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Marilyn-Thompson

Working with words: Marilyn Walser Thompson ’74

Marilyn Walser Thompson is no stranger to breaking news. From being the first reporter who revealed the existence of Strom Thurmond’s biracial daughter in 2003, to editing reporters’ pieces that went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes, Thompson’s background with the major news players led her to being named a Joan Shorenstein fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

As one of eight annual recipients, she’ll research where tax dollars head when taxpayers donate money to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

“It’s highly relevant because of the 2016 race. I’m looking at the financing for presidents put in place after the 1970s,” she said. “The pace of modern campaigning — and to be in an ultra competitive race – means this fund is no longer relevant [to candidates.] No one wants to use it because you have to agree to restrictions.”

Thompson’s fellowship and reporting will look into how candidates who have used the fund spent the money and if the fund should still exist.

“It’s an exciting challenge — and a frightening challenge — moving back into writing because I’m an editor, and I work on other people’s stories. Generating all the information through reporting, it’s a different skillset,” she said. “It’s a great step in anyone’s career to take a step back and say, ‘Can I do that?’ ‘Will I provide anything useful people want to read?’”

Thompson’s reportage started in The Tiger newsroom where she began by selling advertising before jumping to reporter and eventually becoming the managing editor.

“It was the ’70s and The Tiger was this scrappy, liberal, anti-war publication,” she said. “I was this meek little freshman. I was so happy to be at college because I didn’t think I would get to go. I remember vividly being really dressed up — in a dress and heels — and it was like nine flights of stairs to the top of the horrible dorm to get to The Tiger meeting. I get up there in my prissy dress and heels and it’s like a hippy haven. I looked like an idiot because I thought I actually had to dress up!”

Once she kicked the heels and changed her major to English, Thompson settled into the newsroom atmosphere for life. Her career has taken her from local coverage at The Greenville News to national politics with The Washington Post, Reuters and Politico.

“I do look at things differently than most people,” she said about her career. “That probably goes back to my childhood and the influence of my father — the counter-intuitive Archie Bunker type. He didn’t trust anything or anybody.”

Thompson’s fellowship research will be out this May, as well as featured in future Politico publishing.

New video series puts discussion ‘On the Table’ and in your pocket

Clemson has launched a new video series that puts experts on your screen when and where you want them. “On the Table,” a public policy series from ClemsonTV, tackles such tough subjects as concussions in sports, the role of technology in our lives and health screening disparities, providing in-depth discussion from leading researchers and scholars who are members of the Clemson faculty.

“We wanted to put topics on the table, figuratively and literally, with something very visual to represent the topic,” says ClemsonTV director Jacob Barker. “The web is flooded with how-to videos, but there is very little to offer in the way of substantive discussion. We wanted to combine expert information with the flexibility of on-demand viewing.”

Each episode is hosted by Peter Kent, a career journalist and former science writer at Clemson. The first three episodes are available now, with several more in production.

In episode one, “Protecting Against Concussions,” Greg Batt, an assistant professor in food, nutrition and packaging, and John DesJardins, an associate professor in bioengineering, explain their work with the national Head Health Initiative on three challenges: finding better tools for doctors to detect brain injury; creating new ways to monitor head impacts as they happen; and developing improved, energy-absorbing and energy-reducing materials.

The second episode, “To Trust or Not To Trust,” features Richard Pak, an associate professor in psychology and his research on the relationship between humans and the technology that makes hundreds of hidden decisions in our lives every day. The outcomes can be beneficial, such as self-driving cars that improve highway safety and driving efficiency. Sometimes, however, they can be detrimental. Are we trusting technology enough or too much?

In episode three, “Witness Breast Cancer Awareness,” Rachel Mayo, a professor in public health sciences, talks about the power of a personal experience that led her to launch the South Carolina Witness Project, part of the National Witness Project. The effort, a network of survivors and community-based organizations, aims to eliminate the disparity of breast and cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths: Black women are more likely to have mammograms, but much more likely to die of breast cancer. Mayo’s research shows that how information is presented makes a difference.

Yet another episode looks at Wade Foster.

Wade Foster was 13 when he helped to build a university he could never attend. His children could never attend. His grandchildren could never attend. Foster was a criminal; a black boy caught stealing six dollars worth of clothes from a white family. Sentenced to six months in prison, South Carolina gave Foster to Clemson University to serve his sentence as convict labor. South Carolina called convict labor “slaves of the state.”

