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FEBRUARY 2016 / VOL. 27, NO.1


Best Case Scenarios

Meet & Three

Death Defying Acts

Geography and Nursing programs take on catastrophe; J-school graduate flips the lens, faces the flood, page 2

Two professors and a former Gamecock football standout share their wisdom about failure and success, page 5

Carolina faculty take on the leading causes of death through research, outreach and education, page 12


FROM THE EDITOR USC Times is published 10 times a year for the faculty and staff of the University of South Carolina by the Office of Communications & Public Affairs, Wes Hickman, director. Managing Editor Craig Brandhorst Art Director Bob Wertz Designer Brinnan Wimberly Brandi Lariscy Avant Contributors Chris Horn Page Ivey Ore Oluwole Steven Powell Glenn Hare Thom Harman Photographers Kim Truett Ambyr Goff Printer USC Printing Services Campus correspondents James Raby, Aiken Cortney Easterling, Greenville Shana Dry, Lancaster Jane Brewer, Salkehatchie Misty Hatfield, Sumter Annie Smith, Union Tammy Whaley, Upstate Jay Darby, Palmetto College Submissions Did you know you can submit ideas for future issues of USC Times? Share your story by emailing or calling Craig Brandhorst at, 803-777-3681.

TOO GOOD TO FAIL It’s not hard to get USC faculty members to talk about their scholarship or research. The same goes for our alumni and their careers. Express a genuine interest in their particular expertise, and 99 times out of 100 you’ll not only learn something new, you’ll also enjoy the conversation. But what if your inquiry concerns the subject of failure? And not just failure in the abstract but failure in real life, including that person’s own experiences coming up short? How do you ask some of the most respected members of the Carolina community to expound with authority on the exact opposite of success? For starters, you ask really successful people. That’s exactly how we set up this month’s Meet & Three. What started with a simple curiosity about Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” philosophy led to a round table discussion about the meaning of success — thanks to business professor Dirk Brown, marine biologist Tammi Richardson and former Gamecock defensive lineman turned children’s book author Langston Moore (page 5). The conversation was fascinating. And while we were learning how to learn from our missteps and mistakes, we also got to enjoy a panoramic view from Top of Carolina at Capstone, all 360 glorious degrees of it, while enjoying barbecue and banana pudding. Not bad, even on a rainy day. But success was never a guarantee. Meet & Three is one of our favorite features here at USC Times, but there’s a reason we didn’t host one in 2015. Coordinating everyone’s schedules, doing the necessary research, finding just the right venue — it can get tricky. And then what if the recorder dies, or the photos don’t take, or the questions all stink and my guests just stare at me, wondering why they came? Or what if somebody cancels at the last minute? Is it still a Meet & Three if only two people show up? The fear can be paralyzing. Yeah, we pulled off five in a row in 2014, even when it rained on our attempt at a spring picnic, even when we almost dropped the chicken salad during our onstage production at Longstreet Theater, but basic probability tells us that we can’t succeed forever. Maybe it’s better to quit while you’re on top. Call it a success and then call it a day — right? Wrong. As Dirk pointed out, “Just being afraid of failure can embed failure into whatever it is you’re doing, being afraid to fail can cause you to fail.” As Dirk also pointed out, “If you can get out of your head, that will make a big difference.” In the end, he’s absolutely right. Big rewards require a modicum of risk — and we hope you’ll agree, Meet & Three is worth that risk and then some. The rest of this issue is also about risk, by the way, and no less worthy. This month’s other stories, though, are about avoiding risk and mitigating it. They’re about learning to live with risk in a world that seems a little riskier all the time and facing that risk with intelligence and with courage. It was easy to get our faculty to talk about that stuff, too, and we didn’t even need the banana pudding.

Have a seat,


The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or decisions for qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetics, sexual orientation or veteran status.

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The S.C. Public Employee Benefit Authority has contracted with a new prescription vendor, Express Scripts. Some changes might have been made to the list of covered drugs or to the preauthorization process for your medications. You should have received a welcome packet from Express Scripts that included a new prescription drug identification card. Present this card to your pharmacy to ensure your benefit is processed accurately. If you have questions about Express Scripts or changes in a drug’s status, contact Express Scripts at 855-612-3128 or visit the Division of Human Resources website: offices_and_divisions/human_resources/ index.php.

The Thomson Student Health Center is expanding — and not just in size. Once completed in summer 2017, the new center will allow for more physical therapy, lab and x-ray services as well as counseling and eye centers. Modern design elements and the latest technology are to be incorporated in the new building.

GRANDMA’S ROBOT Interested students and faculty are invited to Tech Tuesdays, a monthly seminar series bringing together researchers from around the university who share an interest in technology-assisted health promotion and disease prevention. The seminar is held on the second Tuesday of every month in Discovery I Building Room 140 at noon. February’s talk, “Why grandma needs a robot in her retirement,” will feature Jenay Beer, director of USC’s Assistive Robotics and Technology Lab. For more information contact Karen Magradey at (803) 777-3471 or

LET’S TALK LEADERSHIP The Student Leadership and Diversity Conference, currently in its 30th year, is a one-day regional conference that provides an opportunity for students, faculty and university staff from across the Southeast to network and explore issues relating to diversity and student leadership. This year’s conference will be held February 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Russell House.

RETIREMENT OPTIONAL The annual open enrollment period for the State Optional Retirement Program is January 1-March 1. All employees currently enrolled in the State ORP will receive an email from the Benefits Office regarding their open enrollment options. During this period, State ORP participants can change their State ORP vendor or, if eligible, can choose to irrevocably switch to the South Carolina Retirement System. For more information visit the Division of Human Resources website human_resources/index.php.



Mother Nature can be cruel — and sometimes, human error can be catastrophic. Fortunately, when it comes to natural and man-made disasters, the University of South Carolina is doing its part to mitigate the risks through research, education and hands-on training.

