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Passing it on: Emily Wallace encourages the next generation of underrepresented students

 

Nov. 20, 2015 - Emily and Jack Wallace of Cary NC. Endowing a scholarship for underserved students in stem fields being interviewed at Riggs Hall

Emily Wallace ’72 has been breaking down barriers and cutting new paths since she was a student at Clemson, and now she is helping the next generation follow in her footsteps. Wallace and her husband, Jack, have established an endowed scholarship through the College of Engineering and Science. The scholarship targets groups who are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math.

“As a manager in technology, it’s hard to find women in technical backgrounds,” Wallace says. “But it’s not just women. It can be hard to find men, too. I’m trying to encourage more students in technical backgrounds.”

Wallace serves as senior director of the Knowledge Management Center at SAS, a software development company based out of Cary, North Carolina, that employs 15,000 worldwide. Emily and Jack Wallace were among the first 100 employees when they began working at the company 34 years ago.

The husband-and-wife team returned to campus in November for Legacy Day and to see the Tigers play Wake Forest in the last home football game of the season. Their itinerary included a meeting with Serita Acker, the program director for Women In Science and Engineering (WISE). The program offers support to female engineering and science majors, ranging from mentoring and networking to test banks and tutoring.

“I’m a strong believer in the WISE program,” Wallace says. “I love Serita. I wish we had the program when I was here.”

While at Clemson, Wallace became the first female director of the student radio station, WSBF. As a female math major, she was in a distinct minority. The experience helped prepare her for what was to come. “It gave me a lot of independence,” she says. “Being among a minority of female students helped me develop a thicker skin and to deal with people who did not see my viewpoint.”

Tigers football head coach Dabo Swinney and his wife, Kathleen, helped inspire the Wallaces to give back. “I was so impressed with what they are doing for the community and academic programs, it made me feel like I should do more,” Emily says.

While on campus, the Wallaces also toured the Watt Family Innovation Center, a state-of-the-art building designed to link students and industry. “I was blown away,” Emily says. “I want to come back as a student.”

 

Comporium Inc. partners with Watt Family Innovation Center

The Watt Family Innovation Center

The Watt Family Innovation Center

An innovative South Carolina-based telecommunications company is partnering with the new Watt Family Innovation Center to transform student lives and campus academics. Comporium Inc. has pledged $3 million in financial support and in-kind products and services to the Watt Center and will be a Founding Innovation Partner in the new facility that fosters collaborative research activities, product use and demonstration, and philanthropic support.

“It is wonderful to have another South Carolina-based company on board as a Founding Innovation Partner for this incredible facility,” said President Clements. “Comporium is a world-class leader in telecommunications, and I am grateful for their support.”

Headquartered in Rock Hill, Comporium Inc. is a diversified telecommunications company that embraces innovation to provide voice, video, data, wireless and security products and services. Clemson’s faculty, staff and students historically have collaborated and partnered with Comporium in academic and research areas related to a wide spectrum of interest and business operations. This new relationship centers on a multi-faceted engagement that includes philanthropic support of students, faculty, equipment and operations in the new center.

“Comporium sees a great value in educating students in real-world collaboration to take a technologically advanced idea to the development of a practical application,” said Comporium President and CEO Bryant Barnes ’76. “We believe that the center’s role in fostering entrepreneurship and leadership with an emphasis in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) will serve the citizens of South Carolina. The Watt Center enables the connectivity of the Technology Incubator at Knowledge Park in Rock Hill and others to this network.”

Charles Watt, executive director of the Watt Center, said, “We are excited that Comporium has joined our elite level of Founding Innovation Partners. It is an outstanding family-owned company with corporate operations in Rock Hill.

“Since its original chartering in 1894, it has embraced delivery of innovative products and services that are provided in its telephones, data centers and connected security systems. The company has received numerous national, state, county and local awards for excellence in the telecommunications industry and for its contributions to academic and community activities in South Carolina.”

