Research helps identify fake news

Marten Risius, Clemson University

Marten Risius is an assistant management professor who has done interesting research on how to tell the difference between fake news from real news on social media channels.

If you’re having difficulty discerning real from fake news on social media, you aren’t alone. Surveys suggest it’s a struggle for 75 percent of American adults.

Research by Christian Janze, a Ph.D. student from Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and Marten Risius, an associate professor of management at Clemson, may be of help. “A lot has been written and said about fake news since the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign,” Risius said. “Our explorative study investigates how to automatically identify fake news using information immediately apparent on social media platforms.”

The study examined more than 2,000 news article posts on Facebook from left, right and mainstream media outlets during the 2016 election campaign, as well as responses from the user community. Articles were fact-checked to determine fake from real. Researchers then used 230 samples of fake news and 230 of real news and applied variables to predict those that were fake, with an 80 percent success rate. They then trained the algorithm so it could correctly detect 90 percent of the 230 fake stories.

Risius said the word count, or using all caps, exclamation marks or question marks in a post, are strong predictors of a story being fake. A person being quoted is a pretty good indicator the story is real, while if a story is shared more often with strong emotional responses, the likelihood of it being fake increases.

According to Risius, the process they used to determine authenticity is fairly simple, and he wonders why a social media outlet with a multitude of data capabilities wouldn’t flag stories they know to be fake for their users.

“Though they have many resources to determine what is real and isn’t, they may be more inclined to prefer the community engagement and public attention rather than solve an issue over what is real or fake news on their platforms,” he said.

Clemson introduces teacher residency program 
to improve teacher, student outcomes

In November, Clemson’s College of Education introduced South Carolina’s first university-led teacher residency program. The program is centered around the college’s new combined degree option for undergraduate education students that replaces student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester with graduate education classes. The fifth year is comprised of a year-long teacher residency.

Teacher Residency BenefitsThe residency program, housed within the Eugene T. Moore School of Education, will see its graduates emerge after five years with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education as well as an extended, year-long student teaching experience. According to George J. Petersen, founding dean of the College of Education, this degree option better prepares teachers and aligns with the most successful efforts at educational reform to prepare and retain classroom-ready teachers.


“When it comes to reforming education, innovation is key,” Petersen said.“Research has shown that extending time in the classroom provides a more comprehensive foundation and inspires mastery and self-confidence. It also keeps budding teachers in their classrooms long after graduation.”

Petersen said numbers related to teacher attrition aren’t going to get better without an innovative approach. The negative effects of teacher shortfalls are only compounded by high teacher turnover, which causes problems for schools across the state. In addition to being expensive, it causes a loss of institutional knowledge, school capacity building and consistent teamwork among teachers across grade levels.

Whereas traditional student teaching provides a snapshot, teacher residencies give students the whole picture of teaching as a career. This is proven in other states with similar programs where teacher retention rose to as high as 90 percent over three years.

Cost to Replace a Teacher in SC is $18,000Petersen said the development of an Upstate pilot program is only the first step in a campaign he hopes to expand to the Lowcountry and across the state to reach areas hardest hit by teacher attrition and lacking student outcomes.

Jeff Marshall, chair of Clemson’s teaching and learning department, said college leadership and district representatives are hard at work fleshing out the master teacher selection process and the teacher resident-school district matching process. They also plan to develop an approach to research and ongoing evaluation of the program.

“The faculty and districts don’t want to just hope this will make a difference,” Marshall said. “We want to be able to measure this program’s impact with hard data that shows we’re making a positive impact on teachers and, more importantly, on students.”

Call Me MISTER Encourages Childhood Reading at Barbershops

Student Deakin Rencher teaches reading to Tydarius Cobb

Tydarius Cobb, 9, poses with Clemson University student Deavin Rencher, a sophomore studying special education and member of the Call Me MISTER program, at the Uptown Barbers barber shop in Central, S.C., after reading the book he’s holding as part of the Razor Readers program.

