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Care via canine: Taylor Stathes ’13


Taylor Stathes needs her patient, 7-year-old Cadence Corbett, to be a captive audience in the hospital MRI waiting room. Tablet in hand, Stathes previews Cadence’s journey to a machine that can be intimidating even to adults. Cadence looks hopeful when Stathes tells her about the movie goggles she can wear during the three-hour scan, and her anxiety is replaced with joy when Stathes puts the goggles on Vivi, Stathes’ coworker and one of Greenville Health System’s therapy dogs.

From the moment Cadence arrives in the waiting room, Vivi is by her side. While learning about the MRI, Cadence’s hands never leave Vivi’s head or belly. Vivi is Stathes’ not-so-secret weapon, an atomic calm bomb. “I’ve taken a back seat to this girl,” Stathes said. “She lights up every room we walk into, she keeps kids calm, and even the toughest doctors and nurses in the building melt in her presence.”

Stathes is modest; she’d rather give Vivi credit than speak of the education and experience that got her where she is today. Clemson was her only destination from as far back as she can remember. She fell in love with the campus and the people, but she didn’t know what major would work for her. She just knew she wanted to work with kids, so she grabbed a course catalog and searched for what would apply.

Stathes had never heard of recreational therapy, but it fit the bill. What she found were supportive faculty members, an innovative approach to education and a program that combined everything she was passionate about. She said the department was especially flexible with her high-pressure schedule as a Clemson cheerleader for multiple sports. Stathes was a collegiate athlete, but she never took her eye off what she would be equipped to do after graduation.

“Recreational therapy taught me to look at the whole picture of a patient, to be able to consider their physical and emotional health,” Stathes said. “The program turned me on to child life and defined my career.”

Stathes went on to earn a master’s degree in child life from the University of La Verne in California. She said she was lucky to find work at GHS and even luckier to discover pet therapy programs and their potential benefits.

Stathes, along with other child life employees, quickly secured approvals and donations to get a more intensive, animal assisted therapy program off the ground to complement GHS’ existing pet therapy programs. She contacted Canine Assistants, the non-profit organization that trained and provided two therapy dogs to GHS and paired Vivitar — Vivi for short — with Stathes. Canine Assistants makes the pairing based on the personality of dog and potential handler, but it didn’t take long for Stathes to realize why Vivi was the dog for her. “She’s never met a stranger, she’s always smiling, she wears Clemson orange on Fridays and she’s always accessorizing,” Stathes said, laughing. “At least I hope that’s why they paired us up.” At first, Stathes was skeptical of the bond-based training that Canine Assistants employs. Rather than structure training around commands or obedience, the organization pairs the right dog with the right person and creates a bond so that the dog is willing to do things without the need for a command. Vivi can assist doctors in distracting and holding down patients who require a needle poke.

As in the case with Cadence, she can be there to calm while Stathes delivers information. Luckily, there are no tears during Cadence’s visit, but she’s no fan of MRIs. When Cadence’s mother, Reanna Corbett, asks about the length of the MRI, Cadence freezes for a moment. However, the look of concern disappears from Cadence’s face almost as quickly as it arrives because Vivi is goading her for more attention. Later, Corbett happily reports that the planned sedation for Cadence wasn’t even required despite three spinal scans and a brain scan. “Taylor made my daughter feel like a star, and she somehow explained everything while making it fun,” Corbett said. “The only things she would talk about the rest of the day were Taylor and Vivi.”

 

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Best in Show: Christine Tedesco ’82, ’85, M ’90

Christine Tedesco_022For Christine Tedesco art and life all bleed into one. Art is life. Life is art.

Nothing is an imitation. Each building she’s designed as an architect with a team is just as much a piece of her as a quilt she’s created alone for the couch at home.

Her creative pursuits led to a “Best in Show” at the Anderson Arts Center 41st Juried Arts Show this past spring for a quilt named “Beige #1.” It was one of more than 500 entries in the show. She’s also shown pieces at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., the Ogden Museum in New Orleans and Art Fields in Lake City.

“I think the first thing I made was an apron,” said Tedesco. She began sewing when she was age nine, and as she grew, the instructions from her mother grew from stitches to life lessons on careers.

“My mother was very adamant that I had to major in something I could do so I didn’t have to depend on a man,” said Tedesco. Her love of making things led to a career as an architect, where she now leads at RSCT architecture + design.

But she didn’t leave behind her personal creative time just because she was being artistic at her day job. Instead she wanted to challenge herself to be innovative. At age 29 she took sewing to the next level and began quilting. “I wanted to try something more difficult,” she said. She also took a tailoring class and tackled making a man’s suit.

