Vice Chancellor for Admissions and Enrollment Services Donette Stewart has worked at USC Upstate for 30 years. She says she still feels a sense of pride every time she drives onto the campus. She loves what she does, and she loves why it matters.
“When I first started working in admissions, it was because I loved the idea of talking to students about going to college and helping them through the process of enrollment,” she says. “Once I understood that I could help students while marketing how education transforms lives, I knew this was the right path for me.”
Stewart says that growing up, she was inspired by her parents and grandparents, who worked to help people and their communities, and she knew she wanted to make a difference. She’s grateful for all of the people she’s met along the way, who she says have made life special and meaningful.
“I have had the opportunity to work for some amazing leaders who shaped USC Upstate into the university it is today. While people probably don’t grow up dreaming about how to be a higher education enrollment specialist, that’s only because they don’t know how rewarding it can be! There are not many things more rewarding than giving students the chance for a better future.”
What do you enjoy most about your work?
There are many things I enjoy about working at Upstate but I think the top three are students, colleagues, and planning.
Our amazing students are the reason I am always happy and excited to come to work. They provide the energy and life that make Upstate such a special place. It is truly an honor to be part of their growth and development while they are with us. Even after all the years of working on campus, watching the students graduate still gives me great joy.
We have fantastic faculty and staff at Upstate who truly are committed to student success. It is really motivating to work with people who are dedicated to students. Recruitment and enrollment require everyone on campus to really believe in what we do and live that every day.
I really enjoy all of the moving parts of enrollment, planning and working to get the puzzle to fit together just right! Implementing a strategy to attract students to Upstate is an important part of enrollment management. It is critical to our success and the success of our students.
What do you find most challenging?
This year, of course, has offered new challenges. Due to COVID-19, we’ve had to host many of our events virtually, and while we are grateful for technology, we miss the personal interaction with students and parents. We love having students on campus! We miss visiting our local high schools and community college partners to meet face-to-face with prospective students. I believe students need to visit a campus to make a final decision about college attendance, so I am pleased that we are beginning to offer on-campus visits and tours again, providing safe opportunities for students and families to become familiar with our state-of-the-art classrooms and beautiful green spaces.
How has your work evolved over the years?
My work has changed tremendously over the years but it has always been rewarding and meaningful. Our campus size and student body have more than doubled since I began working at Upstate. We have gone from managing a couple of thousand applications for admission to more than 10,000 applications a year, and from a few million dollars in financial aid to over $60 million.
Technology has tremendously changed the way we communicate. Over the years, we have transformed our office from a paper-based admissions and financial aid system to one that is completely electronic. Student information is available in a matter of minutes, allowing us to make decisions much more quickly. And while we still mail information to students, our primary means of communication is now electronic. We use email, social media, texts and chat bots to reach out.
What career opportunities do you feel students today should consider?
I have always believed that students should think about what they enjoy most to help them make a final decision about their major and career. It is always easier to go to work when you love what you do. I encourage students to talk to people working in the fields that interest them to learn more about the rewards and any challenges.
Our professional colleges offer outstanding career options in nursing, education and business. These career options are timeless and provide outstanding earning potential and opportunity for career progression. Our science and technology college offers students a chance to prepare for medical school or consider new majors like cybersecurity, which is a rapidly growing, high-paying field. The two fastest growing majors in our arts and humanities college are criminal justice and psychology. Both of these majors offer incredible job opportunities for students interested in research and/or helping others.
Additionally, Upstate does a fantastic job preparing students for graduate school, in medicine, dentistry and law, for example. Individual attention and opportunities to work closely with our faculty help students prepare impressive files for admissions committees.
What advantages do you feel USC Upstate offers students?
I believe Upstate offers students many advantages. Among these are opportunities to:
- Build quality, personal relationships with other students, faculty and staff
- Learn from highly respected faculty members who are leaders in their fields
- Enjoy a campus with modern buildings and gorgeous green spaces
- Participate in Division 1 athletics with supportive and mentoring coaches
- Learn in the beautiful Upstate region, one of the fastest growing in the United States
- Be a part of the prestigious University of South Carolina System
- Interact with a diverse campus community, one committed to equity and inclusion
- Participate in hands-on learning with prestigious partners in business, education and healthcare
- Attend a university that is ranked No. 1 by US News and World Report!