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Golden Girl: Brianna Rollins ’13


One, two, three — jump. One, two, three — jump. With a fierce face and a breakneck pace, former Clemson track standout Brianna Rollins lunged across the finish line. A time of 12.48 seconds earned Rollins a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August. Right behind her were USA teammates Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin in second and third place. “It was awesome feeling to have to my teammates up there on the podium alongside me. We made history and I couldn’t have been happier to share it with Nia and Kristi. Kristi and I train together, and Nia is a really good friend of mine. It just goes to show you that if women can come together as one we can accomplish something huge.”

After catching their breath, the women draped their bodies in three American flags and jumped for joy for the cameras and the television crowds back home. It was the first time three American women claimed all three medals in a track and field event in the Olympics.

Rollins isn’t new to claiming victories. In 2011 and 2013 she was the NCAA indoor champion in the 60-meter hurdles, the 2014 NCAA outdoor champion in the 100-meter hurdles, and the 2013 IAAF world champion in the 100-meter hurdles while still a student at Clemson. But it wasn’t until her time at Clemson that she realized she could compete at an elite level. Rollins didn’t begin competing in the sport until she was in high school in her hometown of Miami. In 2012, as a sophomore at Clemson, she made the Olympic Trials. In the next months she earned a win at the NACAC Under-23 championships. From there she blossomed into the runner she is today.

“At the 2012 Olympic trials is when I realized I could compete on the professional level. I had the second fastest time coming back in the finals at the trials. I finished sixth in the finals but seeing that I was competing with the professional and running so close gave me the hope I needed,” she said. “Training as an elite-level athlete is a blessing; it comes with a lot of hard work, sacrifices, commitment, and focus but it is all worth it when the reward is being an Olympic champion and an inspiration to those who look up to me.”

Rollins is the second female from Clemson to win a gold in track and field and the first Clemson athlete to win an individual Olympic gold medal since 2004. Kim Graham won a medal as a member of the 4×100- meter relay team in 1996 and Shaw Crawford won the 200-meter dash in 2004. Nine athletes from Clemson have gone on to win Olympic gold.

Rollins is currently training for the next 2017 World Championships in London and hopes defend her title in Tokyo in the 2020 Olympics.

 

Fast feet stay in the game: Fabio Tambosi ’02

Fabio Tambosi spent his childhood with a soccer ball rolling at his feet. Soccer came naturally to him, and he moved from playing in the streets of Brazil to playing in the youth academy of a professional club in São Paulo.

It was here that Tambosi received his first pair of cleats — two freshly worn Nike Tiempos from Zé Roberto, a living soccer legend. “I was walking out of the locker room after practice and [Zé Roberto] said, ‘Hey shorty, what’re you doing? Do you want some shoes?’” Tambosi said. “That pair lasted me another two years.”

These days, Tambosi isn’t bumming cleats off the most famous players in the world — he’s partnering with world-class athletes to sell them. As the director of global football brand marketing at Nike, Tambosi is a leading voice for an iconic brand.

It’s a dream job, but he took a long journey to attain it. Early on, Tambosi played forward for the men’s soccer team at Clemson where he helped the team to an ACC Tournament championship in 2001. “The atmosphere at this school, it’s contagious,” Tambosi said. “You get there, and on a weekend when there are a lot of sports happening, you get a real sense of the community. You have the sense of being part of a family.”

Tambosi hasn’t left that family behind, despite his success. He stays involved as a board member at the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, where he helps students develop advertising and marketing skills. “There’s nothing better than being recognized by my alma mater and going back and giving back what Clemson has given to me,” Tambosi said.

Tambosi wants students to understand that it isn’t possible to fulfill one’s dreams without risking failure. He knows this to be true because he has risked it all. In 2012 he was working a stable, well-paying job in London for Nokia. But, Tambosi wasn’t satisfied — he had other ideas. “I wanted to go back to sports, and I wanted to have a role in the World Cup in Brazil. And I wanted to work for Nike,” Tambosi said.

So, he quit Nokia, and left for Brazil in January 2013. While he had no job offer on the table, he told everyone he was going to work at Nike. Once in Brazil, he spent his time networking with Nike employees, which eventually helped land him a job as Nike brand manager for the 2014 World Cup. “Growing up playing football at a very high level in Brazil, it was a dream to play in the World Cup,” Tambosi said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do it as a player. But I had the opportunity to live the World Cup, to impact the World Cup, personally, in Brazil through my job.”