DeAvin Rencher is a fixture at Uptown Barbers in Central. But he’s not a customer or barber. He’s a special education major at Clemson and Call Me MISTER® student who works with kids through the Razor Readers program.

The Call Me MISTER program is sending its students to local barbershops each week to educate school children and their parents on the importance of reading early and often. These weekly sessions are the focus of Razor Readers, a program funded by the United Way of Pickens County that aims to increase children’s access to reading materials and individuals who can serve as educational role models.

Call Me MISTER works to increase the pool of available teachers from more diverse backgrounds, particularly among the lowest-performing elementary schools. The MISTERs play a key role in Razor Readers as role models, according to Amity Buckner, executive director of Pickens County First Steps. “When you realize that a MISTER may be the first African-American male these young learners meet who values education,” she said, “you realize the potential impact of this program.”

Rencher verified Buckner’s statement with his own experience. “I didn’t see an African-American male teacher until high school, and many of these young kids think it’s cool that I’m doing something positive through education.”

Children can read while waiting in line for haircuts or in their free time. Barbers have punch cards for each child that when filled qualify them for a free haircut. Before and during haircuts, MISTERs guide parents through early education tools that will help parents engage with their children and encourage reading at home and school.

“I like to talk to parents first to get their consent and also get them on board, and many of them have really gotten involved,” Rencher said. “We want to use every tool we can to get kids more engaged with reading, and coaching the parents to encourage it just increases the odds we’ll succeed.”

Smiley Garvin, owner and operator of Uptown Barbers, replaced an unused barber chair with a table and chairs for Rencher and the kids. He believes kids who come in and out of the shop are quicker to embrace reading in a setting that isn’t school, home or library.

Levi “T” Robinson owns D’s Diamond Cuts, another participating barbershop, in Easley. He has created flyers for the program that he distributed via local churches and has been thrilled to see kids returning to the shop not for another haircut, but for more books.

Call Me MISTER began at Clemson in 2000. Since then, the program has graduated 203 MISTERs who are now teaching in South Carolina schools and has expanded to include 19 other universities and technical colleges in South Carolina, as well as programs in eight additional states.

Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor inspires during Clemson visit

Sonia Sotomayor speaks at Clemson

When Sonia Sotomayor came to Clemson on Sept. 14, President Clements noted that it was the first time a sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court had spoken on campus.

But Justice Sotomayor made sure there was very little sitting. She moved through the packed house of more than 900 members of the University community, stopping several times to organize group photos as she candidly answered questions submitted in advance by students.

Vernon Burton, professor of history and director of the Clemson CyberInstitute, introduced Sotomayor as “not only my friend, but a true American hero.” The two have known each other since their days at Princeton University, where Sotomayor was once his research assistant.

Sotomayor spent an hour answering questions while weaving in personal anecdotes, inspiration and advice. Philosophy major Chiodera “ChiChi” Drayton-Smith asked Sotomayor what parts of her journey to becoming a Supreme Court justice were unexpected. Sotomayor responded that every turn was unexpected.

Sotomayor, who has served on the U.S. Supreme Court since 2009, grew up in public housing in the Bronx, New York. As a child, she never dreamed of being a lawyer or a judge, much less a Supreme Court justice. “To dream about something you don’t know is impossible,” she said.

Sotomayor went from the Bronx to Princeton, where she won the university’s highest academic honor. She attended law school at Yale and was editor of its law journal. After graduation, Sotomayor worked in the public and private sector, serving as an assistant district attorney in New York and was a partner at the law firm Pavia & Harcourt.

She was appointed to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, then served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit before President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2009.

Haley McKay, who is studying women’s leadership and communication and minoring in Spanish, wanted to know Sotomayor’s philosophy on leadership.

“Find the best in people, and appeal to that,” Sotomayor said. “Make people you are working with give you their best. Challenge them to be the best person they can be. Once you do that, they can rise to your expectations.”