Even graduate school was taken as a confrontation to defy daily life. “I just came to the conclusion, there’s got to be more to life than this. My mind was cut open and things were poured in. I had such a great time. It was probably one of the biggest challenges of my life, but my desire to learn was different.”

Like many artists or creative types, Tedesco is driven by desire. “I get an idea in my head and it doesn’t leave until I figure out what I’m going to do. I never use a pattern.” Even her use of color isn’t conventional as she doesn’t follow traditional color relationships, but instead gut reaction to the ways a red or an orange can paint a purple or a blue a different hue. “I don’t follow patterns because colors inform me in a way what to do with them.”

In “Beige #1,” the piece wasn’t about color at all, but instead about the relationships of the seams and how they intersect. “I just started mapping lines and free form — it’s a lot less color,” she said.

Tedesco said she tries to be disciplined about her work. Each piece takes about 40 to 80 hours. A bedroom in her Pendleton home serves as a studio.

Unlike her work office, which has clean lines and barely a trace of a paper trail from the day’s work, her studio showcases years of ideas. Quilting books stacked about 4-feet tall stand by the door. Scraps of a current orange, beige and black piece are pinned tall and high on the wall.

“When you make a piece of art, it’s a solitary activity. … That’s why I create art. It allows me to do something alone.”

Military career begins, ends on same stage: Jimmy Mullinax ’94

 

April 29, 2016 - Jimmy Mullinax Professor of Military Leadership Lieutenant Colonel - Retirement Ceremony in Honor of LTC Jimmy Mulling, US Army Held in Tillman Hall auditorium

April 29, 2016 – Jimmy Mullinax Professor of Military Leadership Lieutenant Colonel – Retirement Ceremony in Honor of LTC Jimmy Mulling, US Army Held in Tillman Hall auditorium

An extraordinary U.S. Army career came to an end this spring as Lt. Col. Jimmy Mullinax, commander of Clemson University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, retired on the same stage where he was commissioned 21 years earlier.

Army officers do not get to choose their assignments, so getting orders to come back to Clemson was a highly unusual but serendipitous twist in Mullinax’s career.

“How do you get to go back to your alma mater?” he asked during his retirement ceremony. “I only have one answer for that: God brought me back here. Because it wasn’t my doing, and it couldn’t have been the Army because it made no sense. It was orchestrated for me to come back, and I’m blessed to be here.”

Retired Col. Eric Schwartz, who was assistant professor of military science for Clemson’s ROTC in the early 90s, returned to help retire the young officer he had mentored more than two decades before and recalled the instantly recognizable potential of the young cadet he knew. “I wanted to tell stories about little Jimmy Mullinax when he was a cadet in the Army ROTC program, and I was his instructor. I wanted to tell you stories about Jimmy getting lost in the woods, or showing up late for physical training, or losing his weapon, or [being] afraid to rappel of a cliff — but I got nothing,” said Schwartz. “From the moment he stepped out on the parade fields of Clemson he was a beautiful young man to serve with. Everything about him represented what we believed were the core values of being a good soldier, a good leader and a good American.”

Mullinax graduated from Clemson in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the quartermaster branch (supply and logistics support), detailed to the Air Defense Artillery Branch. He earned a Master of Military Studies from the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. He went on to hold numerous positions of leadership in quartermaster and logistic elements, including two tours of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, culminating in an assignment to Fort Knox, Kentucky, prior to returning to Clemson.

Mullinax said it was a blessing to return to Clemson in a military capacity, because the school has such a rich military history and goes out of its way to support its ROTC program. He returned to the theme of being blessed throughout his remarks, emphasizing a point made at many Army retirements; he only got through the last 21 years because of his faith and his family. He noted that he and his wife, Angie, moved their family to nine different duty stations together over the course of his career.

He closed by addressing all the people who had taken the time to be there for this seminal moment in his life. “I started this saying I was blessed. I hope you can truly see why I’m blessed. It’s not about me. It’s about you and what you’ve done in my life. You’ve given me the best life I could ever dream of. Continue to support our military men and women.”

A shore thing: Sarah Strickland ’12

 

Sarah Strickland8Teamwork and adaptability learned at Clemson served Sarah Strickland well abroad and back home. Critical skills such as communication and resourcefulness have helped Strickland from every job as a nurse in the ICU step-down unit, to working on a ship in Madagascar, to now working in an emergency room.

But it was working abroad that brought all the lessons from Clemson to the forefront. Knowing she was wrapping up the first few years of her career in Clemson, Lexington native Sarah Strickland began looking for adventures in nursing. She found one in Mercy Ships, an international faith-based organization with a mission to increase health care throughout the world. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has delivered services to more than 2.54 million people.

