Community Engagement @ Upstate

Extending higher education beyond our campus

At USC Upstate, we seek to extend higher education beyond our campus as we live, grow and serve in our local and regional communities. As only 25% of South Carolina residences have completed education beyond the Associate degree, this is an ongoing need, We seek symbiotic and reciprocal relationships with community partners in both for-profit and non-profit sectors. We bring the advanced research and skills of our faculty and students into the community to help meet needs identified by Upstate organizations that you could not otherwise fulfill with your current resources.

Please contact us if you have research projects or other public programs you would like to develop in conjunction with our faculty and staff. Here are some examples of current partnerships and models for future programs and projects we could develop with you.

Continuing Education

In addition to our outstanding for-credit course offerings, USC Upstate provides high-quality not-for-credit courses that meet demands in our community. Currently ongoing offerings include a wide variety of programming around Child Advocacy, Crime Analysis, Innovation Professional, and Professional Spanish Interpreting in Educational Settings. Talk with us about your needs. We are ready to create seminars, trainings, continuing education, and certification programs in a wide array of disciplines to meet demand for academic, professional development, and personal enrichment needs in our communities. Delivery can be in our classrooms, at your location, online, or in a hybrid that suits your needs.

Continuing Education programs will be fee-based or contract-based, commensurate with the length and desired program outcomes.



Graphic Arts faculty supervise The STUDIO a student-run graphic design agency offering high-quality graphic design services and solutions to nonprofit organizations and small businesses for whom working with professional graphic design companies is out of reach. The STUDIO team, with offices in the Greenhouse Business Incubator in downtown Spartanburg, is trained in professional, client-centered design practices. Jobs range from logo design to brochures, public relations campaigns, and annual reports.

The cost of services from the Studio is negotiable and depends on a wide variety of factors.


Students who are preparing to transition from the academic to the professional world can be great assets for your organization. They are eager to work, motivated by their intrinsic desire to do a good job and to enculturate themselves into their future career fields, and not simply to get a good recommendation.. In most cases, they also have a faculty member supporting them and evaluating their progress together with you.  

Although students prefer to be compensated for their contributions, many will accept project-based internships for academic credit alone.

Service Learning and Volunteer Services

USC Upstate seeks to cultivate strong reciprocal relationships between USC Upstate faculty, students and community organizations. Students building advanced skills in community health promotion, quality assurance, interpreting and translation, public relations, Web design, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Non-Profit Studies, Criminal Justice, Sociology, Child Advocacy and many other fields apply their developing skills under the leadership of a course instructor or student organization faculty advisor. To maximize our scope and effect, both for our students and for our community, we take a three-pronged approach: Service Learning, Service Engagement, and Volunteering. All of these provide opportunities for awareness-raising about your organization and the community needs you address.

Service Learning seeks deeply reciprocal relationships between faculty and community partners. Our goal here is for students to deeply explore community needs and issues through the lens of a university course. Students engage in 15-30 hours of service are expected where service contributes integrally to student learning objectives. Students' may engage in direct or indirect service, research for a cause, or through advocacy on behalf of others. Contact the director.

Current & historical examples include:

  • Environmental Communication (SPCH U347):
    Student research on eco-friendliness of local restaurants.
  • Introduction to Non-Literary Translation (SPAN 311):
    Professional level translation of materials for local non-profit organizations.
  • Literacy III: Addressing Reading & Writing Problems (EDRE U444): 
    Creating personalized on-level, age-appropriate reading materials.
  • Marketing Communications (MTKG 352):
    Custom marketing plans with presentation for community organizations.
  • Methods in ESOL (ENSL 353):
    Teaching/tutoring non-native speakers of English.
  • Microbiology (BIOL 330):
    Germ awareness presentation in elementary classroom.

