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.”