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A Rare Bird

 

Drew Lanham receives national acclaim for his memoir

 

This spring, Clemson Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology J. Drew Lanham ’88, M ’90, Ph.D. ’97 has been quoted widely in the national media in publications ranging from The Atlantic and Vanity Fair to Garden and Gun magazine and The Bitter Southerner. He’s also been on NPR podcasts and in Newsweek.

Much of his visibility has been in response to the Central Park birdwatching confrontation in May between Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper, a white woman whose dog was unleashed.

A nationally known birder and proponent of increasing diversity among the ranks of birders, Lanham has had his own confrontations with those who see a Black man with binoculars as a threat rather than as another human exploring the world of flight. “My binoculars have become heavier now,” he said during his NPR interview. “It’s become harder for me now to pick up my binoculars and singularly focus on birds.”

Lanham also was lauded in the national media this spring for his memoir, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, which was named by The Chronicle of Higher Education among “The Best Scholarly Books of the Decade” and by Literary Hub among “The 10 Best Memoirs of the Decade and Then Some.

“To have a work of creative nonfiction — of nature writing — recognized in a way that puts it in a scholarly realm is personally important because it validates your personal story, your personal struggles,” Lanham said.

The memoir takes readers back to the origins of the titular love story — to Edgefield County, South Carolina, where generations of Lanham’s ancestors, dating to slavery, called home and where Lanham began to fall in love with the natural world around him. Through his journey, Lanham never loses sight of the significance of his identity as a Black man in the Deep South and eventually as “the rare bird, the oddity” of a Black man in the conservation sciences.

“Lanham explains how much he wishes there were other Black scientists at the ornithology meetings he attends,” wrote Anna Tsing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Too often, our ideas of what it means to be Black are contained within the life of the city. The countryside is banished; it can only be known for its violence and bad memories. Yet many African Americans continue to live in the countryside, and many in cities are proud, not ashamed, of their rural roots. Lanham’s memoir makes it possible to imagine a confident Black embrace of nature.”

Lanham called the recognition for his book “a great honor,” not least because he says some in academia view such personal, creative endeavors as antithetical to serious scientific pursuits. “That validation from the outside is important for any of us at a university. We don’t just want the acceptance of those people we work with — we all know that’s important — but what we strive to do is get the science out and get the words out to the world.” 

Listen to a podcast on Threshold with Lanham.

Listen to a Yale Podcast with Lanham.

CNN: The realities of being a black birdwatcher

 

 

Students Shine On National Stage

Clemson students won record numbers of prestigious national awards this year, ranging from the highly competitive Fulbright awards to the National Science Foundation, Goldwater, Astronaut and Hollings fellowships, which focus on STEM fields, and the Truman, Udall and Knight-Hennessy awards, which are service oriented.

1 | Charles Dove ’20 majored in electrical engineering and received the Fulbright Program’s Switzerland Study-Research Award. He received an Honorable Mention from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship in 2020, a 2019 Astronaut Scholarship and was the recipient of the 2019 W.M. Riggs Award, given to the top student in electrical engineering.

2 | Jessica Baron is a Ph.D. student in computer science, visual computing, and received the Fulbright Program’s Switzerland Study-Research Award. She is currently a graduate research assistant in 2D and 3D facial analysis and a graduate teacher of record for digital production arts. Additionally, she has interned at TH Köln in Germany, Weta Digital in New Zealand and Pixar RenderMan.

3 | Jonathan Vogel ’20 majored in mechanical engineering and received the Aston Martin Coventry University Automotive Award. This is the first year this award has been offered by Fulbright, and Vogel was selected as the single recipient. It covers the first year of his master’s degree program and includes an industry placement with Aston Martin upon completion.

4 | McKinnon Reece ’20 majored in mechanical engineering and minored in Mandarin Chinese. He received the Taiwan English Teaching Assistantship from the Fulbright Program. He was previously selected for the Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. State Department to study Chinese. He will be a teaching assistant and will work with local English teachers in elementary, middle or high schools.

5 | Madison Butler ’15 majored in language and international health. She received a Spain English Teaching Assistantship from the Fulbright Program. As a teaching assistant, she will be teaching English in elementary, middle or high schools. She previously served as a teacher with Teach for America.

6 | Mary Lyons ’19 majored in English and political science. She received a Serbia English Teaching Assistantship from the Fulbright Program. Lyons previously studied abroad in Serbia and will be returning to teach English to K-12 students.

In addition to Fulbright awards, three seniors and four graduate students received Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation; three undergraduates received 2020 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships; one undergraduate is the third Clemson student ever to receive the Truman Scholarship; and an undergraduate is Clemson’s second-ever Udall Scholar.

In addition, Clemson students and recent graduates received the 1897 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship, the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship to Stanford Law School, the University’s first Madison Fellowship and the Astronaut Scholarship, as well as two Hollings Scholarships and 23 Gilman Scholarships.