The Comporium gift is part of the $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign.

For more about the Watt Family Innovation Center, see the feature story in this CW Spring 2016.

Mentoring on a Mission: Serita Acker M ’99

Environmental portrait of Serita Acker in the Fluor Daniel Building. Also a group photo with her WISE mentors.

Environmental portrait of Serita Acker in the Fluor Daniel Building. Also a group photo with her WISE mentors.

Mentoring others, especially those who may not realize their potential, has been a lifelong passion for Serita Acker. Those who know her weren’t surprised that she received the 2015 Calder D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award at the 11th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards dinner. The dinner is hosted by the Richard W. Riley Institute® of Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University and the Greenville Chamber, with support from other Upstate chambers. The event recognizes those who have shown leadership in promoting diversity in the Upstate. Acker was nominated by colleagues but was completely surprised by the honor.

“It was such a great honor to receive it. Calder recently passed, and this award is in his honor and the work he has done. It was very exciting for me. It was such a complete surprise,” said Acker.

Acker is in her 16th year as director of Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, which provides support and resources for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Additionally, Acker oversees WISE-sponsored camps and programs to introduce elementary, middle school and high school girls to careers in STEM.

Acker’s outreach in the community is not limited to helping young women. She has worked with the University’s Staff Development Program that trains staff members for professional and personal growth. She has also served as a board member for the Rape Crisis Center to develop initiatives that assist survivors.

In addition, Acker was named one of 10 U.S. individuals selected as a mentor for the 2014-2016 MentorLinks cohort, a program of the American Association of Community Colleges and National Science Foundation that advances technological education. She travels to Texas State Technical College to assist the school in programs that encourage and support Latina women in automotive technology. Acker was also honored by Women of Color magazine with the 2014 College-Level Promotion of Education award. Acker said her Clemson studies were the perfect preparation.

“My Clemson degree in human resource development has done exactly what it was supposed to do. The degree is about training people and helping them develop. My Clemson experience as a student has helped me as a staff member. I love that my journey has been ‘in these hills’ and preparing students for great careers.”
Recently Acker received certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator, where she’ll focus on educating people about STEM career opportunities.

“I like to be that person who bridges the gap between the community and the University,” Acker said. “I want to educate people, encourage people and help them fulfill their dreams.”

Zucker Family Graduate Education Center to bring engineering education to Charleston

Laura Zucker, Anita Zucker and President Clements in front of Jonathan Zucker at the ground breaking.

Laura Zucker, Anita Zucker and President Clements in front of Jonathan Zucker at the ground breaking.

It wasn’t your typical groundbreaking, but Jonathan Zucker certainly broke ground with a giant black and yellow excavator, marking the official beginning of construction of the $21.5-million Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston.

Located at the Clemson University Restoration Institute on the site of the former naval shipyard, the approximately 70,000- square-foot center will offer master’s and Ph.D. degrees in engineering when its doors open in 2016. The center is expected to grow to accommodate approximately 200 students, filling a critical need for engineers for corporations such as Duke Energy, where 60 percent of its engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years.

President Clements joined Anita, Jonathan and Laura Zucker for the ceremony that was attended by more than 75 Charleston County School District middle school STEM students. As Clements spoke to the students through a bullhorn while standing next to the excavator, he said, “Here we have the Hunley submarine in the Warren Lasch Conservation Center — that focuses on our past. Over there we have the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center — that deals with the present. And today we break ground on the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, and that’s all about the future.”

Upon completion, the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center will serve as the academic anchor in the CURI applied technology park. In addition to students and faculty, office space in the center will be leased to industry looking to engage with faculty, students and researchers.

Long-time Clemson supporters, Anita Zucker and Jonathan Zucker helped fund the center that will bear their family’s name. Anita Zucker explained why she wanted to help make this center possible. “I’m passionate about STEM. I’m passionate about education. And I’m passionate about our region and what’s happening here,” she said. “For years our business community has complained that we don’t have enough graduate-level courses in engineering. Well, I feel like that call will finally be answered with this new center.”