Service Engagement seeks to expose students to community needs through an academic lens. Under this model, students take a class that connects to need in our community and serve in the community 4-14 hours. Here, you work with a course instructor to set expectations for training, time spent, etc. Our goal is to lead students to make connections between their coursework and our community. Service Engagement often involves direct or indirect engagement, or research for a cause. Contact the director.

Current and historical examples include: 

  • Archival Research and Digital Humanities (ENGL 345)
    Creation of a public library digital exhibition to share and celebrate the "Video Village" oral histories of Spartanburg's Highland neighborhood produced by White Elephant Enterprises.
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology (PSYC 311)
    Serving with and on behalf of community organizations as we study individual and group behaviors within the world of work. 
  • Introduction to German Translation (GERM 398)
    Translation of archival artefacts (POW letters, Hitler Youth letters, propaganda materials, etc) for inclusion in the South Carolina Digital Library. 
  • Principles of Micro and Macroeconomics (ECON 221, 222)
    Collection and examination of Cost of Living Index data from various sources in collaboration with the Economic Futures Group at the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Volunteering focuses on meeting needs in the community with minimal commitment on either side. List your volunteer opportunity on our internal system, you set expectations for training, time spent, etc. Many times this happens through clubs, Greek life, and athletics, but we are also happy to publicize your willingness to host volunteers on an individual basis. Volunteering most typically involves direct engagement. Contact the director.

Current and historical examples include:

  • Alternative Spring Break Trips
    Local and distant service to communities over the course of a week or weekend. These breaks are orchestrated by students with supervision from our Student Life team
  • IMPACT Student Leadership Team
    Student-run service projects, including Saturdays of Service, canned food drives, and coordinating our campus Angel Tree each Christmas season
  • Greek Life
    Students engage in projects related to their charters and participate in fundraising activities. Our most service-active Greek organizations volunteer an average of 25 hours and solicit and average of nearly $100 per member
  • Athletics
    Student athletes regularly serve with their teams on projects from working with Boys and Girls clubs to cheering on the athletes of the Carolina Miracle League.
  • Individual students
    Many students choose to serve on their own, Some are altruistically motivated. Others may have aspire to medical schools or seek to enhance their resumes as they do good work in our community

Engagement Approaches*

Acting on behalf of a cause or concern to promote action on an issue of public interest


  • Conduct a hunger-awareness campaigns
  • Draft legislation that helps or protects the community
  • Lobby on behalf of a community issue
  • Conduct nonpartisan voter registration drives
  • Organize a nonpartisan letter writing campaign for a social issue
  • Perform a play on replacing bullying with respect
  • Create a video on sustainable water solutions
  • Engage in digital storytelling, marketing, social media, etc. on behalf of an oraganization or group


Collecting, synthesizing, and/or analyzing information and reporting to a communtiy audience


  • Conducting environmental surveys
  • Contributing to a study of animal migration
  • Conducting energy audits in public buildings
  • Testing water to assist with restoration efforts
  • Conduct research to protect endangered species
  • Conducting social research by interviewing people on social topics (homelessness, unemployment, or isolation) and sharing their stories in oral histories, digital storytelling, etc.  


Service that benefits the community without direct contact


  • Plan drug, violence, or disease prevention programs
  • Redesign a non-profit organization's website
  • Nurting tree seedlings for planting
  • Participate in urban renewal projects such as mural or house painting
  • Build low-income housing
  • Fundraise with direct interaction with a nonprofit beneficiary
  • Demystifying (organizing, analyzing, and explaining) data for a nonprofit organization
  • Create brochures, flyers, posters, or annual reports for a nonprofit organization


Engages students in person-to-person contact with those in need


  • Cook/serve/deliver food for the homebound or homeless
  • Interact with live-in facility residents
  • Developing a community garden
  • Serve in a health clinic 
  • Teach English as a second language
  • Tutor, mentor, or coach youth
  • Translate or interpret to enhance cross-cultural communication
  • Serve in a shelter for the homeless

* Adapted from  University of Minnesota's Center for Engaged Learning
a hunger-awareness