GREENWOOD, S.C. — There’s something special about being able to do what you love, in a place that you love. Dr. Hope Epps Rivers didn’t have college president on her lists of goals but now that she’s accomplished it she can’t imagine working any where other than in the community that’s responsible for her being who she is today.
Born in the small Newberry County town of Whitmire, Rivers is the youngest of 11 children. She says that she remembers that her mother would always say her name in a way that made her realize that she had purpose and was destined for great things.
As a first-generation African American college student at the University of South Carolina, Rivers now uses her experiences to help develop and implement strategies that will lead to success for the students that she leads at Piedmont Technical College.
The college has campuses in seven rural counties across the state. Rivers has served in a number of roles that have prepared her to understand the inter-workings of the technical college system, with a focus on equipping students for well-paying and rewarding careers even if they don’t decide to transition to a four-year institution.
Rivers says, “The table is not closed. It is not designed for a certain type of person. It’s designed for everyone that is willing to put in the hard work. Hopefully, those are the people I am inspiring. I remember myself as a first generation college student coming on to campus.”
Rivers says she understands the awesome responsibility of being a college president and what it represents for young people. Rivers says when she was younger she didn’t have a lot of examples of what it looked like to accomplish the goals that she has. She says that led her to be incredibly hard on her safe during times when she should have offered herself more grace.
Rivers says that when discussions include more people with various backgrounds there’s a greater chance that everyone’s voice will be heard.
Rivers says that “at some point she has to transition”, but she has to make sure that she’s prepared the table for the next person to come a long and take their place there successfully.
She reflects on setbacks, and times when things didn’t quite go her way. She says that for everything that she’s accomplished she’s still a work in progress.