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HAZARDOUS DUTY There’s nothing like a disaster to make you stand up and take notice — particularly in the field of environmental geography. For geography professor Susan Cutter, it was the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. For research associate professor Chris Emrich, it was Hurricane Andrew’s direct hit on his home state of Florida. For Melanie Gall, Cutter’s former doctoral student, it was a devastating flood in Mozambique, which she witnessed firsthand. “Everyone who works in the disaster field has one event that got them focused on hazards,” says Gall, now a research assistant professor in USC’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute (HVRI). Gall, Cutter and others in the institute study vulnerability and resilience to disasters — flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and more — while also analyzing data from past disasters. Institute staff research potential hazards in each U.S. county, the different social groups that reside in them and the potential financial losses that might result. “We’re focused on research and outreach that provides best practices, guidance and expertise to the nation concerning natural and human-made hazards,” Cutter says. But HVRI, which grew out of a hazards research lab that Cutter started in 1995, also has a special interest in the preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation of natural hazards right here in South Carolina. Upon her arrival at USC, Cutter established ties with the state’s emergency management infrastructure and has been working with them since. “We were among the first to use remote sensing and geographic information systems to study hazards, and very quickly USC became the place to get an education in hazards research,” Cutter says.

Since 1998, 22 Ph.D. candidates and 34 master’s candidates have completed their degrees relating to hazards and vulnerability at USC. Since achieving institute status in 2006, HVRI has grown to include faculty associates from civil engineering, history, public health, journalism and law. The university also has added a concentration in emergency management to its Master of Public Administration degree that will expand the number of professionals in governmental, nonprofit and profit sectors who can plan for and respond to natural and man-made disasters — disasters like the catastrophic flood that inundated the Palmetto State in 2015. “We were involved during the recent flood response in South Carolina, running models for the state to determine the 100-year flood plain for every county,” says Cutter. “You need that to calculate how much damage might occur and what that might cost.”

“We’re focused on research and outreach that provides best practices, guidance and expertise to the nation

concerning natural and human-made hazards.

While flooding is the most frequent and costliest disaster type in the U.S., the most significant threats in South Carolina are severe weather and hurricanes, Cutter says. “But many citizens focus on hurricanes to the exclusion of other threats. The potential for tornadoes is often ignored. And the two recent presidential disaster declarations we’ve experienced in South Carolina have come from ice and flooding.” “There is seismic potential in South Carolina., as well,” Cutter adds. “One of the biggest earthquakes to hit east of the Mississippi was in 1886 near Charleston. That’s a low-probability, high-consequence risk.”


LESSONS LEARNED Research focuses on chemical disaster response Eleven years after a train derailment in Graniteville, S.C., killed nine and exposed 5,400 residents near the crash site to toxic chlorine gas, researchers are still learning lessons from the deadly disaster. Joan Culley, an associate professor of nursing, is using data from the incident to help hospitals develop better triage protocols for chemical disasters. She and a team of interdisciplinary researchers are also building a software system enhanced by artificial intelligence that could make hospital emergency room admissions more efficient during disasters and under ordinary conditions. “We know it’s important for an ER to be aware if a surge of patients is imminent,” says Culley, who became interested in emergency preparedness when she served as a nurse corps captain in the U.S. Navy and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Enhanced software in the admissions process could help ER staff interpret the early signs that a disaster has occurred,

even before first responders start bringing patients in.

That’s because some disaster victims almost always arrive at emergency rooms on their own, before the ambulances. Asking those early arrivals the right questions can give hospital staff a head’s up to prepare for the arrival of more critically injured patients, Culley says. “If you realize some kind of chemical event is occurring, you’ll know right away not to admit patients coming from the disaster scene unless they’ve first been decontaminated,” she says. “Most ER triage models don’t deal with chemicals very well. They’re set up for traumatic injuries, but don’t classify chemical exposure as an incident that requires special triage methods to minimize health impairment among the victims.” Chemical exposure might not initially impair a victim’s ability to walk and talk, Culley says. The engineer involved in the Graniteville train derailment walked through a plume of chlorine gas, got to the hospital and talked to the admitting staff. By the time his oxygen level was checked, it was less than half of normal, and he died a short time later. “The new artificial intelligence system we’re developing looks for signs of chemical exposure that will alert an emergency room to check oxygen saturation levels right away,” Culley says. In April 2017, Culley’s research team, which includes faculty from nursing, biostatistics, and epidemiology (plus industrial hygiene, human computer interaction and database experts) plans to field a large-scale mock exercise at Williams-Brice Stadium with state and federal response agencies participating. The exercise, funded as part of a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine, will involve several hundred USC nursing students who will be assigned the roles of chemical disaster victims. The exercise will give Culley and her team an opportunity to compare the performance of their new software app with traditional triage models “I’m suggesting that hospitals set up kiosks in their ERs so that people can enter their own information as soon as they arrive. We need to process patients more efficiently, not just for mass casualty events but all the time,” Culley says. “The system we’re developing can be used for food-borne outbreaks, detecting stroke and heart attacks and can be expanded for other situations.”

FACE OF THE FLOOD If Derrec Becker looks familiar, perhaps it’s because you saw a lot of it during news coverage of the flooding that inundated the Palmetto State in October. As public information coordinator at the S.C. Emergency Management Division, Becker was in front of TV news cameras day after day, providing updates after Columbia-area dams burst and roadways became rivers. It was a familiar pose for Becker, who began his career in TV news after earning a degree in broadcast journalism from Carolina in 2003. “As a reporter, I had interviewed personnel at the Emergency Management Division in 2004 when a hurricane hit South Carolina and was familiar with what they did,” he says. “I first got into communications to be a conduit for information so that people could make decisions based on an objective perspective. I still love news and I’m still doing it — it’s just that my lens is flipped.” Life as a spokesman for the Emergency Management Division can be like that of a firefighter, Becker says — long periods of training and preparation interspersed with intense bursts of all-hands-on-deck activity. “South Carolina is vulnerable to every type of natural disaster except volcanoes,” he says. “Historically, we’ve had earthquakes and wildfires, and there’s flooding every year in regional parts of the state.” The October flooding inflicted the costliest damage on the state since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and Becker sees it as his role to help South Carolinians understand the risks they face. “When it comes to personal safety, a severe thunderstorm can be as deadly as a hurricane,” he says. “The main thing is being responsive to weather warnings. Paying attention can save your life.”

