Call Me MISTER® is a nationally acclaimed program started at Clemson to increase the number of African-American male teachers in South Carolina’s public elementary school classrooms. In 2012, the University partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Jackson State University to broaden the program to Mississippi, and an additional gift of $1.3 million from the Kellogg Foundation in 2014 supported the program’s continued success. This effort by the Magnolia Club, supported by a grant from the Alumni Association, is another joint effort of the two universities.
Since both Clemson and Jackson State have Tiger mascots, the group coined themselves “Tigers United.” Events have included a viewing party for the Boston College game last fall where alumni and Jackson State MISTERS gathered to watch the game, eat barbecue and celebrate the partnership.
This spring, the group sponsored a service project to beautify the schools in the Jackson area where Jackson State MISTERS work. Plans for the fall include a conference focusing on career development and effective leadership practices.
The APR is a real-time measure of eligibility and retention of student-athletes competing on every Division I sports team. Out of a possible score of 1,000, teams have to have a threshold score of at least 930 to avoid possible sanctions. A score of 930 projects a 50-percent graduation success rate.
Clemson’s teams didn’t just meet the minimum. Football, women’s golf and women’s diving were recognized for their multiyear total ranking among the top 10 percent of all programs. The football program is one of only five Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs ranked in the top 10 percent each of the last five years. Clemson is the only FBS program nationally to finish each of the last four seasons in the top 25 of both polls on the field, and in the top 10 percent of APR scores in the classroom.
During the 2013-14 academic year, a remarkable 12 programs posted perfect 1,000 single-year scores, and each of the 19 programs posted a multi-year rate of over 950.
Support for developing math skills, simulation software for automotive engineering and a state-of-the-art digital press may not seem to have a lot in common. But all three of these will be pivotal in educating Clemson students for the future. And they’re all the results of gifts from corporations and foundations that are valuable partners with the University.
The PNC Foundation and the Eugene T. Moore School of Education agree that it’s never too early to develop math skills. The PNC Foundation has awarded Project BEEMS (Building Environments for Early Mathematics Success) a $50,000 grant to support the program that supports mathematics learning among young children across the state and nation.
The first year of Project BEEMS, also funded by the PNC Foundation, took place in 12 Head Start centers and showed very positive results. Forming an early mathematical understanding can be particularly helpful in establishing problem-solving and communication skills, according to Sandra Linder, project director and associate professor of early childhood mathematics education.
“The project is part of the Eugene T. Moore School of Education’s continuing focus on systematically improving education and an example of the school’s commitment to underserved communities,” said Dean George J. Petersen. “We are proud and thankful to be partnering with the PNC Foundation on this project.”
When graphic communications and packaging science students return to campus this fall, they’ll find an HP Indigo 5000 Digital Press in place and ready to use, thanks to a gift valued at $505,825 from Hewlett Packard. More than 600 students, many of whom will receive industry certification, will have hands-on experience using the press each year.
As growth opportunities in the digital print market shift from commercial printing to packaging, the need for talent also shifts. Clemson is uniquely positioned to work closely with HP Indigo to develop a pipeline of capable talent and meet the needs of industry. Having hands-on experience using the HP Indigo gives Clemson students invaluable access to a growing market segment through internship and career opportunities.
A $1.625 million gift from Moldex3D to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research will both provide students with valuable hands-on-experience in computer-aided engineering (CAE) software and advance faculty research, particularly in the area of injection molding.
Anthony Yang, president of Moldex3D Northern America, said it is their responsibility to assist the academic world in nurturing the next generation by offering its state-of-the-art simulation technologies and resources. “As the world’s largest independent CAE software developer, we are truly pleased for the opportunity to partner with Clemson University, which has one of the most elite automotive engineering programs in the world, to help students gain more practical hands-on CAE experiences and further equip them with a viable simulation ability to compete in the future job market,” he said.
All three of these gifts are part of the Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign.
Mentoring others, especially those who may not realize their potential, has been a lifelong passion for Serita Acker. Those who know her weren’t surprised that she received the 2015 Calder D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award at the 11th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards dinner. The dinner is hosted by the Richard W. Riley Institute® of Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University and the Greenville Chamber, with support from other Upstate chambers. The event recognizes those who have shown leadership in promoting diversity in the Upstate. Acker was nominated by colleagues but was completely surprised by the honor.
“It was such a great honor to receive it. Calder recently passed, and this award is in his honor and the work he has done. It was very exciting for me. It was such a complete surprise,” said Acker.
Acker is in her 16th year as director of Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, which provides support and resources for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Additionally, Acker oversees WISE-sponsored camps and programs to introduce elementary, middle school and high school girls to careers in STEM.
Acker’s outreach in the community is not limited to helping young women. She has worked with the University’s Staff Development Program that trains staff members for professional and personal growth. She has also served as a board member for the Rape Crisis Center to develop initiatives that assist survivors.