From November 2015 to February 2016, Strickland lived on Africa Mercy which was docked in Madagascar, and worked alongside surgeons in facial tumor removal and cleft lip and palate reconstruction. The ship, which began service in 2007, offers an 82-bed ward.

Strickland learned about the mission opportunity from one of her co-workers who lived in Africa for a while. And after multiple short-term mission trips as a high school student, Strickland wasn’t afraid of tackling a challenge overseas. “I prayed about it for a few weeks and ended up applying at the end of the summer,” she said.

The timing meant she wouldn’t be on an early 2015 trip, but would be considered for an early 2016 team. But life in South Carolina didn’t prep Strickland for everything. “I’d never done much with pediatrics or facial patients,” said Strickland. “And most conditions would have been treated long before they got to the point we were seeing. I worked in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and a step-down unit, but for the most part, working in Madagascar was completely different from anything I had ever done, which was the situation for most of my co-workers, so it was a learning curve for everybody.”

What Clemson and her training had prepped her for was being adaptable. “Clemson definitely teaches you how to think critically. When we were over there we didn’t have access to as many resources as we have over here. … We had to rely on a lot more of our judgment. Clemson just also really encourages a teamwork approach to nursing. Over there I really experienced the need to rely on my co-workers as teammates even more so than working here.”

Clemson tiger paw temporary tattoos, stickers and flags also helped Strickland bring one of her loves to her patients. “There was 14-year-old kid who had a tumor. The day he had it removed was the day of the National Championship game. So I put [tiger paws] on a bunch of the kids, including him. The first time he got to look at the back of his head without the tumor, he had a tiger paw on his cheek.”

“Seeing the look on his face when he got to see that just reminded me [Clemson] is what brought me here, and it just all came together,” she said.”

Gambles are a safe bet: Jason ’00 and Hesha Nesbitt ’00, M ’01 Gamble

 

Gamble_012Ensuring the health, safety and well being of others via the roads you drive or the buildings you enter isn’t just a day job for Jason and Hesha Nesbitt Gamble, but a desire they’ve each pursued since teenagers. The couple are stand-out licensed professional engineers who found their route to Clemson by way of high school internships, which also set into motion a path to each other.

As an exam development engineer for National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) in Seneca, Jason is one of only five people in the country commissioned with managing the creation of 25 national licensing exams that examinees take to become licensed in 17 different engineering disciplines. Jason is tasked with managing four of those 25 exams. Hesha serves as county engineer for Greenville where she oversees 77 employees as well as the engineering and maintenance of all county roads, approximately 1,760 miles serving 450,000 residents.

“We take that job very seriously,” said Hesha. “If there’s a problem, we need to fix it. Greenville is my community so of course I want the best for my community.”

“I’ve never had a job that didn’t affect people in some way,” chimed in Jason. “What I do now at NCEES affects the future of the profession and affects what (engineering) is going to be for the next generation.”

Even beyond technical skills, the pair says honing soft skills like communication and public speaking prepares their teams to execute a project efficiently. “You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t effectively communicate or explain something, you’re not going to be successful,” said Jason. “It’s about knowing how to interact with people. I’ve worked with Ph.D.’s to someone with only a third-grade education, but we all had to work together in order to get a job done.”

Those so-called “soft skills” were picked up in Clemson classrooms, where the two met each other through study groups for upper-level undergraduate courses. The couple praise their time at Clemson for making them effective engineers today. They especially credit the PEER program for many of their successes.

“We bring engineers and experts from all over the country to do a job, and to be able to relate to each of them individually and not just professionally, just to be able to hold a conversation, Clemson was where I learned to do that,” said Jason. “I have no doubt it makes me better at my job to be able to relate to people and just work with them regardless of where they’re from.” Jason and Hesha, despite their busy careers, find the time to be “All In” raising their five-year-old son, Justus.

Business meets cultural impact: Kerry Murphy ’91, M ’92

 

Kerry Murphy_020aWith a $6.3 million economic impact on the Greenville community, Artisphere is the annual arts and culture fair that’s served as a signature event since 2005. As executive director, D.C.-area native Kerry Murphy is the face behind making sure the event goes smoothly. “I have a real passion for Greenville,” she said. “Working for Artisphere makes me feel ensconced in the community.”

Last year the arts and culture event received a record 1,090 applications for 135 booths. The event also boasts being one of Top 20 events for the Southeastern Tourism Society 2016, one of 2015’s Best Art Fairs as voted by artfaircalendar.com and one of 2016’s Top 10 Fine Art Shows according to Art Fair Sourcebook.