Students were clearly taken by Sotomayor’s dynamic talk. “As a Latina, to see someone like me presented on this campus, that’s so important to see,” said Amanda Arroyo, a graduate student in the department of history. “It’s nice to see someone that’s made it so far,” she said.

Sotomayor closed her appearance by talking about the difference between law and justice. William Powell, a student in modern languages, had asked what young people should know about the field of law.

“Let me start with what the law is not. It’s not about moral justice,” Sotomayor said. “One person’s justice is another person’s injustice.” In her field, there must be a steadfast belief in the rule of law, and Sotomayor has faith in the system she’s chosen.

“We’re not God. As judges, you can’t ask us to play God,” she said. “Laws are made by people. They can be changed by people.”

Sotomayor’s visit was sponsored by the President’s Forum on Inclusive Excellence in partnership with the Humanities Advancement board of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

View the full event:

Students help island nation still recovering from devastating storm

A worker uses a net to scoop leaves out of a cistern that provides drinking water to about 5,000 residents in southern Dominica. Students in Engage Dominica are making plans to cap the cistern.

A worker uses a net to scoop leaves out of a cistern that provides drinking water to about 5,000 residents in southern Dominica. Students in Engage Dominica are making plans to cap the cistern.

About 5,000 residents near the southern tip of Dominica learned just how precarious their water supply was when Tropical Storm Erika’s torrential rains caused a creek to breach the cistern that holds their treated drinking water.

With their usual supply contaminated, drinking water had to be shipped to the Caribbean island. But a landslide caused by heavy rains blocked the only road into the area. There was no dock, so large boats couldn’t access the area, and the smaller fishing boats weren’t seaworthy in stormy weather.

The drinking water eventually recovered from the August 2015 storm, but it remains vulnerable. For a group of Clemson students, it’s among the first challenges in a new global engagement program, Engage Dominica. Eight of the program’s 20 students went to the island nation over spring break to begin gathering information on 10 separate projects, including upgrades to the water treatment system.

They returned to Clemson with reams of data and are compiling a presentation they will use to start building support with the Dominican government, the Cardinal Felix Foundation and other groups that might want to collaborate.

Jared Delk, a sophomore civil engineering student, said he liked having the chance to create a project from scratch, helping design it, build it and make final adjustments at the end. “Just knowing all that, it was one of the best trips I’ve taken,” he said. “It was amazing to know that the ideas that are coming from me could help people.”

Morgan Corp. officials donated a LiDAR scanner and then posed for photos with students, who used it during their trip to Dominica.

Morgan Corp. officials donated a LiDAR scanner and then posed for photos with students, who used it during their trip to Dominica.

Jennifer Ogle, an associate professor of civil engineering, leads Engage Dominica. “These students are working hard to build their own organization and their own agenda and relationships in Dominica,” she said. “This program helps position them to have a global impact now and after they graduate.” The projects the Clemson students are pursuing include a cap for the cistern and designs for a pier to support emergency evacuation, fishing and tourism. They also have plans for a basketball court that will direct rainwater around a low-lying primary school while giving the students a place to play.

Engage Dominica already has corporate support, which is seen as a key to success. Morgan Corp., a heavy civil contractor whose corporate office is located in Duncan, recently donated a LiDAR scanner to the program. Students used the scanner to collect images and point clouds of the proposed project sites in Dominica. Using this data, students can measure distances between any two points with a degree of accuracy within a few millimeters as well as create 3D models.

Broadening the path to higher education

“If you don't have an 'I Am,' someone will have a 'You Are'," said Khalilah Shabazz of Indiana University, demonstrating how men of color are labeled. “Have a clear definition of yourself!”“If you don’t have an ‘I Am,’ someone will have a ‘You Are’,” said Khalilah Shabazz of Indiana University, demonstrating how men of color are labeled. “Have a clear definition of yourself!”

This spring, as most districts were preparing to end the school year, Clemson was focused on helping minority students who too often never make it to graduation day.

