The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM) honored Mr. Randall M. La Cross by renaming its Distinguished Research Leadership Award after him during the School’s 32nd Annual Research Colloquium. The award will now be known as the Randall M. La Cross Distinguished Research Leadership Award beginning this year.
Randall M. La Cross has been an integral part of GSSM since 1998. He became the Vice-President for Outreach & Research in 2005 and Senior Vice-President for Virtual & Outreach in 2021. Prior to joining GSSM, Mr. La Cross taught high school science in Darlington County and coached football and girls’ track and field. He has also taught science in Kershaw County and science education at Francis Marion University. Mr. La Cross received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from Francis Marion University. He is the 2008 recipient of the Lawrence S. Swails Outstanding Alumni Award from the Biology Department at Francis Marion University for outstanding contributions to STEM education.
Without the leadership and significant contributions of Mr. La Cross over many years, the student research & inquiry experience would not be available to all GSSM residential program students. Mr. La Cross worked with GSSM research partners to expand opportunities to keep pace with the GSSM student body’s growth from a starting point of 60 student placements to as many as 150 each summer.
Under his leadership, GSSM’s student research & inquiry program not only expanded in size but also in reach to include national opportunities, such as GSSM’s ongoing partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Beaver Works Summer Institute and international research in China, Germany, and South Korea through the Research Experience Scholars Program. Mr. La Cross has also been a valuable partner for the GSSM Foundation as they raise funds to support student research & inquiry and outreach experiences.
Dr. John Morse – Clemson University Professor Emeritus of Entomology, inaugural Distinguished Research Leadership Award honoree, and research mentor from 1991-2014 – stated, “I consider the privilege of working with Randy a singular honor and a highlight of my career. He did an amazing job to improve the national stature and expand the number of notable and dedicated mentors for the GSSM’s Summer Program for Research Interns, even as the school doubled in size. My congratulations and best wishes for you, Randy, as you are appropriately honored in this special way.”
GSSM’s Outreach programming reaches several thousand South Carolina students every year through camps, after-school programs, classroom visits, and teacher training. During the summer of 2020, Mr. La Cross led the Outreach team in pivoting to highly successful remote learning experiences when the COVID- 19 pandemic made in-person camps improbable. For many students, these programs are their first contact with the opportunity that a GSSM education provides.
GSSM selected Mr. La Cross to receive the Distinguished Research Leadership Award prior to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the student projects presented by the Class of 2021 at the GSSM Annual Research Colloquium were only possible due to the strength of the relationships Mr. La Cross nurtured between GSSM and South Carolina’s research institutions.
The Randall M. La Cross Distinguished Research Leadership Award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to the success of GSSM student research & inquiry experiences through years of service to the transformative potential of engaging students in the rigorous processes of research & inquiry. Through Mr. La Cross’s leadership, the ability to connect students with research mentors has grown with the expansion of GSSM’s student population. Students gained opportunities to conduct research internationally, and GSSM built relationships with research partners to provide sustained access to these experiences to all students.