More about Clemson students on the national stage:

Tyler McDougald awarded Point Foundation Scholarship

 

 

Seven Faculty Win Top Awards for Early Career Achievement

Seven assistant professors are receiving some of the nation’s top awards for faculty who are early in their careers, providing a boost to Clemson’s research in smart materials, supercomputers, environmental sustainability, math education and soil science.

Their awards came from three separate federal agencies, each of which have grant programs aimed at supporting researchers early in their careers, including several hundred thousand dollars in research funding.

1 | Fadi Abdeljawad
assistant professor of mechanical engineering
Army Research Office Young Investigator Program Award

Abdeljawad and his team are working to better understand how nanocrystalline metallic alloys respond to extreme environments. Their work could be the next step in creating a new generation of alloys with unprecedented properties, resulting in lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and airplanes.

2 | Abby Allen
assistant professor of special education
Institute of Education Sciences’ Early Career Award

Allen is researching and designing a sentence writing intervention for students with learning disabilities. She hopes to fill both a research and practice gap she first noticed during her time as an elementary school speech-language pathologist.

3 | Jon Calhoun
assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Calhoun’s project is aimed at helping engineers and scientists use supercomputers to solve increasingly large problems, potentially clearing the way for new research ranging from predicting the weather to designing better airplanes.

4 | Carlos Gomez
assistant professor of education
National Science Foundation CAREER award

Gomez will use the grant to characterize and analyze the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle-grade mathematics. He is interested in how mathematics and language intersect, especially for students who are pulling double duty learning math and the English language for the first time.

5 | Kara Powder
assistant professor of biological sciences
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Powder investigates gene regulatory elements that determine craniofacial development and evolution. Insights from Powder’s research may someday provide targets for gene therapies addressing craniofacial malformations, which occur in about 70 percent of all human birth defects.

6 | Ulf Schiller
assistant professor of materials science and engineering
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Schiller and his team will employ sophisticated supercomputing techniques to better understand complex fluids, a step toward creating new smart materials that could potentially be used in energy storage, drug delivery and water treatment, and have applications in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

7 | Rongzhong Ye
assistant professor of plant and environmental sciences

National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Ye studies soil biogeochemistry to understand physical, chemical and biological processes that affect microbial communities, soil health and crop production. The grant will allow him to extend his research in identifying the links between soil microbial communities and soil functions in agriculture. 

There’s Something Sweet In These Hills … and You Can Have It Shipped

Since its creation about 100 years ago, Clemson Ice Cream has undergone transformations to keep up with the times. This year is no different. The ’55 Exchange is now accepting online orders for Clemson Ice Cream to be shipped directly to customers. Orders ship the second week of each month.

The ’55 Exchange is a student-run business, and, much like other small-business food retailers, it has taken a big financial hit from forced closure due to COVID-19. “We operate just like any other small business, including paying rent to the University as well as paying our student and professional staff,” said Amy Grace Funcik, one of the student employees. “We entered the shutdown with a strong balance sheet but with no means to generate sales. Our financial strength has been severely impacted, placing the ’55 Exchange business future in jeopardy. So, we are looking for members of the Clemson Family to help us promote the launch of our ice cream shipping program.”

 Anyone interested in helping support ’55 Exchange programs can email Funcik at afuncik@g.clemson.edu. Online orders can be placed at clemson.edu/icecream.

Trustees Rename Honors College

 

 

Board also requests authority to restore
original name of Tillman Hall

 

During their scheduled June meeting, the University’s Board of Trustees approved changing the name of the Honors College to the Clemson University Honors College, effective immediately. The college has been named the Calhoun Honors College since 1982. The trustees also approved a resolution requesting authority from the South Carolina General Assembly to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of the Main Building, commonly called “Old Main.” The building was renamed by the trustees in 1946.

“Clemson University has a long-celebrated history of tradition and excellence, but we must recognize there are central figures in Clemson’s history whose ideals, beliefs and actions do not represent the University’s core values of respect and diversity,” said Smyth McKissick, chair of the board. “Today’s action by the board acknowledges that now is the time to move forward together as a more unified Clemson Family in order to make our University stronger today and into the future.”

The actions taken were consistent with a deliberative process set in motion in 2015 when the board of trustees established a history task force to tell the full and complete history of Clemson. During the past few years, the task force has erected historical markers, documented Clemson founders’ biographies, and updated historical signage to better reflect the complete history.

“Our Trustees’ leadership today sends a clear message that Clemson University intends to be a place where all our students, employees and guests feel welcome,” said President Clements. “Our work in this area is far from finished, but we are committed to building on the progress we have made in the areas of diversity and inclusivity as we strive to serve our entire state and the nation.”