USC Upstate Teaching Fellows Reaches Cohort Maximum for the First Time

For the first time in its history, the USC Upstate Teaching Fellows program has reached its maximum capacity of 15 Fellows, an achievement administrators say reflects the program’s success and impact.

USC Upstate is one of 11 institutions in the state that hosts a Teaching Fellows program, which recruits high school seniors interested in education, offering Fellows scholarship, development and field experience.

The 2024-2025 cohort is made up of students from all over the state, with about half coming to the Upstate region, according to assistant professor Brooke Hardin, director of the program at USC Upstate.

“This means that our reach is expanding, which is exciting,” Hardin said.

She attributes some of the growth of Upstate’s Teaching Fellows organization to visiting every high school in Spartanburg County this year.

“During these visits, we not only talked about the benefits of the Teaching Fellow scholarship, but the students provided examples of how the program at USC Upstate had benefitted them, like being in school-based field experiences before they entered the professional program,” she said.

“Additionally, they talked about what makes USC Upstate special as an institution, such as smaller class sizes, approachable and student-centered faculty members, and opportunities to get involved on campus.”

Hardin also credits the Upstate Promise Scholarship, a program spearheaded by Chancellor Bennie Harris, for increased interest in USC Upstate.

“When we have events like our Teacher Cadet College Day, Mock Interviews, and visit schools, our current fellows who are recipients of this scholarship share how USC Upstate’s affordable tuition costs enable scholarship money to work more effectively for them,” Hardin said.

Dr. Ugena Whitlock, dean of the College of Education, Human Performance and Health, praised Hardin’s leadership.

“Under the directorship of Dr. Brooke Hardin, the Teaching Fellows program has become a program of distinction at USC Upstate that continues to grow,” Whitlock said.

“In addition to experiential learning through academic coursework and networking with other Fellows and teachers across the state, what makes the program unique are the ‘experiences’ at each cohort level (freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior).”

The experiences are not only fun, but they also include a professional development component, Whitlock said. Examples include the Junior Experience at an annual conference organized by Center for Educator, Recruitment, Retention & Advancement (CERRA) and the most recent Sophomore Teaching Experience, where students visited The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta.

Hardin said she’s always impressed by students’ eagerness for involvement and commitment to the community and their peers.

“As director of the program, I often tell students that ‘this is their experience; not my own,’” she said. Hardin provides mentorship with administrative tasks; encourages students to lead service projects or enrichment experiences; and seeks their feedback on the overall program.

There are also leadership roles within the program, she added.

“Our Teaching Fellows program is a diverse, close-knit community; the students champion each other and exude goodwill on and off campus; the camaraderie is contagious!”

Hardin said she and three other current fellows will go to the state orientation in late June to meet the students in the new cohort and begin building relationships.

Follow the USC Upstate Teaching Fellows on Instagram, @teachingfellows_uscupstate, to learn more about the program and its new cohort.

Written by USC Upstate.