SC State University has entered into a historic international partnership with St Hugh’s College of Oxford University in England. Through the pilot Summer Chemistry Exchange Program, five SC State chemistry students will travel to Oxford to study at the prestigious institution’s world-renowned Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory. This unique collaboration between St Hugh’s College and SC State University, with a sponsorship by attorney and CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers, debuts as Oxford’s first with a historically black college. Additionally, the partnership is St Hugh’s first with a college in South Carolina.
The program advances SC State’s diverse collaboration efforts and paves the way for more students in their junior or senior year to gain a world-class educational experience. The learning environment, shared with several research groups from Oxford’s Chemistry Department, creates increasing opportunities and resources for interdisciplinary research.
“Consistent with our new initiative of ‘Transformation Through Collaboration,’ this effort represents the very nature of what is possible now and what will occur more in the future with SC State and its partners,” said SC State President James E. Clark. “I could not be more proud of the faculty, staff, student partners and supporters who made this special collaboration possible. We look forward to such collaborations in the future.”
The students who will blaze the trail at Oxford are: Ciondi Bess, a junior from Hartsville, South Carolina; Demetria Dorsey, a junior from Syracuse, New York; Nurunnahar Abdussalam, a senior from Washington, D.C.; Michael Isley, a senior from Fort Mill, South Carolina and Alston Jenkins, a junior from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Originally founded in 1886 as a college for disadvantaged women, St Hugh’s College is now a “vibrant, co-educational establishment, which remains very proud of its radical tradition and beginnings,” according to the college’s website. For over 130 years, it has provided first-class education to scholars, with notable alumni in politics, law, academia and various professional fields.
The Summer Exchange Program’s launch was ignited by SC State chemistry professor and Oxford alumna, Dr. Rahina Mahtab, after a conversation with a St Hugh’s College representative.
In March of 2017, Mahtab was having lunch in Columbia, South Carolina with Bruce M. Lawrence Jr., executive director of International Advancement at St Hugh’s College, when he asked if there was any way he could assist her.
“I asked him, ‘Could you please arrange a summer research opportunity at Oxford University for our students?’ I am very thankful to Mr. Lawrence for taking this request seriously and making it happen,” Mahtab said.
“Oxford University is my alma mater and St Hugh’s College was my college. I am very happy that I could help create this opportunity for our chemistry majors in a university that offers some of the best education in the world. This program introduces our students to Oxford’s academic and social traditions, while providing inspiration and excellence that will help fortify their path to achieving greatness in the globalized society we live in,” she continued.
Mahtab also expressed gratitude on behalf of SC State, towards Sellers for sponsoring the students for the program.
Sellers, whose roots are deeply planted in the history of SC State University, was eager to extend a helping hand to the pioneering program and its bright students. As the son of Cleveland Sellers, a veteran civil rights activist and the only person convicted and eventually pardoned for the events of the Orangeburg Massacre, Bakari Sellers is extremely mindful of the power of education and enlightenment.
“I could not be more proud of the students from South Carolina State University who are traveling to Oxford to continue their education,” Sellers said. “It is an honor of mine to be able to provide funding for these students to pursue their dreams. I believe students in rural South Carolina should be provided the same opportunities as those in urban areas and I look forward to continuing these efforts in the future,” he continued.
Dr. Stuart J. Conway, Oxford organic chemistry professor, and Mahtab have spent several weeks preparing the students for the program. Conway will lead research training at St Hugh’s, along with other Oxford chemistry professors.
The five students, chosen for their academic excellence and passion for contributing to the field of chemistry, will reside in the residence halls at St Hugh’s College and have the chance to explore England, both on their own and during scheduled field trips. The inaugural program will extend from Monday, June 25 to Friday, August 10.