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This month’s three

DIRK BROWN is director of the Faber Entrepreneurship Center and a clinical professor at the Darla Moore School of Business. He is a veteran of Silicon Valley and the founding CEO of Pandoodle Corporation, a digital media technology company with offices in California, New York and South Carolina.

SAVE ROOM FOR FAILURE A SUCCESS STORY “No room to fail,” “too big to fail,” “failure is not an option” — for obvious reasons, failure isn’t typically celebrated, and yet an entire philosophy has sprung up around the concept, starting in Silicon Valley. Having gone bust is almost a badge of honor among a certain set of entrepreneurs there, or at least a rite of passage. Are they onto something? Should the rest of us be paying closer attention? USC Times invited three highly successful members of the Carolina community to lunch, including a Silicon Valley veteran, a respected oceanographer and a onetime Gamecock football standout, and asked, “Is there room for failure after all?”

TAMMI RICHARDSON is a professor of marine science in the biology department, and teaches in the marine science program. Her principal research concerns the role phytoplankton photosynthesis plays in removing CO2 from the atmosphere.


Dirk, let’s talk about Silicon Valley first. When they talk about failure as a badge of honor, what do they understand that the rest of us don’t? Dirk: You’re really talking about a subset of

Silicon Valley, which is this group of people that want to disrupt the world. You’re talking about people that want do something big, and so therefore there’s an inherently larger risk. I absolutely agree, failure in the Valley can be a badge of honor, but it’s got to be failure at having tried something big. And oftentimes, after those failures, we pivot to something that does work. I think the venture capitalists,

specifically, now view failure as a step on the path to success. They don’t just celebrate failure in itself. Not all failure is created equal. Dirk: Exactly right. Help us understand the mentality. What’s the climate that allows that thinking? Dirk: First, there’s a difference between risk and

unnecessary risk. When you start working on a project in the Valley, you often do what’s called discovery-driven planning — the first step is to figure out if your assumptions are correct.

LANGSTON MOORE played four seasons with the Gamecock football team under Lou Holtz before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. He spent six seasons in the NFL and played for three franchises. Since 2012, he has been a sideline reporter for the Gamecock IMG Sports Network. He is also the co-author (with former Gamecock Preston Thorne and illustrator/alumnus Kev Roche) of the children’s book “#JustaChicken.”


failure, but the other way to think about it is to say, “Don’t be afraid of failure.” Tammi: I say this to my graduate students — “Beyond a certain point, you’re all equally smart. Great things happened for you as an undergraduate, and now that you’re in graduate school, it’s simply a matter of, ‘Who’s willing to just keep going?’” If I see somebody in the lab working the morning after some colossal failure, I think, “OK, that person’s going to be a scientist.”

You have a lot of short iterative steps to get to the end game, and you’re prepared for the reality that some of your assumptions are wrong. The trick is to fail as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and then adjust. So embracing the culture of failure is not about embracing longterm failure. You want to get that reality check and fail fast, then pivot. I’d argue that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are not inherently risk junkies. They’re always looking to mitigate risk and minimize risk, but they realize things are not going to go according to plan. They almost never do. Tammi: A lot of what Dirk is saying is similar

to what we do in science. A lot of small steps lead up to the big discovery. I personally would rather mess up at the small-step stage. Also, we learn from that. We don’t look to fail. We look to find out where the holes are, where the protocol went wrong, so that when we get further along we don’t make the big mistake. Failure is sort of baked into the scientific process, right? Don’t most experiments fail? Tammi: I think if they’re well planned, they give you an answer that’s a clear answer. But the idea of the scientific method is to falsify a hypothesis. You want to reject something right off. It’s a strange way of thinking about it, but you’re exactly right. Dirk: The counterpoint is that fear of failure

can paralyze entrepreneurship or scientific research. We can talk about embracing

I see a lot of analogs to athletics. Langston: Absolutely. When Dirk was

talking about the pivot — same thing. Think about our new head football coach. Will Muschamp was a head coach before, and he failed —offensively, at least. But now, just a year or so later, he’s back to being a head coach, and one of the first things he said when he got here was, “I should have kept my second offensive coordinator.” He had three offensive coordinators in three years. Just like in business, a change in leadership can hinder what you’re trying to do. With Will, yeah, he failed the first time, but he learned from that failure, and he’s now implementing those lessons, and implementing them quickly. You have to take the knowledge and pivot

very quickly so you can get something from that failure and not let it be this psychological cloud hanging over you. Let’s personalize this a bit. Langston, you’ve been very successful. You went to the NFL, now you’re in broadcasting, you’ve coauthored a children’s book, but your first year at Carolina was pretty rough. Langston: [laughing]: It’s funny what people

mean when they say “success.” People think I’m successful because I was in the NFL, but then I hear Dirk talking about Silicon Valley and I think, “Man, he’s successful.” I felt that my NFL career, playing-wise, was terrible. I played for one team that lost every game. From the outsider’s perspective, if you play six or seven years in the NFL, that seems like success, but defining success is up to the individual. Now, in college, losing every game my first year here with Coach Holtz, that was something that prepared me to be a pro later on. I don’t know too many guys who lost every game their first year of college and then lost every game in their last season in the NFL! But the point is, we all have an opportunity to pull something from our experiences. Dirk: I’ve been the founding chief executive

I keep an abstract I wrote when I was in graduate school that one of my committee members just ripped to shreds. I like to whip it out and say to my graduate students, “This is what John used to do to me. And he did it because he cared.”

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Dirk: One of my advantages was living in Silicon Valley, so there was no stigma to my failure. People still would give me money, I could still get investments, people would still believe in me because the society understood what I was trying to do was high risk. I think that societies and cultures that encourage that attitude are richer and progress much faster than those that are paralyzed by the fear of failure.

