important value to Charleston Southern University President Dr. Dondi Costin and Emeritus President Dr. Jairy Hunter. 

Costin focused on how learning and practicing being a critical thinker at CSU’s Christian-based institution will help students.

“You will think through challenges from a biblical point of view,” said Costin. He continued, “mostly what you will get, is being marinated in the majesty of God.”

Hunter looped critical thinking and education together. 

Hunter said, “Education will make you a better person and world citizen, more equipped to live in today’s diverse world where critical thinking is what will set you aside from your peers and what employers are looking for. So many changes are happening with how society looks, and we need people who will think of different ways one can solve a problem.” 

Networking and social connections were a repeated theme. Along the networking theme, phrases such as “have healthy relationships,” “always leave room for building relationships,” “team importance,” “be empathetic and conscientious,” “have a balanced life,” “work as a team,” “learn how to get along with people who are different than you,” all the way to “living with friends” were responses in this area. 

Some great advice was given by the Undergraduate Academic Advisor for CAPS, Jennifer Brown. “Interacting with different people and learning to communicate with professors will help tone those skills and make you stand out. That will set you up for recommendation letters down the line and grow your networking with people,” said Brown.

Brown shared the importance of learning how to deal with deadlines by paying close attention to all syllabi and how this skill is essential to business life as adults and learning how to manage the workload.

“There will come a time when you can’t get it all done, and you will have to prioritize and be aware of how much each assignment weighs,” said Brown. “It is a different ball game when you get a bad grade in the first weeks versus in the last ones. What will have to be adjusted to meet your end goal and being aware of all you will have to do to get there and what needs to change will be decisive for how that semester GPA turns out.” 

Brown also gave a great concept on how to balance it all by condensing it to three Ss in your life.

She said, “School, Social life, and Sleep: you can only pick two each day, so choose your daily two accordingly because perspective changes everything,” said Brown.

Dr. Marc Embler, dean of the College of Adult and Professional Studies and associate VPAA , shared advice that helped him, “Listening to advice received from faculty, professors and mentors.” said Dr. Embler. He shared a specific one from his physical education teacher that stuck with him, “If you persevere and have a goal, then, you can make it, just keep after it, and do not quit. If I could make it, then you can make it!” said Embler. 

Living on your own and experiencing full independence is another big steppingstone.

Some values were more practical for daily issues such as learning to speak up for oneself, leaving your bubble, and taking care of personal finances. Such was the case for Janet Joslin, editorial director in marketing and communication. “It’s a chance to practice budgeting before real-life adulting,” said Joslin. 

One’s ability to adapt to new situations will determine how quickly one might succeed. Digital Content Specialist in Marketing and Communication, McKenzie Hagwood, said, “To be adaptable to situations, flexible, and know that you can plan as much as you want, but things might not go the same way. The faster you learn to adapt, the easier the next steps will be.”

Skills in handling conflicts with roommates and how to resolve them, improving time management and organizational skills taught some to delegate in their adult jobs, as well as the importance of teamwork and being open to working together. 

Other responses were being empathetic because you never know what other people are going through, showing grace to yourself and others, prioritizing, practicing public speaking skills, interpersonal and social skills, work ethic, and the importance of a good night’s sleep. 

Most agreed that at CSU, relationships will likely become lifelong friends. 

Costin took this thought a step deeper by talking about the Passport to Purpose. “This generation, more than any in history, is seeking meaning and purpose,” he said. “Have the passion to go out and live for the glory of God, building a network of friends who share in your faith.” 


Catalina Duran Ballen is a junior communication studies major at Charleston Southern University. She was a 2022 summer intern in the Marketing & Communication office.


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