Murphy said her undergraduate and MBA work at Clemson, as well as the network she’s made over the past 20 years, have allowed her to bring a balanced perspective to the event. She always works to maintain classic favorites people expect, but she also wants to be on the edge of trends and broadening Greenville’s acceptance of new artists and mediums.

“I just have such a sense of pride. To be able to contribute to [the art scene] and know what our team does has an impact just means a tremendous amount,” she said.

Murphy said although she’s structured and methodical, she wants the event to reflect the lively, energetic and colorful personalities of not only herself and her team, but also the vibe of Greenville. “I love attention to detail. You’ll find lots of little things in Artisphere that from a user perspective can have a big impact,” she said.

Even though the event is only in May, Greenville visitors can create a “mini-Artisphere” experience just by taking a trip through downtown, Murphy said. “Just visit a local restaurant or take a walk through the open studios in the fall,” she said. “There is a good mix of stuff for every level of interest.”

Murphy was lured to the upstate after she saw a glossy Clemson brochure a friend had during their senior year of high school. “I went to the career center and looked it up — I want to say ‘Googled’ it, but I’m not even sure what we did before Google,” laughed Murphy. “I kind of always knew I wanted to go away to college. … When I saw Tillman [Hall] and Bowman [Field] I knew immediately this is where I was going to go. It had a warmth about it.”

As a member of the Student Alumni Council, she saw first-hand how influential a Clemson network could be even though she hadn’t settled on a career path. “We were celebrating the 100th anniversary [of the University] and traveling to different clubs, and I went to Florence. That experience is where I had the ‘a-ha’ moment about the power of the alumni network. People who didn’t know me were offering to assist me. Just their willingness to help you out because of a shared affection for an alma mater was just powerful.” Murphy makes sure to pay that forward through her work in Artisphere and as a sorority adviser.

“Nonprofit work can be very rewarding. I would, as a tip, suggest to students an internship. It was more rare when I was a student, but start internships as soon as freshman year,” she said. “Interns at a nonprofit really become part of the team, and working as an intern means you get to know the board of directors and make connections even before you’re out of school.”

Baseball’s been very good to him: Brian DeWine ’02

Brian DeWine

From an early age, Brian DeWine was destined to be in baseball. The Ohio native and 2002 Clemson University marketing graduate ate, slept and breathed baseball growing up near Cincinnati, home of the Reds. “Our family dinner conversations centered around baseball. It was such a part of our lives, and attending Reds games, which were 60 minutes from home, was something my brothers and sisters and I did regularly.”

After the DeWine family sold its Ohio-based international seed business, they ventured into baseball, purchasing the minor league Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in 2010. Stepping in as president and a co-owner was a natural move for Brian, now in his sixth year at the helm of the Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

“It was a dream come true,” said DeWine, who is the only family member with an active role in the ball club. “The game is in our blood, and we take great pride in creating a family-friendly atmosphere that helps improve the quality of life in our community.”

As president of the team, DeWine is responsible for everything but the players, which falls on the major league club. So, providing a facility (McCormick Field) for them to play in and putting fans in the seats are his primary business responsibilities.

“One of the biggest changes we’ve made is in the atmosphere of fans’ experiences at McCormick Field. We started Saturday games earlier for families with younger children, added eat-free nights for very young fans, jersey nights and other promotions, but also significantly improved the quality and variety of food,” said DeWine.

His Clemson education helps him every day on the job, DeWine said. “It was really a plus getting a marketing degree that had an emphasis in sports, yet it took me through business school. Basic econ and accounting have really helped me in understanding our accountant’s language and reports.”

As for the future, DeWine said this is his dream job, and he doesn’t see an end date. “I’m doing what I love, and as we look to the future, it will be all about improving the fan experience. There’s a lot of competition for our audience’s free time, and we have to make every one of their visits unforgettable.”

Impacting Others: Laneika Mattress Musalini M ’11

Laneika Musalini

Laneika Musalini has committed her life to transforming the lives of others through servant leadership.

In 2009, Musalini founded the nonprofit organization, Women’s Empowerment Inc., which has positively affected over 1,400 women since its inception. The program aims to empower women through support, education and networking; additionally, it promotes the well-being of women and encourages positive female role models in communities. Musalini also serves with Accept. Inspire. Minister., and Young Professionals of Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce.

“If I can change the life of one person, if I can make a difference in the world, if my works lead another to grace, my life is not in vain,” Musalini said.

A graduate of Clemson’s Human Resource Development master’s program, Musalini also works full time as director of grants at Tri-County Technical College. There, she strategizes proposal development, seeks out funding opportunities and creates industry partnerships.

