Posts

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.

Gantt Scholars recognized

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.”

More photos from the reception recognizing the Harvey B. Gantt Scholars.

Whipped goodness: Washica “Shica” Hagood Little ’96

Clemson alumna Shica LittleShica Hagood Little saw her waistline expand as she was drinking multiple cups of sugar-and-cream-filled cups of coffee while teaching and working on her Ph.D. in education leadership at Grand Canyon University. But Little wasn’t ready to cut coffee from her routine. Something had to give. That’s when she got in her kitchen and started from scratch.

She bought cream, butter, spices and vanilla and blended it with a hand blender. “It came out horribly,” she said. “It didn’t perform the way it should and didn’t taste the way it should,” she said. “So I started researching.”

More than 2,000 batches later, she’s the proud creator of “Dr. Shica’s Healthy Surprises,” which includes “Incredi-Whip,” a coffee creamer, fruit dip and whipped cream in one. “Initially the product was called “Coffee Whip,” but once I started working with a couple of the stores and buyers, I decided it should be not only for coffee drinkers, but for everyone,” she said. The product doesn’t include artificial colors or flavors, high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan or gluten. With many of the ingredients that were going into her 1,000-calorie cup of coffee gone, Little said she was able to drop about 40 pounds using her product instead.

The next step was to bring Incredi-Whip to the masses. Little saw an audition for “Hatched” on the CW network, where entrepreneurs pitch their brands to business moguls. Her pitch was a success, and she partnered with investors Mark Koops, “Hatched” TV executive producer, and Freddy Cameron, retail expert and host of season 1 “Hatched,” to bring her product to Walmart, Sam’s Club and Kroger. “What that show did for me is amazing,” she said. “They have consumers come in and try your product so you have real-time feedback, and they tell you what you have to do to get on shelves.”

Little has gone on to appear on another show called “MVP: Most Valuable Partner” on Verizon’s Go90 television, where she earned the endorsement of basketball star Kevin Durant and his mother, as well as three other sports stars on the series. Little’s research showed Durant’s mother was an avid coffee drinker, and he was going to 7-Eleven every night to get her a coffee.

Little knew she had her hook. “I didn’t know if any of them wanted to work with me, but they all worked with me.” Little said she always dreamed of being “somebody” and going to California to lead her life. In October she was able to make her dream a reality and work full time for her brand that’s helped her rub elbows with industry titans and earn superstar endorsements.
— Julia Sellers

Women, diversity in STEM focus of $3.4 million grant

Like many universities, Clemson struggles with attracting and retaining women and underrepresented minorities as faculty. That problem is magnified in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Across the campus, 35 percent of full-time faculty are women. In STEM departments, the percentage drops to 19. When racial diversity is factored in, the statistics are even grimmer. Only one of the 509 STEM faculty members is an African-American woman; two are Hispanic women.

In an effort to improve those numbers, Clemson has launched an initiative funded by a $3.4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to create an inclusive academic culture so women and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to enter and remain in academia. While the national initiative is called ADVANCE: Increasing Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers, Clemson’s program is nicknamed Tigers ADVANCE, and it has a greater goal: to build a culture that encourages diversity, inclusiveness and acceptance.

“The impact these STEM fields have on our society is immeasurable,” said Robert Jones, Clemson’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and co-principal investigator of the grant. “We need diverse ideas and perspectives in the academy and in our workforce to tackle the greatest challenges we, and future generations, will face.”

The grant application process, spearheaded by civil engineering professor Sez Atamturktur, took more than two years and countless hours from more than 40 faculty, staff and students. The group identified five major challenges to women in STEM faculty positions at Clemson and established these corresponding goals:
• Transform the culture and improve the campus climate to reduce bias and implicit bias against women and minority faculty.
• Increase the representation of women in STEM fields.
• Ensure equitable workload distributions so appointments to committees, special projects and other non-academic activities are assigned equally across the faculty.
• Enhance faculty mentoring and leadership development to support all faculty and increase retention.
• Implement family-friendly policies to help improve recruitment and retention of world-class faculty.

With Tigers ADVANCE, Clemson will increase the number of women being considered for faculty positions and put measures in place to retain female members. “We will strive to match the representation of women in faculty positions to the number of candidates available for those positions in the national pool,” Atamturktur said.

Of the 14,499 faculty applicants to Clemson between 2010 and 2014, 23 percent were women, 10.7 percent were minority women and 0.7 percent were African-American women. Of all eligible doctoral degree graduates in the country, 53 percent were women, 15 percent were minority women and 7 percent were African-American women.

“Our search committees absolutely are doing a good job of identifying talented women and bringing them to campus,” Atamturktur said. “The problem is the number of women in our applicant pools is very, very low. We’re starting with fewer options.”

Likewise, although women receive tenure and promotions at rates equal to men, women leave Clemson at rates higher than men. Between 2011 and 2014, 56 percent of assistant professors (pre-tenure faculty) who left were women. Among STEM faculty, 28 percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty members who left were women, although women made up only 19 percent of the faculty.

While the NSF grant specifically supports women in STEM fields, Clemson will make its own investment to extend Tigers ADVANCE to non-STEM departments. “We believe this is the only way to achieve institution-wide impact and sustainable transformation,” Atamturktur said. “Five years from now our campus should be a lot more diverse with a more inclusive culture and more openness to new ideas.”

Color Brave

In our polarized world of incendiary tweets and combative Facebook posts, honest and civil conversations about issues of race are not a common occurrence. This fall, a group of students and faculty took on those conversations.

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.”

Former astronaut Mae Jemison speaks on campus

Former NASA astronaut Mae C. Jemison gave the keynote address in Clemson’s opening convocation in August. Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space, flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in September 1992. Jemison described her life growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, saying that as a girl she could see unlimited possibilities for herself through the turbulence of those times. “All around me was this world that was filled with ideas and actions and choices that would change the course of human history, and I wanted to be a part of it. I always assumed I would go into space.”