Clemson’s inaugural Men of Color National Summit was held in late April at the TD Convention Center in Greenville. The summit’s mission is to close the achievement gap for African-American and Hispanic males, who trail other demographic groups in high school graduation and college enrollment rates. This now-annual event will benefit students and their communities by identifying and promoting strategies that foster success from cradle to career.

Educators, business professionals, advocates and community leaders from 27 states attended. At the heart of the event is the Tiger Alliance — a cohort of 325 ninth through 11th-grade students from the Upstate and I-95 corridor. The 2017-18 Tiger Alliance cohort’s experience at the summit included meeting inspiring role models and attending workshops that emphasized proven, real-life skills.

The summit enjoyed strong support from the Upstate, including presenting sponsors, the city of Greenville and Greenville County. The nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” broadcast live from the summit.

In addition to 30 breakout session speakers, high-profile keynotes included Tavis Smiley, host of the PBS talk show “Tavis Smiley” and PRI’s “The Tavis Smiley Show”; John Quiñones, journalist and host of the ABC newsmagazine “What Would You Do?”; Desmond Howard, Heisman Trophy winner and ESPN college football analyst; Roy Jones, executive director of Clemson’s Call Me MISTER® program; Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; and David J. Johns, former executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

With the support of Clemson President James P. Clements, the event was spearheaded by Lee A. Gill, Clemson’s chief diversity officer and special assistant to the president for inclusive excellence. Gill gives the lion’s share of the credit to co-chairs Chuck Knepfle, associate vice president for enrollment management, and Julio Hernandez, associate director for Hispanic outreach, as well as a host of dedicated staff and volunteers.

A 20-year higher education veteran, Gill came to Clemson in 2016 from the University of Akron, where he had led the Black Male Summit for nine years. He hailed the first Clemson summit as a huge success.

“The Clemson summit exceeded my wildest dreams,” Gill said. “It took us nine years at Akron to reach the 2000-person level. In our first year here, to attract some 1,700 people was just outstanding. From the very start, the city of Greenville, the County of Greenville and the superintendents of the school districts understood the importance and possibilities for this event. Their support went beyond anything I ever imagined.” Gill added, “The Tiger Alliance is where the rubber meets the road. This is where our emphasis will be from now into 2018 and for years to come.”

Click here for information and updates.

Confirmed keynotes for the 2018 summit include Roland Martin, Michael Eric Dyson and Marc Lamont Hill.

Undergraduates capture prestigious Goldwater, Truman awards

Killian McDonald is the second Clemson student ever to be named a Truman Scholar.

Killian H. McDonald

Clemson students have demonstrated to the nation this year that their education has prepared them to compete with anyone in the country. This year, two students were awarded Goldwater Scholarships and another was the second Clemson student ever to be named a Truman Scholar.

Killian H. McDonald of Columbia, a junior political science and women’s leadership double major, has been named a 2017 Truman Scholar. McDonald is Clemson’s first Truman Scholar since 1979 and the second Clemson student ever to receive the award.

The Truman Scholarship is a prestigious, highly competitive graduate scholarship program for aspiring public service leaders in the United States. Sixty-two Truman Scholarships were given this year to college juniors who are planning careers in public service, according to Ricki Shine, director of major fellowships for Clemson. The 2017 Truman Scholars were selected from among a near-record number of applications, with 768 applications and nominations from 315 colleges and universities — the highest number in the scholarship’s history.

As a Truman Scholar, McDonald will receive a scholarship to be used toward graduate school, along with opportunities to participate in professional development programming and internships to help her prepare for a career in public service leadership.

“I am so excited to have been selected as a Truman Scholar,” McDonald wrote. “This scholarship reaffirms and supports my goal of entering public service and fighting for women’s rights. It is an honor to be a part of the Truman community and connect with mentors who can help me become a great public servant.”

Two students, Caitlin Seluzicki and Jessica Zielinski, have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, considered one of the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate awards. Another, Bridget Luckie, received an honorable mention.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the premiere undergraduate award in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 240 scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from the United States. An additional 307 nominees received honorable mentions. The scholars were selected from a field of 1,286 students nominated by campus representatives from among 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide.