In the locker room on Monday, after getting your butt kicked on Sunday, you’ve got to start the whole process over again. That’s what you have to commit to, whether you’re a football player, a researcher or an entrepreneur building a company. That’s the hard part that separates those who do from those who don’t.

Tammi: But aren’t those sort of rare

communities? In the broader context, we’re programmed to fear failure.

of three startups. The first one, we raised a lot of money back in the dot-com heyday. We had a company in the U.S. that raised about $26 million, but then a sister company in Taiwan got excited and built a big factory that was over a $100 million. Overall, we raised about $126 million and had a lot of investor enthusiasm. But we stalled out. We couldn’t make deliveries. There’s an old adage — “A startup CEO sleeps like a baby. He wakes up every two hours crying”? That’s the life I was living for a while. The company survived, but in my world you’ve either got to go public, or sell to another company, or at least create a strong dividend chain for the investors, and that didn’t happen. So really it was a failure for me and for the investors. And actually you feel worse for the investors who committed to you. That’s the part that really hurts. But I looked at what I had done and what I wanted to do, and what I really wanted to do was change the world, so I started another company. At the end of my life I’ll regret the missteps and failures less than having not had the courage to do whatever I could to change the world. Langston: My freshman year I came here as a

defensive lineman and then we lost everybody on the offensive line. I had to play a position that I wasn’t here to play and I wanted to

leave. But as an individual I learned so much. Later, I changed back to defensive line. A lot of guys would say I missed out on a whole year’s worth of film for the draft, but I got to think about how an offensive lineman prepares. Mentally, it wasn’t wasted. When you get to the NFL combines they sit you down with all these different teams and every team is different. Some bring in trial lawyers to drill you. They want to see how you react under pressure. I was prepared because Lou Holtz never took a day off. He was always on. Four years of that helped me become a pro. There were so many guys in the NFL with so much talent, but they couldn’t even get to work on time. Talent carried them for a while, but eventually that talent dies off.

Dirk: I agree, but I think the world is changing. People are starting to take a more rational view of failure. It’s becoming, I think, less of a stigma worldwide.

You can almost think of Silicon Valley as a sort of utopia for failure… Dirk: That’s what it is. In some industries, though — academia, for example —

There are so many other variables — Dirk: Tenure. Tammi: Yeah. That’s where I was going.

Right. It’s a different kind of community. So what, if anything, can academia take from this discussion?


Talking to kids, I just try to encourage ambition. If they have big dreams and they don’t have a lot of responsibilities yet, if they don’t have families, don’t have kids, I say, “Do it now. It’ll be a lot harder when you’ve got a newborn and a mortgage.”

Historically in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs have been quite tenacious, taking second mortgages, trying to realize their dream. What we’re realizing is that letting go of one dream can help you to realize other, often bigger, dreams..

Dirk: I think if you ask most young people what they want from life, they’ll give you some version of, “I want to change the world.” If that’s the ultimate success, all these failures along the way shouldn’t be so meaningful. In fact, they may lead you to the larger success. Tammi: One thing I like about working with

kids is that a lot of them are fearless. Tammi: I think we can apply a general

attitude. Writing proposals is a good example. Since 1998, I’ve written 63 proposals. I got 16 of those funded, of various sizes. That works out to about a 25 percent success rate — 25.4, to be exact. I did the arithmetic this morning. So I looked at my graduate students and said, “Hey, for every four proposals I’ve written I’ve gotten one funded,” and they looked at me like, “What?” But that’s actually pretty good. With the NSF, for my field, they fund about twenty percent on average. You’ve just got to keep banging your head against the wall and a hole will develop. It might be in the wall, it might be in your head, but eventually something will happen.

They run out of cash. That’s why entrepreneurs eat a lot of ramen. Tammi: [laughing]: Sounds like a graduate

student! Dirk: But then if you have a culture where

you’re used to small failures, and you see that those small failures don’t destroy the larger project, or don’t destroy you, it can strengthen you. Culturally, and also individually, you start to realize that failure is part of a bigger journey. At the same time, if the stakes seem too high, it can paralyze us. Just being afraid of failure can embed failure into it whatever it is you’re doing, being afraid to fail can cause you to fail.

Langston: So Dirk, when you’re out there

Two of you work with students here at the

trying to raise money, how does that compare to what Tammi is saying? When you’re out there going to meeting after meeting, pitch after pitch —

university. Langston, you’ve co-authored a

Dirk: When you’re pitching to venture

on our book, we started talking about Coach Holtz and all these great leaders we’ve known. We wanted to make another “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” 400 pages, and it was taking forever, so we decided to do a kids book. We thought, “This will be easy. It will take two months.” It ended up taking four years. But we didn’t know that until we had too much in to go back.

capitalists you probably do at least 20 or 30 before you get a strong interest. That’s why tenacity is essential — for an athlete, an academic, an entrepreneur. When you give up, that’s when you fail. But it’s also a question of it being the right time, of the investment pieces all being in the right place. One of the biggest reasons new ventures fail is they don’t get funded.

children’s book. How do you talk to young people about risk and failure? Langston: When Preston and I were working

Dirk: [laughing]: We educate that out of them — and we don’t talk enough about the small failures. We don’t talk about the failures along the way to success. Langston: Edison found ten thousand ways

the light bulb didn’t work! Tammi: I have lab books back to when I was a TA in grad school. One of them is tagged “show to grad students.” You often get grad students coming in looking all glum, “I’m a failure, yadda yadda, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life,” and I pull this book out. Scribbled across the top of this one page

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it says EVERYTHING I DID YESTERDAY IS WRONG! Clearly I was having a terrible day. But I love to show it to my students because a lot of them don’t think that I’ve been through that. I was three years into a PhD. program and switched advisers because I was going nowhere. It was either start a new project with a new advisor or quit. I chose to start a new project. So Langston, you talk about taking four years to write a book, and Tammi, you switched dissertation advisors three years in. But Dirk, you mentioned the concept of failing fast. On the one hand, we’re advocating perseverance

external pressures impact that intuition. If society punishes you severely for failure, or the perception of failure, you’re more likely to avoid those options that will lead to society punishing you. On the other hand, if society doesn’t punish you, you may look at the situation and decide to pivot. If you think about the ultimate success on the distant horizon, you stop worrying so much about the smaller failures, especially once you realize you can fail soon and fail cheap. The decision becomes harder once you’ve got all these sunk costs. Langston: Great point. I see so many guys

when to cut bait?

who say over and over, “I just gotta make it to the NFL, if I can just get to the NFL.” They haven’t played football in seven or eight years, but they’re still hanging on. So how long do you hold onto that dream? That just depends.