Rhondda Thomas, associate professor of African American Literature at Clemson, sheds light on the slaves who labored to build the institution and why it’s necessary to paint the full picture of a school’s history.

Thomas joined the university in 2007 and teaches African American literature in the English department. She is the author of “Exodus: A Cultural History of Afro-Atlantic Identity, 1774-1903 and the editor of Jane Edna Hunter’s autobiography, “A Nickel and a Prayer.” In 2013, she co-edited “The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought” with Clemson professor of English Susanna Ashton.

Last year she received a grant for her research about African Americans who lived and labored on Clemson land during the pre-1963 integration period. James E. Bostic Jr. and Edith H. Bostic of Atlanta awarded Thomas $50,000. That gift was matched by the university, bringing the total grant to $100,000.

Leadership Circle Brunch

Leadership circleMembers of the Leadership Circle came together on Saturday, January 16, in Greenville at a brunch of celebration and appreciation. The Leadership Circle was created in 2009, and since that time 7.6 million in unrestricted dollars have been given to the University administration to address critical needs and opportunities. President Clements addressed the members, as did two students, April Seiler and Jarret Miller, who expressed their appreciation for how these gifts have made a difference in their educations and their lives.

Clemson at the State House

CUatStathouseClemson alumni and friends turned the State House orange on March 1 for “Clemson at the State House.”

For information about how you can be a member of the Clemson Advocates Program, a grassroots volunteer advocacy group that seeks to engage, inform and encourage alumni and friends to communicate with members of the South Carolina General Assembly and other elected officials regarding issues of importance to Clemson and higher education, go to clemson.edu/alumni and click on “Get Involved.”

View a gallery of photos from the day.

 

Clemson Celebrates 100 Years of ROTC

Clemson University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps celebrated the ROTC’s 100th anniversary on Bowman Field. The ceremony named two outstanding former Army cadets – retired Lt. Gen. Gene Blackwell and retired Col. Ben Skardon – to the Clemson ROTC Hall of Fame. Former outstanding cadets were also named patrons to each training unit. Each patron’s story was read, and there was be a mini “museum” of artifacts from the university’s Special Collections on display. The ceremony was streamed live online on ClemsonTV.

“I am proud to be part of a university with such a strong military heritage,” said Max Allen, Clemson’s chief of staff and a retired U.S. Navy officer. “As a product of the Navy ROTC, I can see that Clemson has outstanding Army and Air Force ROTC units, both of which do an excellent job of preparing young men and women for service as military officers. ROTC also plays an important role in campus life, helping keep Clemson’s military traditions alive.”

The Army ROTC, as it exists today, began with President Woodrow Wilson signing the National Defense Act of 1916. Although military training had been taking place in civilian colleges and universities as early as 1819, the National Defense Act brought this training under single, federally controlled entity. The Army ROTC produces more officers than any organization in the military, having commissioned more than half a million second lieutenants since its inception. “Army ROTC at Clemson has been an integral part of Clemson since ROTC began here in 1917, however,

Clemson has a much longer military heritage since its inception in 1889,” said Lt. Col. James Mullinax, a professor of military leadership and commander of its ROTC program. “Being a former military school, Clemson has embraced ROTC fully since we went to an all-volunteer force. The support Clemson provides cadets is unmatched across the nation,” he said. “Clemson not only provides scholarships, but also provides great visual reminders all over campus of the sacrifices our service members have made in defense of our nation. This support to the ROTC programs has made them stronger today than at any point in time and this shows in the quality of lieutenants Clemson is producing every year. Cadets are carrying on a great military tradition that Clemson was founded on.” Col. Christopher Mann, commander of Clemson’s Air Force ROTC detachment – the Flyin’ Tigers – said it has been part of Clemson since 1947, the year the U.S. Air Force became a separate and independent service. “Since that time, Clemson graduates have served their nation honorably and with total commitment to the Air Force core values of ‘Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.’” Clemson’s Air Force ROTC has had 22 general officers produced from its ranks over the past 68 years.

Pottery perfection: Brent Pafford M’14

BrentPaford1BrentPafford_StudioShotGrowing up exposed to heirlooms on his family farm in Rock Hill gave Brent Pafford an appreciation for creative work that holds multi-generational significance.

“The objects I create are made to be used, enjoyed and imbued with memories of shared experiences,” Pafford said.

Pafford produces under the studio name Brent Pafford Ceramics and recently qualified as a finalist in Martha Stewart’s American Made contest, which honors creative entrepreneurs for their contributions to their field.