Seluzicki, a microbiology major, and Zielinski, a biochemistry major, will receive one-year scholarships that will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500. Though Luckie will not receive any funds, she will share in the prestige. Goldwater scholars and honorable mentions often go on to win numerous distinguished awards during their collegiate careers.

Pershing Rifles’ precision earns national championship

Pershing Rifles at Clemson UniversityFor the ninth time in school history, Company C-4 of the Pershing Rifles has claimed the national championship in drill competition. The 30-member unit brought the top prize back to the Upstate in competition last month in Jacksonville, Fla., against 14 other teams.

“The achievement by these young men and women is a testament to their discipline and perseverance,” said Lt. Col. K. Todd Crawford ’96, professor of military leadership. “Through precision and expert technique, Company C-4 established itself as the most elite drill team at the Pershing Rifles National Convention.”

Company C-4, commanded by Capt. Evan Dunker, a senior from Aiken, was first established in 1939 at Clemson. The Pershing Rifles unit is a professional military fraternity dedicated to preserving Clemson’s military heritage by performing as color guards, and doing 21-gun salutes and professional drill routines during ceremonial occasions around the Clemson community.

“We are proud to have upheld Clemson’s military heritage by winning this competition,” Dunker said. “Our unit showed tremendous discipline and dedication in being selected as the best in the country. It’s an honor to have brought this standard of excellence back to the Clemson campus.”

Though comprised primarily of ROTC students, Pershing Rifles is open to civilians on campus also. Dunker said the standards are high and that solid academics, sound character and being physically fit are prerequisites to making the grade. In winning the Pershing Rifles Varsity Rifles Championship, Company C-4 competed in every event and won first place in Platoon Regulation and Squad Exhibition competitions.

The National Society of Pershing Rifles was founded in 1894 by Lt. John J. Pershing, a professor of military science at the University of Nebraska. Pershing later became general of the armies.

Eight win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

This year’s crop of NSF Graduate Research Fellows included (from left) Jacqueline Rohde, Lauren Pruett, Lauren Gambill and John Sherwood. Not pictured are Sarah Donaher, Kylie Gomes, Shyla Kupis and Brandt Ruszkiewicz.

This year’s crop of NSF Graduate Research Fellows included (from left) Jacqueline Rohde, Lauren Pruett, Lauren Gambill and John Sherwood. Not pictured are Sarah Donaher, Kylie Gomes, Shyla Kupis and Brandt Ruszkiewicz.

One of the nation’s top honors for graduate students is going to eight from Clemson, putting them in the same club as several Nobel Prize winners, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and “Freakonomics” co-author Steven Levitt.

The students are receiving Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation. A fellowship is recognition that the recipient shows high promise in becoming a knowledge expert who can contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering.

Each fellow receives a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance. The money supports graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science and engineering. The NSF received more than 13,000 applications for the 2017 competition and made 2,000 award offers to students from 449 institutions.

This year’s crop of Graduate Research Fellowships underscores the success of Clemson’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program. Two students who received fellowships and one student who received an honorable mention are in the inaugural graduating class of Grand Challenge Scholars at Clemson.

In 2014, Clemson became the 19th engineering school in the nation to offer a Grand Challenges Scholars Program, which is aimed at helping students prepare to become world-changing engineers.

These Clemson students received research fellowships:

  • Sarah Donaher, senior, environmental engineering major and Grand Challenge Scholar.
  • Lauren Gambill, senior, biochemistry major.
  • Kylie Gomes, graduate student, industrial engineering.
  • Shyla Kupis, graduate student, environmental engineering.
  • Lauren Pruett, senior, bioengineering major.
  • Jacqueline Rohde, senior, bioengineering major and Grand Challenge Scholar.
  • Brandt Ruszkiewicz, graduate student, automotive engineering.
  • John Sherwood, graduate student, environmental engineering.