In addition, Acker was named one of 10 U.S. individuals selected as a mentor for the 2014-2016 MentorLinks cohort, a program of the American Association of Community Colleges and National Science Foundation that advances technological education. She travels to Texas State Technical College to assist the school in programs that encourage and support Latina women in automotive technology. Acker was also honored by Women of Color magazine with the 2014 College-Level Promotion of Education award. Acker said her Clemson studies were the perfect preparation.
“My Clemson degree in human resource development has done exactly what it was supposed to do. The degree is about training people and helping them develop. My Clemson experience as a student has helped me as a staff member. I love that my journey has been ‘in these hills’ and preparing students for great careers.”
Recently Acker received certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator, where she’ll focus on educating people about STEM career opportunities.
“I like to be that person who bridges the gap between the community and the University,” Acker said. “I want to educate people, encourage people and help them fulfill their dreams.”
In 1963, when Harvey Gantt entered Clemson, he was the first African-American to do so. Twenty-five years later, the Clemson Black Alumni Council (CBAC) established a scholarship to honor him and to recruit and retain African-American students, with special preference to South Carolina residents and entering freshmen.
This spring, donors to the Harvey B. Gantt Scholarship Endowment Fund gathered with the past and present recipients of their generosity to celebrate progress made and lives affected.
“We are better and stronger because of a young African-American man from Charleston who would not give up on his dream of studying architecture here at Clemson,” said President Jim Clements. He went on to say that Clemson is also a better institution because of the Gantt Scholars. “You are among the best and brightest students in the nation, and we are proud of you and your achievements. Your presence on campus — and your leadership and accomplishments both in and out of the classroom — have made us a better institution.”
Clements went on to thank the CBAC for supporting the scholarship, noting that their “commitment has opened the door for generations of students to attend Clemson.”
View a video of the Gantt Scholars reception:
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:
Fans of Clemson Tigers football may recognize Tony Elliott. You’ll find him alongside Dabo Swinney on Saturdays in the fall, figuring out how to penetrate defenses and move the ball across the goal line.
Elliott serves as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach, but his connection to the university runs all the way back to his days as a player and student in the College of Engineering and Science.
While playing wide receiver for the Tigers, Elliott managed a rare feat. He excelled in one of higher education’s most demanding sports and one of its most rigorous academic programs.
Elliott graduated with a degree in industrial engineering in 2002 with a team-high 3.55 GPA. He lettered four times, finishing with 34 receptions for 455 yards and two scores. A survey of Clemson players conducted by the Anderson Independent Mail in his senior year found that he was the team’s “most respected player.”
After graduation, Elliott worked for Michelin North America for two years. He later returned to coaching at South Carolina State and Furman University before coming home to Clemson.
Industrial engineering is a natural fit for football. Students learn to look at entire systems and processes involved, which are key skills on the field.
Cole Smith, the chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, recently sat down with Elliott on the 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium to learn more about his formula for success.
The excerpts have been edited for brevity.
Smith: How did you manage being in one of the most difficult academic programs, while balancing time for one of its most demanding teams?
Elliott: First and foremost, I had tremendous support. I had tremendous support from the football side. Obviously, Vickery Hall provides resources to stay up to speed in the classroom. But then I also had great support from the industrial engineering department and the student body as well. You have to manage a lot. There are a lot of sacrifices that have to be made. When your buddies are going out and hanging out on a Thursday night and a Friday night, you’re in the library.
Smith: You had some good mentorship as a student but also professionally. How has that played a role growing up, and what would you recommend for other students currently in the program to look for in a mentor or mentoring program?
Elliott: Just as in football, in life you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve got to have people that you’re connected to who can help you through the tough times, who can give you advice to help you prepare for the future. The advice that I would give to students in the program now is surround yourself with other students within the program who are likeminded, who understand the importance of teamwork. That’s how I survived industrial engineering. If you want to be successful, we tell our guys all the time, ‘Sit in front of the class. Create a relationship with the professor and engage so that you can build that relationship.’ If you come upon a tough time, you’ll have somebody in your corner to help you.
Smith: So you never got to the point where you thought, ‘I’ve got to give up one or the other?’
Elliott: There were plenty of days when I thought, ‘Man, what am I doing?’ But my journey to get to Clemson was a little bit different, a little bit unique. I started at the Air Force Academy to play football, and then I decided to come Clemson and (at first) not play football. So when I decided to play football at Clemson, it put it in perspective. I understood that it was a privilege and that it was secondary to my education.
Smith: What lesson from industrial engineering sticks with you the most?
Elliott: The thing I learned from industrial engineering that I take every day is just the engineering, methodical thought process (that goes into) preparation. Football is all about preparation. I think a lot of people come in and they see me on Saturdays, but there are a lot of hours that go into preparing for Saturday. You just make sure you’re being effective and efficient with your time, that you have a strategy in place. And the strategy is going to change week to week.
Smith: You must be seeing a huge amount of increased attention on data and analytics and decision-making. How much have you seen that come in, especially in the use of technology, in college football?