Tammi: Oh, that’s a tough one, “How do

Tammi: A related concept is being able to

and tenacity. On the other, you run the risk of staying in a project too long, which is a habit Silicon Valley wants to break. How do we resolve that tension? How do we know

you know”? I would talk to different people — your committee, your colleagues, your family — but a lot of it is your gut. When I switched advisers, I just knew, and if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be sitting here. Dirk: Every morning you decide what to do that day. To do it properly, I guess we could all do a probabilistic weighted average of all the variables and then follow that path. Obviously, we can’t do that, but I think we do that intuitively. There’s a breakdown where

take criticism. Along with being able to sustain multiple small, or maybe even big failures, you’ve got to be able to take criticism. In science, if you can’t take criticism, you’re toast. Every day it’s, “Oh you need to rewrite this,” “Oh, this part’s wrong.” Again, when a student writes something and I rip it to shreds, but they’re right back at it the next day — those are the ones who are going to succeed. Dirk: Oftentimes failure is contextual. There

are some hard elements — financial security,

job security — that are fundamental. But a lot of the context is in your head: “How is society going to judge me?” “What will my friends think of me?” If you can get out of your head, that will make a big difference. What you perceive as failure or success may not be perceived that way by someone else. Langston: When I talk to kids, the first

thing they want to know is, “Did you win the Super Bowl?” Well, no, I didn’t even come close. I never even went to the playoffs. Yeah, I played in the NFL, but I played for all the bad teams! But then we start deconstructing. I played for a lot of great franchises. Seeing how they do business was very instructive, and on a personal level it helped me to think about how I manage my time, how I conduct myself. Failure is the stuff nobody wants to see. We want to see the confetti, or the guy holding up the big check. We want to hear about the valuation when your company goes public. Success is easy — just don’t give up and eventually you’ll get there. But where your mind is, the lead up to the big breakthrough, that’s what’s interesting.

Got a taste for intelligent conversation? Want a free lunch for yourself and two colleagues? RSVP with your Meet & Three idea to


CLIMATE OF FEAR Stranger Danger and the Media BY PAGE IVEY


n the summer of 2002, Ed and Lois Smart experienced every parent’s worst nightmare: their 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was taken from their home, while the family was present, by a man who had done work for them. She was white. Her family was wealthy and well educated. Elizabeth made national news and was found nine months later. That same year, Alexis Patterson went missing in central Milwaukee. Local media reports mentioned that her stepfather, who said he walked the 7-year-old to school that morning, had a criminal record, but police ruled him out as a suspect. Alexis was black. Her family was poor. She never made national news, even after it was pointed out that her case was being treated differently. Alexis is still listed as missing today. “When kids of color go missing, there is no national attention,” says Leigh Moscowitz, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and co-author of the new book “Snatched” (with Salem College assistant professor of communications Spring-Serenity Duvall). “These types of crimes are considered ‘normal’ for low-income areas.” But the impact of those editorial decisions can be significant. “Kids that get more coverage are more likely to be found,” Moscowitz says — and the cases that dominate the media tend to involve young, white, telegenic children, mostly girls, who went missing from upper-middle class families.

VOL. 26, NO.8  11

Moscowitz didn’t start out to write a book about child abductions. In the summer of 2002, she was a grad student at Indiana University, working on her dissertation about media coverage of same-sex marriage court cases. But as the national media went crazy for the Elizabeth Smart case, other cases started popping up, too: Samantha Runnion, 5, in California; Shawn Hornbeck, 11, in Missouri… Were children — the very symbol of innocence — increasingly being targeted? What was the media’s role? Was this what she should be researching instead? As it turns out, while media coverage was at an all-time high, childhood abductions were at an all-time low. “There was a disconnect there,” Moscowitz says. “That was how the project began: Why do some abductions become national stories?” In fact, the roots of today’s missing child obsession go back to the 1970s and a handful of young boys, Etan Patz, Steven Stayner and Adam Walsh, whose father became an outspoken advocate for child safety and later for helping police catch criminals on TV’s “America’s Most Wanted.” “News narratives become symbolic,” Moscowitz says. “They reflect social fears. The news tells us more about the fears of the time than what is actually going on.” In the 1920s, for example, fears concerned abductions for ransom, frequently related to organized crime. But by the 1970s, says Moscowitz, the fear of losing one’s child reflected changing societal norms, as divorce became more prevalent and judges decided where children should live. Today, a child in the U.S. is much more likely to be taken by a parent or guardian than by a stranger. Each year, fewer than 100 children in the U.S. are taken by someone the family does not know, while more than 300,000 are taken by a parent or other guardian.

Even when coverage contributes to a child’s rescue, the media’s approach to the case can give a false impression about the nature of the crime, according to Moscowitz — particularly when one of the first questions asked by reporters is, “Why didn’t they try to run away?” As an example, Moscowitz cites the case of 7-year-old Erica Pratt, who was abducted by a stranger seeking a ransom in 2002, the same year as the Smart case. Erica, a rare example of a child of color who did make national news, was named Time magazine’s person of the week after she affected her own escape by chewing through the duct tape that bound her hands and kicking out a window. The media celebrated Erica’s bravery but as a consequence may have contributed to a dangerous misreading by the public that other children, those who did not manage to escape, may be partly to blame for their abduction and captivity.