When the World Cup ended, Tambosi stayed on with Nike. Now Tambosi can stay in touch with the game he loves, the game for which he has crossed borders and risked professional failure. That passion, that commitment, is something he wants to impart to Clemson students and young people everywhere. “Know where you want to go,” Tambosi said. “Don’t be afraid to fail, and follow your dream.”

— Glenn Bertram ’18

Media moguls in training: J. Seldric Blocker ’01

While looking for internships at Clemson, Seldric Blocker was plucked for a program with First Union. But not for banking or financial needs; it was human resources. Now he’s the director of campus recruiting, shaping paths for future generations of network newsies and entertainment execs as the director of NBCUniversal’s talent acquisition campus programs, Campus2Career.

Each year he fields more than 42,000 applications for about 2,000 spring, summer and fall internships. In the last three years he’s managed more than 5,500 interns, including 300 added to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Part of Blocker’s job has entailed streamlining the Campus2Career program so there is a standard NBCUniversal experience at each campus they visit, and across all internships and all markets, including their London and Singapore programs. “Flawless execution” is how Blocker defines it. “We want them to have a great experience, even if they decide this isn’t what they want to do long term,” he said. “We want them to leave more curious than when they came in. We want them to have fun.”

Lessons he learned from his own academic and career experience very much inform how he mentors others. He encourages those that come through his office to take advantage of study abroad, be more ambitious and take more risks. One of the ways Blocker and his team allow interns to have fun and take ownership of their internship is through NBCUniversal storytelling. “The students are digital natives, and we encourage them to craft and tell the NBCUniversal story through a multifaceted approach, whether that’s Snapchat or some other social platform. They have their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening next and are brand ambassadors for future generations of interns.”

Blocker is also focused on building diversity across NBCUniversal’s platforms. “We are looking for people who have demonstrated their leadership on campus. We employ a wide variety of majors and backgrounds. They don’t just have to have a passion for media and the entertainment industry. We want to know what you can take from your background and bring to the table to help us tell a more well-rounded story,” said Blocker.

Even after hanging strong in the financial sector through the economic downturn of 2008, Blocker said navigating the media industry at first was a new, interesting beast. “It was tough at first. In the media you have a lot of creative people who have a competitive edge, and you’re managing a first-impression for a major media brand,” said Blocker. Blocker said the experience at NBCUniversal has taught him to meet people where they are, and that being relatable is a skillset that transcends any workplace environment. “[Clemson’s] academic environment did a good job of fostering a sense of responsibility and ownership and made me feel like I belong,” he said. “I want to give others that sense of feeling like they belong, too.”

First-aid kindness: Johannes Huber

Student safety first. It’s a call answered by Clemson Fire and EMS every day, but it was a group of students who first wanted safety ensured.

In the late 1970s Johannes Huber was part of the core group that formed an EMS club on campus. Through training from the Pickens County EMS, Huber and his friends aided students with everything from helping when a Homecoming float turned over and injured a dozen people to providing aid to heart attack victims. “We were really taken in by the student body,” said Huber.

Within a year, they were already seeking funds for an ambulance to have proper transportation for runs. Within Huber’s three years at Clemson, his team was completing up to 150 runs a year, with the backup of Clemson’s fire department.

Huber’s interest in medicine and helping people goes back to his childhood in Germany, when he would bandage local bikers. “Medicine was always my gift,” he said. Grades though, not so much.

A letter from a pen pal from Pennsylvania mentioned Clemson University. Knowing he needed to improve his grades to get into medical school, Huber thought studying abroad would be good for him. So to the hills of South Carolina he went. “It’s just this beautiful town in the countryside with rolling hills and open to an orange and white heaven,” he said with a laugh.

Twice a week he wrote home. Once a month he’d call so his family could hear his voice at $10 a minute. But as an older biochemistry student at age 21, he was looking for more than football games and fraternities to fill his time. “Implementing something new gives you so much energy,” said Huber.“I couldn’t go home on weekends, so I stayed and learned [medicine] through experience.” Huber finally did get into medical school in Germany and returned home for training in general, plastic and microscopy surgery. Now he oversees a staff of about 25 nurses and clocks more than 70 hours a week.

“I’ve been back [to Clemson] several times. … It’s always a homecoming for me,” he said. “I’m just amazed at all the construction, and that spirit is still ever present.” On every return trip he drops by the Clemson Fire and EMS. “College life offers you an opportunity for friendship, and I was very fortunate to be in a position to do that.”

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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