“I have worked and collaborated with some really great people who share the same goal I do: building the workforce and strengthening the economy,” Musalini said.

Musalini’s hometown of Anderson has taken notice of her, too. This past summer, she received the ATHENA Young Professional Award®. This accolade honors an upcoming leader committed to achieving personal and professional accomplishments, devoting efforts to community and serving as a role model for young women.

“I have come to realize that my life is not about me, but about the impact that I have on others,” says Musalini.

Musalini and her husband, Wadud, live in Anderson with her four children, one of whom entered Clemson fall 2015 as a Gates Millennium Scholar.

“My family is so much fun! We are Tiger fanatics and have no bias. As long as it is a Tiger sport, we are cheering!”

Connecting fans, rivals and brands: Meredith L. Starkey ’99

A portrait of Meredith Starkey in Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 26, 2014. Photo by Ackerman + Gruber

A portrait of Meredith Starkey in Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 26, 2014. Photo by Ackerman + Gruber

During her undergraduate years at Clemson, Meredith Starkey couldn’t escape sports — not that she wanted to. She didn’t simply attend athletic events, she owned them — dancing in the east endzone with the Rally Cats and tossing orange T-shirts to fans in Littlejohn Coliseum. Whenever she wasn’t on the field, she excelled in her marketing courses interacting with Clemson’s athletic sponsors.

Now, 15 years later, Starkey has channeled her passion for competition into a career with one of the largest wireless companies in the nation. As T-Mobile’s director of sponsorships, entertainment and events, Starkey seeks out sponsorship and event marketing opportunities to spread the company’s core message. Although she’s no longer on the sidelines in Death Valley, she’s still at the heart of crowd engagement.

Today, inside Memorial Stadium, more and more fans spend time staring at their smartphone screens. But this doesn’t necessarily take away from the spectator experience. With just a tap of a thumb, fans can generate photos, videos and social media posts to share with friends, family and rivals who couldn’t be at the event.

It’s Starkey’s responsibility to capture the attention of these fans and paint T-Mobile as the choice carrier for sharing these moments. It’s not easy competing against larger wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T, with big names and bigger budgets. But, Starkey rises to the challenge, employing the creative perspective she gained while firing up fans at Clemson.

After a year of negotiating contracts and unraveling legal tape, Starkey closed on a huge sponsorship deal that gave T-Mobile exclusive Major League Baseball rights. During the World Series in Minneapolis, Starkey and the T-Mobile team set up in-stadium ads encouraging fans to record and submit videos of themselves singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” from their smartphones. Then, they showed the video mash-up during the “seventh-inning stretch.”

As Clemson’s former Rally Cat captain leads the charge to strengthen T-Mobile’s brand messaging, she will also make the game-day experience more universal — one snap, share and selfie at a time.

Southern hospitality in Southern California: Karen Mohr Sunshine M ’94

Oct. 2, 2015 - PRTM alum Karen Sunshine in the Development Office on campus. Ms Sunshine was on campus to share her work on running the Rose Bowl Parade and Rose Bowl games.
The first day of the year is a particularly special day in Pasadena. For more than a century, floats constructed of rainbow rose petals and other natural materials have been paraded through the streets in celebration of New Year’s Day. Last year alone, 28 million Americans tuned in to ESPN’s coverage of the Rose Bowl game — the Rose Parade’s grand finale.

Behind the scenes and on the sidelines, yet seemingly at the center of it all, you’ll find Clemson alumna Karen Sunshine — special events manager for Disney, founder of her own event planning company and full-time mom to three kids and a pup named Pawley.

Although Sunshine grew up in Southern California, she credits her bright career in the hospitality industry to the Southern hospitality she experienced at Clemson.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Sunshine applied to volunteer for the Tournament of Roses — it was perfect opportunity for a new grad (and avid football fan) to get started in the event business.

But her application was denied.

In the wake of rejection, Clemson’s Death Valley became a spontaneous destination. While flipping through the game program in Memorial Stadium, Sunshine saw an advertisement for the University’s parks, recreation and tourism management graduate degree.

“The rest is history,” she said.

Despite the stress of coordinating high-caliber events, she finds reward in giving others an unforgettable experience — and sharing those stories. During Clemson’s Homecoming week, Sunshine traveled to Clemson to share her career experiences and offer advice to current students.

“When you put on an event, you should always walk away with a jewel of a story,” she said.

In her 20-year career, Sunshine has more than a few gems — from riding on the team bus with the MLB champions to zip lining above the rainforest at a tropical Disney resort. And it’s all part of the job description.

“I get to do things for work that I wouldn’t normally get to do,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had all this fun if it weren’t for Clemson.”