His pieces are made with the pinching wheel-thrown method which “allows the porcelain to capture, preserve and document the process of making,” Pafford explained.

Pafford collaborated with fellow Clemson MFA graduate Adrienne Lichliter and Chef Lindsey Byrd to produce “Southern Intentions: Prints, Pots and Provisions,” a series of dining events. He crafted the dinnerware used for the meal and displayed other work in a gallery.

“When I get to see [my work] utilized in the lives of others, it has to be the most exciting part of my job,” said Pafford.

Pafford participates in the national and international ceramic community through social media, blogs and publications. He attends the Council on Education for Ceramic Arts each year, where he contributes to national discussions and exhibitions.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. Treading water doesn’t get you anywhere,” Pafford said.

To keep up with Pafford’s creative journey, go to his website at brentpafford.com.

Woodwalker excerpt, by Emily Benson Martin

WOODWALKER

PROLOGUE TO WOODWALKER

King Valien drummed his fingers on the rough table, the scars on his right hand shining pink against his copper skin.  Both he and the figure facing him were keeping their hoods up over their heads, and this extra covering coupled with the unsettling news he had just received were making his skin damp with sweat.  Before him, the only distinguishing characteristic the shadowed figure bore was a wrought silver band around one finger, set with a milky pearl.

“Are you sure?” the king pressed quietly.  The tavern buzzed with the ambient noise of townsfolk drinking away the day’s toils, but he could take no chances that he might be overheard.  If there hadn’t been a howling storm outside, he would have met his informant far out in the hills, away from sharp-eyed folk all too ready to report his surreptitious meeting back to his council.

“Positively,” replied his informant.  “I found them in Sunmarten.  All three.  Queen Mona Alastaire and her brothers.  My king, the royals of Lumen Lake are not dead as we assumed.  And it’s only a matter of time before our enemies find out as well.”

The king frowned, his fingers still restless.  This changed everything.  This threw every power in the eastern world into a startling unknown.  His own crown, so recently won, would be among the first to be affected.

“Well,” he said evenly, curling his fingers into a fist and staring at the hooded figure.  “We must do something about it.”

Read more about the Emily Benson Martin here.

Early Entrepreneur: Alex Skatell ’08

AlexSkatellBy age 10, Alex Skatell already had a knack for knowing his market. He convinced his dad to take him to Wal-Mart to buy 24-pack cubes of soda. From there he filled a rolling cooler with ice and the soda and went and sat on the smoldering hot corner near a halfway house and a golf course and just waited. The people came to him since he was selling soda for less than the local convenience store.

“I was doing so well that after a while [the convenience store] called the police on me. I was 10 or 11. I was really young. And they called the police on me to get me to move because they said I was taking their business,” Skatell laughed.

But he saw a need and anticipated it. Supply. Demand. Market-setting trends. He sees them.

Now, he’s anticipating the news, media and how stories will unfold and how people want to view, read, scroll or listen to their stories. Since his days on the corner, the construction science major has carried the same attitude into his ventures creating start-up Independent Journal Review and co-founding IMGE, a digital consulting firm. In the last year, Skatell was named to Forbes30 under 30” rising stars in media and was also named to Wired magazine’s “20 Tech Insiders Defining the 2016 Campaign.”

“I made a bet that I thought iPhones were going to change how we communicate with one another. … And I made a bet that Facebook … was going to change how news was distributed. So I didn’t just talk about it, I went about figuring out how this platform was going to do that and how could I best invest my time and energy into understanding this platform that would change how news was distributed,” he said.

This past fall Independent Journal Review played host to a Republican debate in New Hampshire along with ABC News by providing first-hand accounts from the candidates’ and viewers’ perspectives.

“So what our experience allowed to have happen was for everyone in America to have input in who’s up and who’s down during the debate. That’s what Americans are looking for in news. They expect the news not to tell them how to think, but show them what is happening and let them make their own decisions,” he said.

Skatell’s success looks like it happened overnight, but success and building two companies with 105 employees took a lot of rejection.

“Entrepreneurship is also just getting rejected and punched in the face nonstop. You really have to be a glutton for punishment,” he said. “You have a lot of people tell you no, and you have to make a lot of decisions that won’t go over well with a lot of people, but you know you have to be confident in your decisions and your vision. The barriers to entry for just anyone right now are so low. You don’t have to ask for permission.”

“I saw an opportunity,” he said. “There have been several times in my life where I’ve seen opportunities and I’ve leveraged just a very little amount of capital at my disposal and made big bets on whether or not those things would change an industry.”