“That’s not the thing we were looking for,” Moscowitz says. “It’s the thing that just hit us in the face.” The news media’s treatment of Shawn Hornbeck is particularly illustrative. Just 11 years old when he was abducted, tortured and then sexually assaulted for four years, Shawn was rescued after his abductor, Michael Devlin, abducted another boy and eyewitness accounts led police to him. After his rescue, it was revealed that Shawn had interacted with Devlin’s neighbors, and even police officers, without revealing his identity – a fact seized on by television news pundits. “I actually hope I’m wrong about Shawn Hornbeck,” said Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in 2007. “I hope he did not make a conscious decision to accept his captivity because Devlin made things easy for him. No school, play all day long.” “Shawn Hornbeck spent four years with his alleged abductor and appeared to have had many chances to escape,” ABC News reported around the same time. “So many people are asking, ‘Why didn’t he make a run for it’.” “Without that image of innocence,” Moscowitz explains, “these kids are treated very differently.”

Shawn Hornbeck reunited with his family

Ultimately the fear of “stranger danger” is very real, even if the actual danger is overstated. In fact, during her research, Moscowitz found herself hugging her own young children a little more tightly. “Some of this is really horrific content to deal with on a daily basis,” she says. “There is a creep factor there.” But, she had to remind herself that the likelihood of something like that happening is extremely rare. “These are very real tragedies,” she says. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. But you have to strike the balance between the real tragedy and common sense, letting kids be kids.”

LEARN MORE Check out “Snatched: Child Abductions in the U.S. News Media,” by Spring-Serenity Duvall and Leigh Moscowitz.


DEATH DEF According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are a lot of ways to die. Fortunately, there are also a lot of ways to stave off the inevitable. At USC, researchers, doctors and educators do their part every day to help us live longer, healthier lives. USC Times sought out an example of how we’re confronting each of the CDC’s top five causes of death and what we’re doing to mitigate them.




Diet and exercise, diet and exercise, diet and exercise — the basic recipe for heart health is pretty simple. And yet research continues to improve our understanding of what it means to enjoy a heart-healthy lifestyle. Just ask Steven Blair. A professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health and a faculty affiliate of USC’s Prevention Research Center (which is supported by the CDC), Blair has studied the relationships between chronic diseases, physical activity and how we eat for more than four decades — and during that time a lot has changed. In the 1970s, Blair explains, much of the research being conducted on heart health focused on dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Over the past four decades, however, research has moved toward a more holistic approach, one that considers a great deal more than what we eat. “We evolved as human beings to eat anything we could find. The body is adaptable, but the important thing is to be at a reasonably high level of energy balance so that our physiology is working well.”

We also live differently now than we did in the 1970s. As a consequence, we put ourselves at risk in ways we previously didn’t — not by what we do but by what we don’t. “There’s no compelling evidence that Americans are eating more than they did 40 years ago,” Blair says. “Physical activity has changed, occupational physical activity. There’s much more sitting now, and fewer jobs require moving around.” And as Blair points out, physical activity isn’t limited just to running marathons, pumping iron and going to spin class. “Our main source of energy expenditure is resting metabolic rate,” he says. “Over 24 hours, keeping cells alive accounts for, on average, 60 percent of daily energy expenditure. And any movement still counts as physical activity.” Of course, the biggest obstacle to achieving better cardiovascular health may not be in our hearts but our heads. As Blair explains, we need to become conscious of what we’re doing in terms of diet and exercise as well as why it matters.

“Cognitive and behavioral strategies have been proven to help establish a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “One of them is self-monitoring, keeping a record of your behaviors to be realistic of them. Another strategy is setting small goals to transition to get to where you want to be, gradually to identify problems and make it a lifestyle.” Finally, it’s worth remembering that like any other scientific field, exercise science continues to evolve in response to new research. In fact, the conversation 40 years from now may be as different from today’s conversation as today’s conversation is from when Blair began looking at aerobic exercise in the 1970s. “Physical activity is a big, complex issue,” Blair says. “I’ve been studying it for decades, and there’s still some things I don’t know.”

Number reflects deaths nationally in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

VOL. 26, NO.8  13


584,881 Of the five leading causes of death in the U.S., perhaps none is as difficult to confront as cancer. “Cancer is an interesting and challenging set of diseases because it instills such deep fear in people,” says Health Sciences Distinguished Professor James Hebert. “But there are advantages to that. One is that it attracts a lot of attention and, therefore, it has traditionally been relatively easy to get funded for cancer research.” As director of the Arnold School of Public Health’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Hebert has dedicated much of his career to understanding the relationships between diet, physical activity and chronic disease. Chief among his efforts, he initiated the effort to develop the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), a tool researchers worldwide now use to assess the inflammatory potential of overall diet. And while cancer isn’t Hebert’s only research concern, it’s what he calls “a good metaphor,” meaning that cancer research often dovetails with and informs research into other diseases.

“Physical activity, alcohol abuse, tobacco — those are the same risk factors that affect virtually every negative health outcome,” Hebert explains. “In that sense, it almost doesn’t matter which disease we’re looking at.” In fact, while cancer was the driving force behind the DII, USC’s 108 international partners have applied the metric to a host of health outcomes over the past several years, and they continue to find applications. “If you consider our different partners, we’ve looked at outcomes for everything from depression to asthma to pancreatic cancer,” says Hebert. “We’ve looked at cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. We’ve looked at the relationship between diet-related inflammation and telomere length, which is an indication of aging. It’s not limited to any one particular outcome, even though we’re cancer-oriented.” Cancer is the particular focus of other programs spearheaded through the Arnold School of Public Health, though, including the Prostate-Specific-Antigen (PSA) program. “With this program we’re now able to detect potentially deadly prostate cancer,” says

Hebert, emphasizing the role that appropriate screening plays in the battle against cancer, particularly among high-risk groups. “That’s important in South Carolina, which has a large African-American population that is more susceptible to aggressive prostate cancers at earlier ages.” The CPCP is also home to Columbia’s Cooking, a healthy cooking course series headed up by nutritionist Trisha Mandes. Taught at the CPCP’s demonstration kitchen on the ground floor of the Discovery building, the courses are intended to introduce people to a philosophy of eating that reflects exactly the kind of knowledge gained via DIIbased research. “There are foods on the DII, like saffron or blackberries, that are loaded with phenolic compounds, stuff that’s extremely good for your health, but they’re not things that we cook with that often in our culture,” says Hebert. “When we talk about diet, people often think in term’s of restriction, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re about getting people to eat more of the things that will make a difference.”



