The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former Clemson student. It recognizes those whose devotion to Clemson has increased the value of the University for future generations and whose lives have expressed, through service to community, profession and the public, the finest Clemson traditions.
When Madison Williams graduated in May with a graphic communications degree, she walked the red carpet while her classmates crossed the stage at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Newbury, Massachusetts, native represented Clemson at the Cannes Film Festival in France, where her 5-minute documentary on a passionate Tiger football fan was screened alongside the work of the world’s most renowned filmmakers.
“It’s a dream come true, and I have the opportunities presented to me at Clemson and many of the talented people here to thank for it,” the College of Business graduate said.
Williams’ documentary, “136,” is a story about Bryson Carter of Anderson, who lost his sight as a student here but whose love for Clemson football has led him to attend 136 consecutive (now 150) games. She originally produced the documentary to compete in Campus Movie Fest at Clemson last February. Her work advanced to a national competition and eventually was selected to be screened as part of Cannes’ Short Film Corner.
“I have been blessed to have so many people who nurtured me on my journey to becoming a professional videographer,” Williams said. “There are too many to mention, but some of the most influential were people like Nik Conklin, Jeff Kallin and Jonathan Gantt in the athletic department; Craig Mahaffey and Jesse Godfrey in University Relations and Erica Walker, one of my graphic communications instructors.”
Inspiration for the documentary on Carter came from their chance meeting at the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. “Bryson and I shared a ride to the train station in Arizona, and he started talking about his passion for football,” Williams said. “He visualizes the game through the announcers’ commentary and the energy the fans paint in his mind. His story nearly brought me to tears.”
Telling stories comes naturally to Williams, but she had to work to develop her visual communication skills. “At a very early age, I wanted to be behind the lens,” she said. “I made music videos and filmed plays with my very patient sister. Then, in high school, I filmed the football team’s highlight reels and knew this was something I wanted as a lifelong pursuit.”
A year later, she was at Clemson studying graphic communications. Internships at Clemson and in Massachusetts primed her for a role on the Clemson Athletics social media team, where she cut her teeth as a visual communicator for the volleyball team. With the French Riviera experience a memory, Williams is looking forward.
“Right now, I’m looking for visual storytelling roles similar to what I do at Clemson,” she said. “Wherever I land, I know my education here, inside and outside the classroom, has put me in a great position to succeed. I’m very excited to see where my Clemson experience will take me next.”
A higher minimum wage and earned income tax credits can mean the difference between a return to prison or making a living outside of crime for recently released convicts, according to research by a Clemson economics professor.
Michael Makowsky found that for every dollar increase in the minimum wage, one percentage point could be shaved off the number of those returning to prison. In states where earned income tax credit wage subsidies are available, there was an even bigger effect on recidivism, though only for women.
“The bulk of prior research on minimum wages has focused on the demand side and the potential effects it might have on fewer people being hired,” Makowsky said. “We wanted to look at the supply side and, in particular, how the minimum wage affects crime and the recidivism rate.”
The research by Makowsky and Amanda Agan, an assistant professor of economics at Rutgers University, examined records from nearly 6 million criminal offenders released from prison between 2000 and 2014. Also taken into account were more than 200 state and federal minimum wage increases and earned income tax credit programs in 21 states.
“People who were released where the minimum wage was raised had a lower recidivism rate,” Makowsky said. “And in those states that chose to subsidize wages of adults with custody of dependents, women experienced an 11.4 percent drop in recidivism. These aren’t trivial numbers when you’re talking about whether or not a person returned to prison.”
The researchers’ observation of decreases in recidivism were solely for property or drug-related crimes. Violent crime remained largely unchanged.
In February, Clemson trustees approved a $5 million budget to construct a 12,700-square-foot child care facility, which will be operated by a private, third-party provider for infant, toddler and preschool children of faculty, staff and students. The construction will be funded through an established endowment for faculty and staff benefits, with expected completion in 2020.
What happens to a company if it abruptly loses a significant percentage of its most experienced employees? This is the conundrum companies across the U.S. are facing as baby boomers — the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — approach the end of their working lives. Siemens, one of the world’s largest manufacturing and electronics companies, and its energy management division has turned to a group of Clemson students to mitigate the impact by researching ways to pass invaluable institutional knowledge from outgoing baby boomers to incoming Millennials.
Kevin Yates, leader of the energy management division for Siemens in the U.S. and Canada and a 1994 Clemson graduate, identified the problem when he took a step back and realized a good portion of his most seasoned employees will soon retire, and there was no plan in place to address their absence.
He knew just the place to go for help.
“At Siemens we value our strategic university partners, and Clemson is certainly one of those. Once I became aware of the Watt Family Innovation Center and the creative inquiry program, I felt it was a natural fit to engage their students and faculty to help us solve a real-world challenge,” said Yates. “A year ago, our business and human resources partners knew that we had a problem to address and, though we were working on it internally, we recognized the value of getting outside expertise to most effectively transition this knowledge. I knew it was a perfect opportunity to get a cross-functional team in academics to work with us.”
Siemens made a donation to the university to fund the project, and assistant marketing professor Anastasia Thyroff and associate marketing professor Jennifer Siemens (no relation to the company) were tapped to create a creative inquiry undergraduate research project to find solutions.
“This is a huge problem, and Siemens is incredibly invested in figuring it out,” said Thyroff. “Kevin is innovative — he’s on top of this, which shows great foresight because the whole country is going to go through this.”
According to a study by Pew Research Center, which broke down population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in April 2016, there are now 74.9 million living Baby Boomers, who were defined as anyone age 51 to 69 years in 2015. That balances almost exactly with the 75.4 million living Millennials — the generation including anyone who was age 18 to 34 years in 2015 – who will step into the open positions left behind as Baby Boomers begin to retire en masse.
