USC Aiken chancellor talks university's future new strategic plan

·3 min read

Jun. 15—USC Aiken's chancellor discussed the future of the school during the Rotary Club of Aiken's meeting June 13 at Newberry Hall.

"This fall we are going to start a collaborative and very deliberate strategic planning process that will enable us to reimagine the university," said Dr. Daniel Heimmermann. "What the plan will not be ... is just a wish list of something that pleases everybody. It is going to be a deliberate strategy informed by decisions and by priorities that you, as a community, will help us make.

"The great challenge for four-year universities like USC Aiken is not to take for granted the public confidence and the public trust in higher education and to make sure that the university remains responsive and relevant to the community it serves," he added.

Heimmermann mentioned some of the priorities he already has in mind.

One is to continue to develop "industry-aligned, cutting-edge programs that serve immediate needs," he said. "Cybersecurity is a great example of that, but we also are going to maintain our commitment to the liberal arts."

Another Heimmermann priority is to market USC Aiken more aggressively in order to recruit more students.

"And once they get here, we are going to redouble our commitment to academic advising as well as instilling in each student a sense of belonging," he said. "For me, a sense of belonging on our campus means to provide students with the support they need to finish school."

In Heimmermann's opinion, extracurricular and co-curricular activities also are important, and he reported that USC Aiken's administration and staff were going to "redouble our efforts" in making them available.

In addition to the establishment of some new clubs and other organizations on campus, "don't be surprised if we look at beginning new athletic programs — ones that are fiscally conservative, that make financial sense," Heimmermann said.

"These are the activities that will help us recruit and retain students."

In 2017, USC Aiken opened a downtown location in The Alley.

"We haven't done much in it as to now," Heimmermann said.

Under the current plans for Project Pascalis, the building is scheduled to be demolished to accommodate a two-story addition to the old Aiken Municipal Building, which will become a conference center with retail space.

But USC Aiken plans to maintain its presence in the city's business hub.

"I don't know what we'll be doing downtown, but I want it to be impactful and I want it to be visible," Heimmermann said. "We're working right now ... to find a space."

He mentioned that the new location could become the home of USC Aiken's new Pacer Center for Excellence in Business Research and Entrepreneurship.

"This is a center in the School of Business Administration that will specialize in assisting our community partners with research in business," Heimmermann said. "In fact, we are about to launch another economic impact study of our university. That's going to be the inaugural project of this, so this will be a great example illustrating the university's intent on supporting the community beyond the university. So, be on the lookout for that."