149,205 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — itself a group of several diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and, in some cases, asthma — is the main cause of death from respiratory failure, according to the CDC. But prevention isn’t as straightforward as it might be with some other diseases. “Apart from not smoking, it’s not easy necessarily to say, ‘Avoid this, avoid that,’” says Jennifer Hucks, an assistant professor of clinical internal medicine in the School of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary Critical Care. “And as we’ve become more and more industrialized, we’re all exposed to more carbons and all kinds of nasty stuff, but we’re also living longer, so we see patients with COPDtype illnesses who have never smoked.” With respiratory failure, Hucks says, prevention is more a matter of early diagnosis, proper long-term treatment to prevent infections, and pneumonia vaccinations for people over 65 or who have already been diagnosed with a respiratory condition. “Pneumonia is a big one,” Hucks explains. “You might die from pneumonia because of your COPD, or because you’re an advanced age, or you’re immunocompromised. Pneumonia is kind of the end of a lot of disease processes.” Of course, University Special Clinics, like the Division of Pulmonary Critical Care, treat a range of interrelated respiratory ailments, not just those that fall under the COPD umbrella. “The value of the specialty clinics is that we provide multi-specialty collaboration in all the different areas covered by the school of medicine,” Hucks says. “Most private pulmonary practices are going to have probably two to four physicians who will mostly do straight pulmonary. We have seven practitioners, and all of us have our own specialties.”

For example, Hucks provides general pulmonary care but focuses more specifically on cystic fibrosis, chronic respiratory failure and pulmonary hypertension. “I also see patients who are at risk for respiratory failure, like patients who have neuromuscular disease, or ALS,” she says. “Those are people who eventually will probably have some type of respiratory failure, so we want to start seeing them early and follow their cases as they progress and provide whatever support we can.”


128,978 A toothbrush and dental floss might seem like and unlikely pair of weapons for warding off this kind of cerebrovascular events like stroke, but they’re probably an indispensible first line of defense, according to the School of Medicine’s Souvik Sen. “There are a lot of studies, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world, that point to a link between periodontal disease and stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular health,” says Sen, who was recruited to the university in 2010 as the SmartState Endowed Chair in Clinical Stroke Research. Sen is leading a new study that aims to get patients at risk for stroke ahead of the curve. The NIH recently awarded a $3.43 million grant for a two-state clinical effort to help get patients in the Carolinas with gum disease

to see periodontists, the gum specialists, for high-quality preventive care. The goal is to see whether better periodontal care translates into a reduced risk for cerebrovascular and cardiovascular events. “Studies show that tooth loss is very common in South Carolina, and tooth loss is really the end result of gum disease, a dental infection,” Sen says. “South Carolina is also in what is called the ‘buckle’ of the stroke belt, which means high stroke rate, heart attack rate, and death from stroke and heart attack.” This study will be one of the first prospective randomized clinical trials actually examining events — stroke, heart attack or death — as outcomes of cerebrovascular disease. “At the end of the day,” Sen says, “what would matter the most is the information that this approach might prevent stroke, heart attack or death.”

VOL. 26, NO.8  15


130,557 Accidental injury is one of the top five killers of Americans, according to the CDC — and the only one not directly related to disease. And while everyone is potentially at risk for a bad fall or fatal blunder, the risk is particularly great for the elderly. Every day, about 50 seniors die in the U.S. from fall complications, and some 5,000 are treated for injuries. Researchers at USC have taken more than an academic interest in creating solutions for this demographic. Later this year, civil engineering professor Juan Caicedo and graduate student Benjamin Davis hope to bring to the marketplace a new system that sounds the alarm when a senior citizen takes a hard fall. An entire industry has sprung up that harnesses apps and smartphones as a means to signal for help when an individual has stumbled, but many have the inherent limitation of requiring someone who may well be unconscious to push a button. And just about everything that researchers are envisioning in labs, Caicedo says, involves a sensor that needs to be carried or worn. “What we are doing is completely different,” he says. “We put the instrument in the environment, rather than on the person.” That instrument is a vibration detector, a more-sensitive version of the accelerometer in smartphones. In a collaboration with Columbia’s VA Hospital, Caicedo’s research team mounted sensors in the floor of a multiroom ward with patients at high risk for falls, collecting vibration and fall data for more than a year. From the data they’ve collected and the analysis they’ve developed, Caicedo thinks that a few floor-mounted sensors — perhaps just three per level in a typical house in South Carolina — would be enough to make the home a smart one that can instantly send an alert that an occupant has fallen. An interdisciplinary venture from the outset, the engineering project has seen key contributions from the School of Medicine’s

Victor Hirth and the College of Social Work’s SmartState chair Sue Levkoff. Davis founded a company, Advanced Smart Systems and Evaluation Technologies (ASSET), that took second place in The Proving Ground, USC’s entrepreneurial competition. They expect a provisional patent approval soon and plan to move the company into Columbia’s incubator once it’s in hand. Seven years ago, when Davis joined Caicedo’s lab as a freshman, the idea of having the potential to change lives for the better wasn’t on their radar, but both have since witnessed grandparents struggle as their research unfolded. And they’ve realized their work can make a difference. “I enjoy the engineering challenge,” Caicedo says, “but what’s turned out to be nice is now we’re able to try to do something for people to live independently.”



