In 1963, when Harvey Gantt entered Clemson, he was the first African-American student to do so. Twenty-five years later, the Clemson Black Alumni Council established a scholarship to honor him and to recruit and retain African-American students, with special preference to South Carolina residents and entering freshmen. In February, Harvey and Lucinda Gantt were on campus for a reception to recognize the Harvey B. Gantt Scholars. Senior management major Tre Worthy thanked Gantt for his inspiring leadership. The Gantt Scholars gave Gantt a framed photo of him receiving his diploma in 1965 with the inscription of “Because of you, we can.”
Ensuring the health, safety and well being of others via the roads you drive or the buildings you enter isn’t just a day job for Jason and Hesha Nesbitt Gamble, but a desire they’ve each pursued since teenagers. The couple are stand-out licensed professional engineers who found their route to Clemson by way of high school internships, which also set into motion a path to each other.
As an exam development engineer for National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) in Seneca, Jason is one of only five people in the country commissioned with managing the creation of 25 national licensing exams that examinees take to become licensed in 17 different engineering disciplines. Jason is tasked with managing four of those 25 exams. Hesha serves as county engineer for Greenville where she oversees 77 employees as well as the engineering and maintenance of all county roads, approximately 1,760 miles serving 450,000 residents.
“We take that job very seriously,” said Hesha. “If there’s a problem, we need to fix it. Greenville is my community so of course I want the best for my community.”
“I’ve never had a job that didn’t affect people in some way,” chimed in Jason. “What I do now at NCEES affects the future of the profession and affects what (engineering) is going to be for the next generation.”
Even beyond technical skills, the pair says honing soft skills like communication and public speaking prepares their teams to execute a project efficiently. “You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t effectively communicate or explain something, you’re not going to be successful,” said Jason. “It’s about knowing how to interact with people. I’ve worked with Ph.D.’s to someone with only a third-grade education, but we all had to work together in order to get a job done.”
Those so-called “soft skills” were picked up in Clemson classrooms, where the two met each other through study groups for upper-level undergraduate courses. The couple praise their time at Clemson for making them effective engineers today. They especially credit the PEER program for many of their successes.
“We bring engineers and experts from all over the country to do a job, and to be able to relate to each of them individually and not just professionally, just to be able to hold a conversation, Clemson was where I learned to do that,” said Jason. “I have no doubt it makes me better at my job to be able to relate to people and just work with them regardless of where they’re from.” Jason and Hesha, despite their busy careers, find the time to be “All In” raising their five-year-old son, Justus.
I entered Clemson with a rock solid plan for my future. I knew that I wanted to get a B.S. in bioengineering and then continue on straight into a Ph.D. in bioengineering and become a professor at a research university.
As my time passed, I continued happily in bioengineering, but I also began to get involved in programs outside of my major. Specifically, I got involved with Clemson’s New Student Dialogue diversity education program during my junior year. It is difficult to say what made me decide to get involved with this program, but I believe it was a combination of having a great experience with One Clemson as a freshman and my desire to learn about everything (even outside of the world of bioengineering!).
I didn’t know what to expect, but looking back, I can safely say that becoming a peer dialogue facilitator changed my life. Learning about and implementing dialogue between incoming freshmen and transfer students opened up an entirely different world of skills and experiences for me. I learned to introspect; I learned to listen; and, most importantly, I learned to really open my mind and experience real empathy for others.
I already possessed those skills, but the New Student Dialogue program allowed me to realize that they were there and that they are just as important to develop as my problem-solving, engineering-based skills. I also became involved with the new Intergroup Dialogue program for students of all levels. In that program, I was able to find my voice as a peer leader. I worked closely with my co-facilitators and my supervisor to help shape the curriculum, which gave me the confidence to take ownership of my own education. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
These new experiences allowed me to get in touch with a side of myself I had previously discounted. My newly honed interpersonal skills needed an outlet, but I was shocked to find that perhaps my trusty “life road map” wasn’t leading me to a career that would enable me to reach my full potential. I was so passionate about bioengineering; how could I have been so wrong? Was it even possible to reconcile my scientific, bioengineering life with my empathetic, Peer Dialogue Facilitator life?
After quite a bit of denial, self-doubt and pro/con lists, I came to realize that I needed to adjust my plan. Spring break of my senior year, I sat down and took a serious look at where I had been and where I thought I was going. I came up with not only a new road map, but also an entirely different destination! I applied and was accepted to Columbia University’s master’s of bioethics program. I finally found a way to use my medical background and my interpersonal skills in a way that complement each other beautifully!
It is amazing for me to look back at the naively confident freshman I was when I first came to Clemson and compare her to the adventurously open-minded first-year master’s student I am today. Bioethics, like bioengineering, is a field of unknowns that I am excited to explore. Even so, the idea of changing my plan a month before graduation was almost as scary as the prospect of moving from Clemson, South Carolina, to New York City! But I am thankful every day that I was able to trust my instincts and seize this amazing opportunity. Without my experiences of self-discovery in the New Student Dialogue and Intergroup Dialogue programs, I wouldn’t have had the courage to take this giant leap of faith. I got what I consider to be a very well-rounded education by taking ownership of my learning and getting in touch with myself.
Always and forever, Go Tigers!
I’m Alanna Walker, and this is my Clemson.