The Zucker family gift is part of the $1 billion Will to Lead for Clemson campaign.

Q&A: Catherine Mobley

CW: What do you enjoy most about your job? Or what’s the most satisfying thing about your job?

Mobley: There’s so much that I enjoy about my career, but perhaps my favorite part is that I am constantly learning something new. No day is ever the same as I am continually challenged to apply sociology in new ways in a diversity of contexts – in the classroom, in my research, both within the field and across other fields in my interdisciplinary research. I especially enjoy engaging in interdisciplinary research and teaching. While I have engaged in independent research, I have had the opportunity to engage in empirical research with colleagues from other discipline across campuss. According to Ernest Boyer’s definition of the “scholarship of integration,” interdisciplinary research consists of making connections across disciplines in order to advance understanding of complex scientific questions and social issues. Indeed, the “lone ranger” concept is rarely effective for investigating the issues that are central to my research efforts. Funding agencies are increasingly recognizing the value of interdisciplinary research and teaching. These efforts also support the recent call on the part of my college and university to increase interdisciplinary research. These research collaborations are beneficial and interesting to me both personally and professionally. I enjoy working with my colleagues to develop and implement creative approaches to challenges that would not otherwise emerge if I was working in isolation. Indeed, I am finding that the most innovative research often emerges at the interface of disciplines. Across campus, I think I am known to be a reliable collaborator who makes substantial contributions to projects and adds value to research teams through my expertise in sociological theory and methods. Together, we have applied for multiple research grants and co-authored research presentations and manuscripts. I have truly enjoyed these experiences!

CW: How do you balance teaching and research?

Mobley: I view both as inevitably intertwined with one another. For example, as I work on my research I am always seeking opportunities to enrich my teaching. And, students often raise questions in the classroom that inspire my research.

CW: Give me a brief description of your research. What piqued your interest in that area (s)?

Mobley: At the current time, my two main areas of research are in the area of environmental sustainability and engineering education. The two topics often overlap with one another, depending on the particular research effort. I have long been personally interested in environmental issues and feel lucky to be able to pursue my personal interests through the lens of the sociological perspective. I’ve been able to explore a vast variety of topics related to environmental sustainability, including human behavior as it pertains to water quality and water quantity, college student perceptions of environmental issues, the influence of formative experiences on the development of environmental concern, and public perception of a variety of sustainability related topics. For the past decade or so, I have been involved with an extensive research project related to engineering education, the MIDFIELD project. This project, headed up by Matt Ohland (formerly at Clemson University and now at Purdue University) involves a study of the academic experiences and pathways of engineering majors from 12 institutions. One part of the research team analyzes a longitudinal database of over a million student records from the 12 MIDFIELD institutions. I have been involved in the qualitative portion of the project, investigating a variety of research questions through focus groups and interviews with engineering transfer students. The most recent qualitative project focused on engineering transfer students and in Fall 2014, my colleagues and I received a NSF grant to investigate the experiences of student veterans at four institutions (University of San Diego, Clemson University, Purdue University, North Carolina State University). I also collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines, such as hydrogeology, to learn more about engineering education.

CW: What does this award mean to you…being chosen by your peers?

Mobley: I am so honored to be receiving this award, especially knowing it is coming from my peers. I’ve been walking by the Carillon Bell monument for nearly 20 years now, in awe of the people whose names are inscribed there. It means so much to me, especially knowing there were so many qualified candidates for the award. Recently, I was talking to a recipient of the Class of ’39 award and learned that one of the purposes of the award is to inspire faculty to do their bes,t and to go above and beyond expectations. This recognition has definitely inspired me! Little did I know when I was attending Clemson University in the early 1980’s that I’d be here 30 years later, pursuing the career of my dreams!