USC UPSTATE Forty-nine and counting BY CHRIS HORN


he planned year-long celebration of USC Upstate’s 50th anniversary is still a year away, but the Spartanburg institution already has plenty of reasons to make merry. Upstate registered a student headcount of 6,000 this past fall, by far the largest enrollment among all USC campuses outside of Columbia. The campus annually admits 800-900 first-year students and a similar number of transfers, housing 1,000 on campus. And there’s a lot on offer. In the past three years, Upstate has added popular master’s programs in informatics and clinical nurse leader, and a new $2.2 million Title III grant has been used to create an active learning classroom that will help faculty develop flipped classroom courses that combine traditional and remote teaching methods. Upstate is also seeking startup funding from the legislature to hire faculty for a new bachelor’s of applied science in advanced manufacturing management that would focus on principles of management, accounting, finance and leadership. After several months of discussion with executives at BMW’s assembly plant in Greer, S.C., university leadership came up with a plan to deliver the degree on-site and at other facilities in the region. The proposed program is tailored to manufacturing personnel with associate degrees, who could apply credit hours already earned and field experience toward the degree. “We’ve been collaborating with the technical colleges, and they’re very supportive of this with manufacturing employers such as Michelin, Dräexlmaier and ZF in this area. We think there will be significant demand,” says Chancellor Tom Moore. The approach reflects Upstate’s commitment to community partnership and the school’s significant impact beyond campus. “We often say that USC Upstate has a metropolitan mission,” says Moore. “Practically speaking, that translates into serving the communities around us.”

Dillard, who graduated this past December, completed an independent study while providing Spanish translation at Greenville’s First Steps program. The experience confirmed her love for nonprofit work and her talent for translation. “I was born here, and I love it here,” says Dillard, who now works as a translator at a homeless shelter in Spartanburg County. That’s music to the ears of Abe Goldberg, a political science professor and one of two directors for Upstate’s new Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement. He is keen on students engaging in community service that reinforces the academic side. “The key is ensuring that community service projects include student coursework and that they connect the service back to the students’ academic discipline,” Goldberg says. “Reflection is the final component in a service-learing course, helping students understand and appreciate the value they’ve added to society. Service learning should be empowering.” “In a political science course, I would assign a term paper that nobody would read except me. With service learning, it allows class assignments to have real-world impact,” he adds. “This gets students more connected in the communities many grew up in, and it ensures that USC Upstate is a valuable resource for our neighbors.” Other service-learning courses place students in assisted living facilities where they help residents chronicle their lives while learning about the aging process, at the humane society where they try their hands at animal training and at the University Center in Greenville where nursing students run a Whole Teen Health Fair.

Service with a purpose Misty Dillard wanted to put her Spanish major to use in her last semester, and Chandler Galloway wanted some real-life experience with her accounting major. Galloway, who graduates this May, used skills she acquired in the classroom to prepare tax returns for low-income families. One woman was overwhelmed by the size of the tax refund she learned she was getting. “Seeing her emotion after we helped her was overwhelming for us, too,” Galloway says.

Misty Dillard & Chandler Galloway

VOL. 26, NO.8  17

According to Clif Flynn, interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement, it’s all part of a larger effort to maximize the impact of outside-the-classroom education. “When we say service learning, we want to partner with community agencies in a way that doesn’t merely promote volunteerism or internships for our students but actually creates high-impact experiences,” says Flynn. The power of touch

At an given school there may only be one or two students who are severely visually impaired, but statewide the number is close to 600. Upstate’s master’s program in special education for working with the visually impaired is working to ensure that a pipeline of professionally trained teachers will be there for all of them. “One of the goals we have for our graduate students is that they learn to write 20 words a minute in Braille over the course of a semester,” said Tina Herzberg, Upstate’s director of graduate education programs. “We work with the S.C. Department of Education to train all teachers in the Unified English Braille Code, so we get to work with K-12 teachers and students.” The master’s program started the Braille Challenge in 2009 to assess Braille skills of visually impaired students from across the state. The event, held in February at the state Commission for the Blind, provides a venue for students to meet one another and improve their Braille-reading. “To be able to read books is a huge asset for anyone who is visually impaired, especially younger students,” Herzberg says.

That’s what professional development looks like at the USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center, where law enforcement and those involved in child protection and advocacy participate in lifelike training sessions. “We go to a mock house and investigate a case in real time with role playing by actors,” says Jennifer Parker, director of Upstate’s Center for Child Advocacy Studies and program director for the Child Protection Training Center. “We spend another day working the case, interrogating witnesses, and by the third day, they present the case in a mock courtroom — and get a lot of feedback on how they did.” Child neglect and sexual abuse are on the rise, and Upstate’s new training center, located in the George D. Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics, is giving professionals the training they need. The 1,000-square-foot house, built with donations from Women Giving in Spartanburg, is used as a mock crime scene with clues scattered throughout the living areas. Participants hone their observation skills by combing through the kitchen, den and bedrooms in search of evidence that might confirm suspicions of abuse or neglect. “The Duke Endowment has funded the center to offer four training sessions this year, but we anticipate offering sessions much more frequently based on significant interest expressed by law enforcement and child protection agencies,” Parker says. USC Upstate began offering a minor in child advocacy in 2010, which has become one of the institution’s most popular undergraduate minors. Parker has been a psychology professor at Upstate since 2001 and became interested in child abuse prevention while working with juvenile delinquents and seeing the link between juvenile delinquency and abuse. “We need more undergraduates trained in how to detect and respond to child maltreatment, and I think this minor — and the center — are key to that need,” Parker says.

Mock trial, real drama The courtroom is hushed as a recorded 911 call is played back, the angst evident in the caller’s voice. First responders testify about a child abuse case, providing graphic details to a sordid story of neglect and physical harm.

Jennifer Parker

ENDNOTES Safety is a priority at USC, and we all do our part. Don’t believe us? Look around your building for a bit. We did — and we came back with the following examples of our collective interest in reducing workplace risk. How many of these warning signs look familiar to you? How many make you laugh out loud or scratch your head? (SPOILER ALERT: answer key at bottom of page.)










6 McNair Aerospace Center 7 New law school 8 Thomas Cooper Library 9 Coker Life Sciences 1 McKissick 2 Swearingen Engineering Center 3 McMaster College 4 Discovery 5 South Caroliniana Library

Profile for University of South Carolina

USC Times February 2016  

A publication for faculty, staff and friends of the University of South Carolina.

USC Times February 2016  

A publication for faculty, staff and friends of the University of South Carolina.

Profile for uofsc

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