“Clemson is gaining national recognition as an innovative university that is ‘back on offense’ with groundbreaking programs to help students, support workforce development and spur economic prosperity.”

I will always remember the second half of the year 2012 as a time when Clemson waved our big, orange flag on a large, national stage.

We were ranked in the top 25 among national public universities for the fifth consecutive year, had a well-attended Clemson Club meeting in the heart of New York City, were named “The South’s Best Tailgate” by Southern Living magazine, and made it onto a national list of 13 “surprisingly hot schools.”

More importantly, Clemson is gaining national recognition as an innovative university that is “back on offense” with groundbreaking programs to help students, support workforce development and spur economic prosperity.

Getting the word out

I was privileged to be among a handful of college presidents invited to meet with top editors at The Chronicle of Higher Education and, later, NBC News and its education division.

These conversations led to three stories in The Chronicle, one about our innovative new University Professional Internship-Cooperative education program. More than 100 students this year are in paid, on-campus internships, gaining valuable work experience and helping us “run the university machine.” By 2015 we expect to be able to offer 500 such opportunities.

I was also invited to represent Clemson as speaker on a panel discussion of “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University” held in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Department of Commerce and the White House. I told them about the robust and successful approach to public-private partnerships at places like the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).

Finally, two days before this column wrapped, I participated in a by-invitationonly dinner for a small group of university presidents to meet with national media representatives, again in New York City. It resulted immediately in Clemson being quoted in a national story on the potential negative effects of federal spending sequestration if our nation’s leaders cannot work together to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff.

Time for offense

By the time you read this, I hope we have avoided fiscal suicide and are in a position, as a nation, to nourish the economic recovery that is under way. If so, I believe it would be time for our entire state, like Clemson, to get “back on offense.”

Unlike some states, South Carolina took strong measures early in the recession, and did not fall into the trap of spending one-time federal stimulus money on permanent expenses. Although tough decisions were made in Columbia and Clemson, our state is positioned to move into the future with a determination to start investing again in higher education.

When we have done that in the past, it has paid off.

The Palmetto Fellows and LIFE Scholarship programs have reversed the brain drain, enabling thousands of top students to remain in South Carolina to study, live and work.

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