Thyroff and Siemens engaged six marketing students for the project and spent the first half of the semester teaching them methods for marketing research. The group practiced interviewing, running focus groups, ethnography (the study of living experiences) and coding.
At the end of the first semester, Siemens offered summer internships to seniors Tanner Parsons and Helen McDowell, students in the project.
“They treated their internships as ethnography, so through the process of learning about what it takes to be an intern at Siemens, they were helping us with our study,” said Thyroff.
The two internships offered a valuable glimpse at two very different company locations, said Thyroff. McDowell was in Siemens’ marketing department headquarters in Atlanta, which provided a prime opportunity to collect broad data about the company. Parsons spent the summer at a Siemens’ branch office in Tampa, Fla., working with a tight-knit group of seasoned sales engineers. He was able to observe the organic relationships that develop in the smaller pockets of a large corporation that are often the glue that holds a company together.
Meanwhile, the team interviewed 41 Siemens employees, each with either less than five years or more than 10 years of experience with the company, individually and in focus groups. They combined the transcripts with the data collected by Parsons and McDowell during their internships.
“One unique aspect of this project is that it forces students to be accountable to another entity, not just their professor,” said Siemens. “Knowing that they are coming up with strategies that a company might actually implement is immensely rewarding to students, and also to us as teachers and mentors.”
The students’ research revolved around three questions:
- What is the most effective way to transfer knowledge between a seasoned employee to someone with little industry knowledge?
- How do you implement this transfer of knowledge across all aspects of a business?
- What is the role of technology in this knowledge transition?
The result was a 600-page interview transcript that they then meticulously sifted through, focusing on key words and themes, to find actionable items to present to Yates and his colleagues.
They took their findings to Siemens’ energy management headquarters in Atlanta to present them to a group of about 20 high-level managers.
Despite some nervous jitters, the students thought the presentation went smoothly, thanks to many late nights and grueling rehearsals leading up to the big day. Afterward, the managers kept the students for another hour for a question-and-answer session, peppering them with inquiries and follow-up suggestions as they would for any of their business peers. The students conducted themselves as professionals and had no trouble fielding every question.
The result of the students’ work was a list of actionable items, some of which could be implemented immediately, to help the company keep its momentum as it loses its most tenured employees.
One recommendation was for Siemens management to encourage new hires and seasoned employees to socialize. On-the-clock social gatherings ensure higher attendance than after-hour gatherings and encourage more meaningful relationships – a point that might seem obvious on the surface but has much deeper meaning in the context of knowledge transfer.
Other recommendations included treating interns as full-time employees, which encourages investment in the company, and getting rid of the many work-space cubicles for a more open office environment.
All of these changes, the research suggested, would facilitate more organic mentorships, leading to mentors passing on the kind of knowledge to their younger counterparts that can’t always be typed up and handed over.
“There are a number of aspects to this,” said Cris Higgins, head of human resources for Siemens energy management, mobility, and building technology divisions. “It’s not as much about practical knowledge, but more of the tribal knowledge that these senior employees have from being here from 10 to even 40-plus years. I myself have over 20 years’ experience and trying to pass that knowledge on to another HR person is not accomplished with a one-time meeting. Not only do you have to transfer knowledge, you have to transfer your networking, your relationships, and your ‘know-how’ of getting things done.”
The caliber of research was so good that it was easy to forget it was done by undergraduate students and not a marketing research firm, said Thyroff.
“We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is a student project,” she said. “The students took incredible ownership. They worked hard and did such a good job that it’s hard to believe they aren’t marketing research experts. They’re learning as they go, and they are doing a phenomenal job.”
Yates agreed with Thyroff’s assessment.
“They absolutely delivered and hit the mark,” he said. “The value they created, given their limited experience, was outstanding. The research they have provided has been very insightful. There were several ‘a-ha’ moments from our staff during the presentation.”
The findings of the study thus far have been very valuable, yet it’s a three-year project. In 2018 Thyroff and Siemens will assemble the next team of students to build upon the findings of the first group and turn up further revelations that will aid companies across the U.S. and the world.
“How this program works and what we get out of can be a model to closely look at across the rest of Siemens throughout the U.S.,” said Yates. “I look forward to continuing to work with Clemson for the next two years to learn even more.”
Clemson has taken another significant step in sharing its complete history with the installation of new signs at the 11 historic buildings on the main campus and enhanced markers at Gantt Circle. The signs are the latest example of the work being done as a result of recommendations developed in early 2016 by a history task force commissioned by the University’s board of trustees.
Also being installed are granite markers to enhance the campus commemoration of the historic enrollment of Harvey B. Gantt ’65, the first African-American to enroll at Clemson. The signage will complement an existing historic marker and recognize action by the board of trustees to officially name the circular drive in front of Tillman Hall “Gantt Circle.” Gantt’s registration took place inside Tillman Hall.
The University broke ground in November for a new home for the College of Business. It will be one of the biggest academic building projects in University history.“Our old friend, Sirrine Hall, has served us well,” said Bobby McCormick, College of Business dean, “but modern education needs to look and function like 21st century business, and that is what we are creating here.”
The 176,000-square-foot building is expected to be ready for occupancy in January of 2020. It will nearly double Clemson’s business education space for one of the University’s fastest-growing academic disciplines. It will also be the anchor of a new academic precinct that one day will occupy as much as 600,000 to 700,000 square feet of building space.
LMN Architects of Seattle is designing the building in collaboration with the Greenville office of South Carolina-based LS3P, the architect of record. Other members of the project team include DPR, general contractor/construction management, and OLIN landscape architecture. Construction on the $87.5 million project will be funded through state appropriations, private gifts and institutional bonds.
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.
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.
The 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.
Petersen 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.”