In May, almost 3,000 Clemson students received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Littlejohn Coliseum and joined the ranks of 137,000 alumni.
President Clements voiced his hope that the graduates’ time at Clemson helped make them better all-around people.
“I hope that your Clemson experience has been everything that you hoped it would be and that we taught you more than your academic subjects,” he said. “I hope that we challenged you and inspired you to think critically and creatively, to be engaged with your community and your world, and to make a positive difference every day.”
Here are the stories of just six of those graduates:
Alyssa Daniel makes you believe that there are more than 24 hours in a day. During her four years at Clemson, the accounting major has crunched an unbelievable number of leadership roles and experiences into her time as a student. But at the heart of her super-human schedule is a very human factor — family.
“I have a younger brother and a younger sister here at Clemson, and setting a good example for them is super important to me,” Daniel said.
Daniel said she owes a lot to her involvement with the professional business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, where she has served in multiple executive positions. It was also at the encouragement of Delta Sigma Pi that Daniel was prompted to take on her biggest challenge — spending a semester abroad at Aarhus University in Denmark.
“I always think I can throw something extra on my plate,” Daniel jokes.
Daniel also was involved with Beta Alpha Psi, an international honors organization for financial information students, served on the Student Advisory Board for the School of Accountancy and Finance and worked as a student assistant in the Office of Student Enrichment.
“I think that Clemson has a thousand things to offer you, and that it’s just a matter of pursuing them,” Daniel said. “It’s important to surround yourself with people who are just as academically motivated as you.”
This summer Daniel will complete a second internship with the Charlotte consulting firm Deloitte, before moving to Alabama to work on her master’s in accounting at Auburn University.
Even before he arrived at Clemson, Nate Diehl had delved heavily into research at the University of Pennsylvania where he spent the three summers during high school immersed in cancer-related protein research. As a Clemson undergraduate, the biochemistry major continued to explore the medical field with both his undergraduate research and through two summer medical trips to Panama and Costa Rica.
“Those trips were confirmation that I was doing the right thing,” Diehl said. “Seeing the look on people’s faces after you helped with even just the smallest thing gave me an incredible amount of joy.”
Wanting to combine his love of research, medicine and people, Diehl applied for M.D./Ph.D. programs. Programs from across the nation flocked to accept him — eight in all. Diehl says the deciding factor came down to the students.
“I knew that I could become a physician scientist in any of these amazing programs,” Diehl said, “But the Chapel Hill students were incredible to be around. They seemed very similar to the people at Clemson, and the people were one of the best parts of Clemson for me. The students here have made my experience. They’re absolutely awesome; I’ll never forget them.”
Diehl plans to continue his cancer research throughout his program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the eventual goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist.
She has traveled. But instead of being in a uniform, she’s been in a lab coat.
“College was just never an option that I’d thought about,” the Charleston native said. “I’d thought that I would join the military like so many of my family members before me. I didn’t know the first thing about filling out an application or the Free Application for Financial Student Aid paperwork.”
At the encouragement of her high school teachers however, Drayton took her first (and last) college tour at Clemson.
“I knew it was the right place for me. I didn’t need to look anywhere else,” Drayton said.
The first-generation college student has forged her own path through Clemson while also lending her hand as a PEER (Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention) mentor for the past two years. PEER welcomes and encourages underrepresented students in the College of Engineering and Science.
“My own PEER mentor did so much for me. If it hadn’t been for him that first semester, I don’t know if I would have made it through,” Drayton said. “I wanted to give back to the same program that was in fact the main reason I was still here in the first place.”
Drayton also has completed three research projects — one at Clemson, the other at Rutgers and the third in Singapore — all centered on the environmental impacts of cancer research compounds in addition to other contaminants and their biodegradability.
Drayton heads into the Air Force’s Officer Training School where she will serve in an environmental engineering position.
Neyle Noyes doesn’t pull out job acceptance letters to talk about the future. He pulls out a handwritten bucket list that he keeps in his wallet. His dreams include graduating, skydiving, watching “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and dancing in the rain.
He talks about these because he feels confident about life after graduation — he’s anticipating a job with the NBA once its season ends.
He got hooked on the organizational side of athletics after taking a “Trends and Sports” class, which examined sports through data analysis. Later, he connected with a prospective student’s father while giving a campus tour, a chance meeting that led to an internship with the Houston Astros minor league team in Greeneville, Tennessee.
But it was his senior project analyzing NBA trends that really captured his attention. He wants to take number crunching to basketball. For those unfamiliar with sport statistics, he’ll be doing what Brad Pitt did for baseball in “Moneyball.”
“I’ll be changing the game, but not the heart behind it,” Noyes said. Having heart has always been important for Noyes. He says the high-fives, hellos and student passion he saw on his own prospective tour of Clemson clinched his college decision.
“At Clemson, we build and breathe the idea of getting close and taking time to know each other,” Noyes said. Ever since, he’s added to that tradition with his own big smile as a campus tour guide and sharing life with his Kappa Sigma brothers on the quad.
He knows he’ll miss Clemson, but, according to his bucket list, he’ll hopefully have tickets to one football game a season.
James E. Vines
“It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to help improve those numbers,” Vines said.
To do that required his own navigation of graduate school waters, which is how he docked at Clemson.
“I heard about the outstanding reputation of the School of Education. Clemson was at the top of my list,” Vines said. While getting his doctorate here, he worked as a research assistant for the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education.
“I had no idea what to research for my dissertation. Thankfully, I had an amazing adviser, Dr. Patricia First, who helped me from day one,” Vines said.
His research includes cyberbullying, focusing on advocacy coalitions in the policy-development process. This fall, he has moved on to a fellowship at Bloomsburg University (Pennsylvania), where he’ll be an academic adviser in the Office of Academic Enrichment.
“I’ll miss being able to find my quiet spot in the Cooper Library — I have gotten so much stuff done while writing and getting coffee in Java City,” Vines said.
But he says that more than finding a quiet space, building strong connections with his professors, classmates and Phi Beta Sigma brothers contributed to his positive Clemson experience.
“The support you get from other students is invaluable, and people who can motivate you will go a long way,” Vines said.
“I was short, I was on the bench and that wasn’t working,” Wurzel said. “Then my sister brought me with her to the boathouse, put me in a double with her, and I’ve been rowing ever since. It just clicked.”
Years later, Wurzel’s passion for the sport was responsible for bringing her halfway around the world, from her hometown of Como, Italy, to her new home in Clemson when she was recruited for the women’s varsity rowing team.
“Coming to Clemson allowed me to pursue the two things that I was really passionate about — sports and academics,” Wurzel said.
Most of Wurzel’s mornings these past four years have been spent on Hartwell Lake as a member of the women’s rowing team. For two months each summer, she returned to Como to compete in the national championship, winning seven national titles, and even rowed in the world championship for Italy.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Wurzel moved to Como when she was six where she spent the rest of her childhood before coming to South Carolina. During high school, Wurzel was enrolled in the language program where she gained fluency in Spanish, French and English. When it came time to choose a major at Clemson, language and international trade was an obvious fit.
Her skills were put to the test during a summer internship with the candy manufacturer, Haribo. The company was working on a business-to-business product that Wurzel was able to help create through a variety of marketing, advertising and logistics measures.
Excited by this taste of the business world, Wurzel will go on to work in Switzerland this fall.
See a video of graduation in less than a minute: