Tri-county area has plethora of higher learning options

  • Friday, April 18, 2014

Charleston Southern University, formerly Baptist College at Charleston, is one of the largest accredited private universities in South Carolina. STAFF PHOTOS BY SULLY WITTE

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(Editor's note: There has been much talk about the possibility of Francis Marion University establishing a satellite campus in Mount Pleasant. Many have weighed in on both sides of the issue. But not forgotten are the already established colleges and universities in the Lowcountry that serve thousands. The Moultrie News takes a look and a tour at the varying higher learning offerings in the tri-county area).

The Moultrie News isn't the only well-known establishment celebrating 50 years of serving the people. Charleston Southern University marks the big milestone in the fall.

Charleston Southern University, formerly Baptist College at Charleston, is one of the largest accredited private universities in South Carolina. Affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the university offers five undergraduate degrees (45 majors) and six graduate degree programs and enrolls 3,300 students. The university has graduated more than 18,000 students in its 50-year history.

The urgent need for another college in the Lowcountry became a matter of active and organized consideration in 1954. South Carolina Baptist made its establishment a matter of official deliberation at a meeting of the General Board in September 1955.

After considerable study by official education committees, both locally and convention-wide, the Capital Needs Committee of the State Convention brought a recommendation which initiated efforts to begin seeking both a site and funds for the establishment of a college. The South Carolina Baptist Convention agreed to support the plan, and more than 70,000 individuals made contributions ranging from $1 to $20,000.

Former Charleston mayor, J. Palmer Gaillard, Jr., was instrumental in helping supporters acquire 500 acres of land, 16 miles from the city limits of Charleston, at the northeast intersection of Interstate 26 and Highway 78. In 1964, trustees were elected by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Dr. John A. Hamrick, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston and founder of First Baptist Church School, was elected the first president of the university by the Board of Trustees in November 1964. The first semester of Charleston Southern University was in the fall of 1965, in the buildings of the First Baptist Church of North Charleston. Administrative offices were located in the First Baptist Church of Charleston.

Professors from The Citadel and MUSC offered to serve as part-time professors to supplement the small faculty. The old St. John Hotel, now The Mills House Hotel, offered to rent rooms to house students.

By September 1966, buildings on the campus were ready, and the university's second year began amid construction, landscaping and the physical development of the campus. By the third year, a 60-member faculty was in place, and majors were offered in 17 academic areas. In 1969, the founding class graduated, and by 1971 the school gained full accreditation.

In 1984, Dr. Jairy C. Hunter Jr. became the second president of Charleston Southern University. The Graduate Studies Program in Education became accredited in 1986. It was expanded to include concentrations in elementary and secondary education, beginning with the 1988 spring term. The School of Business began to offer a Master of Business Administration degree in 1990. In 1993, the School of Education began offering a Master of Education in Educational Administration. In 1999, a Master of Science in Criminal Justice was added to the graduate offerings.

In 1991, the school achieved university status and changed its name to Charleston Southern University.

The university has grown from an initial student body of 588. There are now many significant campus buildings to provide for the needs of the faculty and students. From its beginning, the university has sought to provide not only excellent academic opportunities, but has, in all its planning, held to the ideal of the development of the total individual.

Employment of personnel deeply committed to assisting each individual student to attain his or her maximum potential within a Christian environment has made this institution distinctive.

Today

CSU has doubled the size of their nursing program in the last four years from 40 students to 120 students.

According to John Strubel, director of Integrated Marketing at CSU, students completing their associates degree at Trident Technical College can seamlessly transfer to CSU to earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing via 18 months of online courses without losing any course credits. By 2018, a BSN will be required, he said.

The goal of the school is to have an enrollment of 4,000 by 2020. Growing too big too quickly could potentially cause the school to lose its distinctness, like small classroom settings. “The plan is to grow strategically at three to four percent a year,” Strubel said.

Currently, the dorms on the campus of CSU are under renovation. About 1,200 students live on campus. The school can accommodate a maximum of 1,300 coeds. The school owns an adjacent hotel called “The Wingate” in which upper-classmen could be housed should there be a need. The hotel is open to the public and primarily used by visiting students and parents.

The school expects an average of 1,000 freshmen per year, Strubel added.

Strubel, who has been with CSU for 10 years, was joined by Zack Runnels, enrollment counselor, as they conducted the tour of the CSU campus to Moultrie News representatives.

Much has been improved over the years, such as the addition of a Chic-Fil-A in the cafeteria and a Java City coffee shop.

The dining hall is now open during all daylight hours and will be expanded over the next two months.

These improvements and more can be made, Strubel said, because the school is debt free and it receives extensive support from donors and supporters. Many of those major donors are current faculty and staff, including President Dr. Jairy C. Hunter, Jr.

In addition, the school's football team will play two major teams next year – Georgia and Vanderbilt – with game guarantees of $1 million that will provide for a new athletic facility. “Those games guarantee financial support for the school,” he explained. “And while we might get beat, it's worth it because you can't buy that kind of national advertising like having our team on ESPN.”

Big fish in a small pond

Students at CSU come from all over the country – from Tennessee to California. Sixty percent of the student enrollment, however, are from South Carolina.

Runnels and members of his team travel the country recruiting students to CSU, knowing full well the location sells itself.

Campus landmarks

Lightsey Chapel, built in 1985, is an auditorium-style facility that seats 1,200. Strubel said it is a well-used facility, as students are required to earn chapel credits. But many shows and concerts are held in the facility, free of charge to students.

There are often guest speakers and concerts by Christian artists as well. This facility can also be rented out by community organizations who need this type of space.

The College of Nursing recently celebrated the opening of a new 16,100-square-foot addition to the nursing facility. The building expansion provides a state-of-the-art simulation lab, skills teaching labs and a Home Health Suite teaching lab.

The nursing programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN) and are a member of the National League for Nursing and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The BSN program has a 96 percent seven-year average pass rate on the national exam required to receive a license to practice (NCLEX-RN). This is currently the highest seven-year pass rate of all accredited BSN programs in the state of South Carolina.

The Center for Christian Leadership is a resource to support students, faculty and staff for developing effective leaders. It is a resource for marketplace and professional leaders both in Charleston and in the global marketplace movement.

According to Strubel, the center teaches students in areas like “how do we respond as Christians and how do we behave off campus as students and later in the business world.” It is essentially faith integration into all areas of study.

CSU is a wireless campus situated on 300 acres. There is plenty of room for expansion.

College is a life experience; it's not just four years of classes, studying and tests. Charleston Southern University knows that, so they've built a vibrant campus life experience that allows you to be active and involved – at your level.

Learn more by visiting the school at 9200 University Blvd., Charleston or call 843-863-7000. Visit the school website at www.csuniv.edu.

For more updates from the desk of the Moultrie News editor, Sully Witte, please follow Sully's Scoop on Twitter @SullysScoop and like Sully's Scoop Facebook page.

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