Amiridis reflects on first months as USC’s president. What’s next for the university?

Amiridis reflects on first months as USC’s president. What’s next for the university?

Michael Amiridis recalls running the horseshoe decades ago as a chemical engineering professor at the University of South Carolina with his wife Ero and children Aspasia and Dimitri.

He never imagined that one day he would call it home.

“And yet here I am,” said Amiridis. “It’s hard to believe … I’m humbled.”

It has been nearly seven months since Amiridis, 60, became the 30th president of South Carolina’s flagship institution in July 2022. Amiridis is a former USC professor, department head, dean, vice president, and provost. He was unanimously elected President by the Board of Trustees last year.

The university recently celebrated its new leadership with an investiture ceremony.

“It makes you think,” said Amiridis. “I can’t help but think about when I first came here.”

Amiridis said that being USC president is his “calling.” And it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. Without a passion for higher education, Amiridis said, it wouldn’t work. It is his passion that guides him. As a first-generation college student, Amiridis’ mission is to provide South Carolina students with an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams.

“I owe everything I’ve done in my life to public education, and especially public higher education,” Amiridis said. “That’s what drives me.”

Amiridis spent the fall semester building relationships, listening, and getting to know Carolina again after years away from school.

Hearing student concerns like mental health, college counseling and parking is insightful, Amiridis said, and raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour for full-time employees at USC is a win. The creation of five new research institutes to encourage interdisciplinary projects and the creation of a new certification program that allows students to branch out from their majors have been highlights for Amiridis.

Cheering for Gamecock football in the student section was a favorite memory.

What’s next for the President?

Building an environment of trust and collaboration and maintaining the vital aspect of a supportive community on campus will be a priority, Amiridis said. Prioritizing student perspectives and shared governance. Without them, a university can become dysfunctional.

“That’s why I’m here,” said Amiridis.

The student body has grown since Amiridis left the university in 2015 to become Chancellor of the University of Illinois Chicago, increasing from 32,970 to 35,590 in 2022. Its goal is to have a new and updated infrastructure like Russell House and a modernized curriculum to better serve their personal, academic and professional needs.

Amiridis is excited about the potential of the University’s forthcoming Health Sciences campus on Bull Street and hopes to create other majors such as Industrial Design.

And Amiridis wants to see growth in the Midlands — new jobs, new opportunities, new residents — comparable to the expansion of Charleston and Greenville. He sees USC as a key aspect of that future growth as South Carolina attracts more manufacturing and economic development.

“Part of our mission is to drive economic development (and) create the kind of jobs needed to keep our students,” Amiridis said.

Amiridis also acknowledges his responsibility for restoring public confidence in higher education, which he says has eroded in recent years.

To rebuild that trust, Amiridis said, USC must be willing to innovate its teaching and research and maintain access and affordability.

“I’m excited,” said Amiridis. “It’s too early to announce a win on anything, but I’m pleased we’re making progress.”

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