South Carolina State University has entered into a partnership with St Hugh’s College of Oxford University in England.

Through the pilot Summer Chemistry Exchange Program, five S.C. State chemistry students will travel to Oxford to study at the institution’s Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory.

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This unique collaboration between St Hugh’s College and S.C. State, with a sponsorship by attorney and CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, is Oxford’s first with a historically black college. Additionally, the partnership is St Hugh’s first with a college in South Carolina.

“Consistent with our new initiative of ‘Transformation Through Collaboration,’ this effort represents the very nature of what is possible now and what will occur more in the future with S.C. State and its partners,” S.C. State President James E. Clark said. “I could not be more proud of the faculty, staff, student partners and supporters who made this special collaboration possible. We look forward to such collaborations in the future.”

The students who will blaze the trail at Oxford are: Ciondi Bess, a junior from Hartsville; Demetria Dorsey, a junior from Syracuse, N.Y.; Nurunnahar Abdussalam, a senior from Washington, D.C.; Michael Isley, a senior from Fort Mill and Alston Jenkins, a junior from Charlotte.

Originally founded in 1886 as a college for disadvantaged women, St Hugh’s College is now a “vibrant, co-educational establishment, which remains very proud of its radical tradition and beginnings,” according to the college’s website.

The Summer Exchange Program’s launch was ignited by S.C. State chemistry professor and Oxford alumna Dr. Rahina Mahtab after a conversation with a St Hugh’s College representative.

In March of 2017, Mahtab was having lunch in Columbia with Bruce M. Lawrence Jr., executive director of International Advancement at St Hugh's College, when he asked if there was any way he could assist her.

“I asked him, ‘Could you please arrange a summer research opportunity at Oxford University for our students?’ I am very thankful to Mr. Lawrence for taking this request seriously and making it happen,” Mahtab said.

“Oxford University is my alma mater and St Hugh's College was my college. I am very happy that I could help create this opportunity for our chemistry majors in a university that offers some of the best education in the world. This program introduces our students to Oxford’s academic and social traditions, while providing inspiration and excellence that will help fortify their path to achieving greatness in the globalized society we live in,” she said.

Mahtab also expressed gratitude on behalf of S.C. State to Sellers for sponsoring the students for the program.

“I could not be more proud of the students from South Carolina State University who are traveling to Oxford to continue their education,” Sellers said. “It is an honor of mine to be able to provide funding for these students to pursue their dreams.

“I believe students in rural South Carolina should be provided the same opportunities as those in urban areas and I look forward to continuing these efforts in the future.”

Dr. Stuart J. Conway, Oxford organic chemistry professor, and Mahtab have spent several weeks preparing the students for the program. Conway will lead research training at St Hugh’s, along with other Oxford chemistry professors.

The five students, chosen for their academic excellence and passion for contributing to the field of chemistry, will reside in the residence halls at St Hugh’s College and have the chance to explore England, both on their own and during scheduled field trips. The inaugural program will extend from Monday, June 25 to Friday, August 10.

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