Elliott: It’s changed tremendously. There are a lot of firms and companies that have come into play. They’re taking that data and using an engineering perspective to really, really break it down and make it detailed. And it helps us tremendously. You really want to be efficient and effective in your preparation, and now there are services that have created programs to where that information is automatically calculated.
Smith: How much of your success is due to talent, and how much is due to persistence and hard work?
Elliott: I’d like to say that I’ve been very blessed from an academic standpoint. Things, especially in the math world, early on came easy to me. But I would say it’s more hard work and, again, relationships with individuals who could help me along the way when I didn’t understand something. They could put it in a format that I could understand. So I think there is talent, but I would say that hard work will outwork talent. We tell guys all the time talent is one thing, but it’s the hard work and determination that takes that talent to the next level. We all have a certain amount of natural talent, but you can elevate your natural talent to a higher platform if you put that hard work and dedication to it.
Smith: So we’ve established that there’s nothing that you can’t do. Give us something surprising that you can do that people don’t about.
Elliott: I don’t know if it’s surprising, but I like to snowboard. I don’t have a whole lot of time, so I’m not very good at it. But I do enjoy snowboarding. There are several things I have to work at. But, ultimately, I think if you put your mind to it and you’re dedicated to putting in the hard work that you’ll be successful.
A new academic year always brings a sense of renewed optimism and anticipation for what comes next. Preparing for what comes next is — after all — the essence of what universities do. Asking questions, experimenting, creating, debating and thinking deeply and critically — these are essential tools for equipping students to succeed during and after college. They also are tools for finding solutions to the great challenges of our time and for discovering innovations that drive economic growth.
It’s easy to be optimistic when we consider the accomplishments of the year just completed:
• Achieving a Top 20 national ranking from U.S.News & World Report and a seventh consecutive Top 25 ranking.
• Setting new records in demand for enrollment and quality of the student body.
• Reaching record levels in private fundraising.
• Earning national rankings for quality, value, return on tuition investment, town-gown relations and the No. 1 ranked alumni network.
• Securing additional state support for critical educational, economic development and public service programs and facilities.
• Opening our first off-campus visitors center — Experience Clemson — in downtown Greenville.
• Tackling the largest construction program in University history to address facilities needs and take advantage of a competitive external market, low interest rates and the University’s strong debt capacity.
Our strategic plan — 2020Forward — is a key part of preparing Clemson University for what comes next. In July, the board of trustees gave preliminary approval to the key concepts in the strategic plan and charged the administration to return this fall with a final plan for review.
Included among those key concepts are the following priorities:
• Providing high-impact engagement opportunities to students as a cornerstone of undergraduate education.
• Growing research and doctoral enrollment, with emphasis on programs and research focus areas where we can achieve national prominence, and an organizational structure that supports excellence.
• Making Clemson an exceptional place to work.
• Increasing our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.
The plan also retains many of the strategic priorities of the 2020 Road Map — including a sustained Top 20 national ranking, an aggressive capital improvement plan and commitment to outreach and economic progress for South Carolina.
In order to achieve these goals, we must create a climate where every person feels valued and has the ability to succeed. The need for a more diverse and inclusive campus emerged as a consistent message from the strategic planning team. Based on that work and the dozens of meetings we held with faculty, staff, students and alumni in the spring, we have framed a plan for diversity and excellence that has the following four pillars:
• First, develop and implement a strategic plan to increase the diversity of the student body, staff, faculty and administration, with measurable goals.
• Second, promote greater cultural awareness and a sense of community, which is the focus of several initiatives launched last spring, such as the monthly student dialogue lunches and a planned lecture series.
• Third, assess and enhance the effectiveness of existing diversity initiatives and support services. As part of this effort, we will move the Gantt Multicultural Center from Student Affairs to the Office of Diversity — to enhance coordination and better leverage the expertise and resources of each unit.
• Fourth, document and communicate the history of Clemson, including the role of under-represented groups. We have initiated a process with state authorities to add a series of markers to campus to help document additional parts of our history.
These efforts will be enhanced by the board’s recent action to adopt a resolution and appoint a task force to explore ways to accurately preserve and tell the complete history of Clemson, which includes opening a discussion on Benjamin Tillman. I applaud the board for their action, and I look forward to assisting the task force with their work. Evaluating, discussing, critiquing and debating important issues are what great universities do to arrive at the best solutions. Understanding and communicating the full story of Clemson’s history is an important part of creating a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment.
So what’s next for Clemson in 2015-16?
• Enrolling another outstanding class of students.
• Launching a new strategic plan by January 1, 2016.
• Successfully completing the Will to Lead for Clemson capital campaign, which will make Clemson the first public university with an alumni base our size to surpass a $1 billion campaign goal.
• Opening new academic and athletic facilities on campus, as well as additions to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research campus in Greenville and the Zucker Family Graduation Education Center in North Charleston — with more groundbreakings to come.
What comes next — is another great year to be a Clemson Tiger!