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The View from Sikes: Preparing for What Comes Next

PrezClementsVFSikesA 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!

Go Tigers!

CADENCE COUNT: Clemson Hits the Top 20

This fall, Clemson broke into celebration mode when the U.S.News & World Report rankings hit the street. Sitting beside Clemson University’s name on the listing of national public universities was a #20.

The audacious idea that Clemson could rank among the top national universities in the nation was first articulated by President Emeritus Jim Barker in a 10-year plan he set forth in 2000. At that time, Clemson was tied for 38th. It was a bold goal, and it took a bit longer than 10 years.

So what does it mean to be top 20? For alumni, it means that your degree keeps gaining value each year, as public recognition of a Clemson education grows. There are both quantitative and qualitative factors that go into the rankings. Here are just a few of the pieces of that puzzle.

#8

Up & Coming Universities

One of 11

Recognized for Writing Across Disciplines program

#4

Alumni Giving

#31

Best Undergraduate Engineering Program

#50

Best Undergraduate Business Program

#10

Average ACT Score (28)

#21

Average Math SAT Score (637)

#18

Average Critical Reading SAT Score (609)

#20

Percentage of Incoming Freshmen who Ranked in top 10% of High School Class (56%)

57.2%

Fall 2013 Acceptance Rate

91%

Average Freshman Retention Rate

51%

Classes with Fewer than 20 Students

82%

6-year Graduation Rate

17:1

Student-Faculty Ratio

Meet the Provost: ROBERT H. JONES JR. ’79, M ’81

Bob Jones, Clemson’s new executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, has called many places “home” over the years. A native of western New York state, he came to Clemson as an undergraduate to study forestry, drawn to the area for the biodiversity of its trees. Since then, he and his wife, Jeri ’80, have been at the University of Georgia, Syracuse, Auburn, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University. But when Jones had the opportunity to come back to Clemson as provost, he knew he was truly coming home.

Jones took some time for an interview about his time as a student at Clemson and his goals to move Clemson forward.

Q: Tell me about your experience as a Clemson student. Do any special memories stand out?

A: A powerful memory was the first time I sat with about 60 other foresters in a class and realized there were 60 other people who had the same passion I did. I was a New Yorker, I had long hair and looked a little bit like a hippie, but I worked hard, and the faculty didn’t care what I looked like or what my cultural background was; they recognized that I was working hard and performing, and they rewarded me and encouraged me. All of my faculty were welcoming and encouraging, and they were an inspiration for me. I finally said to myself, “I want to be like them.” The Forestry Club was important part of my intellectual and social development. And I spent a lot of time learning — and playing — in the Experimental Forest. The Experimental Forest is a fantastic resource for the University that is somewhat underutilized and underappreciated.

Q: Your wife, Jeri, is also a Clemson alum. How did you meet?

A: Jeri was a zoology major in the pre-vet program. Her curriculum called for one plant class, so she took plant ecology, and we were in the same class — that’s how we met. She was involved in theater and chorus, and she invited me to come to a theater production where she was volunteering as an usher. That was our first date. She was worried I wasn’t going to show up, and when I did show up, all she did was show me to my seat and say thank you. On the surface, it wasn’t much of a first date! But it meant a lot to me.

Q. Has anything surprised you about Clemson since you have come back?

A: Clemson has advanced beyond most institutions in developing true interdisciplinary scholarship and learning. I was pleasantly surprised that we’re very good at that, ahead of most universities that I know. I knew Clemson had become strong in undergraduate learning and had built a strong cadre of undergraduate students working within a challenging learning environment, but when I saw Clemson’s highly innovative and interdisciplinary nature in person, I was very impressed. It’s a great platform to start from as the University continues to go forward.

Q: A lot has changed since you were a student at Clemson, but what have you found that has not changed?

A: <laughs> Johnstone Hall and the University Union! I know with the Core Campus project under construction and other plans being developed, those buildings will be coming down in the next few years, but I’m glad I got here before the end of that chapter. I have been able to relive some of my fondest memories there.

Q. This year, Clemson achieved a long-held goal by moving into the U.S.News & World Report top 20 public colleges and universities. So what’s next? What will the next major University goal be?

A: A new vision is now beginning to crystalize, and I think it will focus on three areas: continuing to improve the undergraduate learning experience, building a strong international reputation in graduate studies and increasing our national prominence in research. Those three goals have to be highly integrated — enhancing one area should automatically enhance the others. For example, as we grow our research programs, it should create more research opportunities for our undergraduates, and we’ll see higher quality teaching from Ph.D. students added to the mix. As we grow graduate studies, that will, in turn, help accelerate our research and provide more tutoring and mentoring for our undergraduate students. If you do it strategically, they are all linked. They can all push each other higher.

Q: You worked with President Clements at West Virginia, where you were dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. Describe your relationship with him and how the two of you will work together at Clemson.

A: President Clements and I share the same core values, and we have very complimentary skill sets. He is a charismatic, visionary leader; I am an implementer. Put those two things together, and we make a strong team.

Q. Clemson has a number of administrative and leadership positions that need to be filled. What types of people will you be looking for when filling those important positions?

A. There are two qualities I’ll be looking for in new administrators: they need to be collaborative and visionary. We need collaborators to help build teams that work together well, and we need visionaries to look at and plan for Clemson’s future.

Q. Any final thoughts to share?

A: Sometimes people have a hard time seeing the strengths and potential of their own institution. When you come from the outside, though, it’s really clear. Perhaps it’s just human nature; we are struggling with our daily workloads and tasks, and sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Someone from the outside takes a look and sees the whole forest before they see the trees. That’s what I see when I look at Clemson. I see huge potential.

Training TIGERS for the real world

Training Tigers

Client-Based Writing Program is preparing students to write professionally in the workplace.

For mechanical engineering major Eric Roper, it’s fair to say that writing was not one of his favorite subjects. But as a senior trying to prepare himself for a career that involves writing reports and procedures, he needed to have a basic skill set under his belt.

That’s where professor Ashley Cowden’s technical writing class last fall came into play. A part of Clemson’s Client-Based Writing Program, the class provided Roper the opportunity to experience writing and formatting technical documents in a real-life setting, while gaining the knowledge that would prepare him for future technical writing projects he may encounter in the workforce.

Writing class+local client=real-world experience

Having been recently ranked among the top 10 in U.S.News & World Report’s list of schools with the highest percentage of students holding internships or co-op positions, Clemson takes pride in offering programs and opportunities to provide students with this type of real-world experience.

The Client-Based Writing Program pairs business and technical writing classes with local clients, such as nonprofit organizations, public schools, corporations and University departments, that need communication deliverables. In teams, students complete deliverables that range from white papers and research reports to brochures, instruction manuals and multimedia presentations.

Established in 2003, the program has garnered impressive statistics. More than 4,361 students in more than 220 sections of business and technical writing have partnered with clients, and more than 30 writing faculty and 176 clients from the campus and community have participated in the program.

Cowden, director of the program, has witnessed its development since the beginning.

“We started out doing a lot of environmental projects and sustainability, because that’s where a lot of the funding was and we felt very passionate about that,” she said.

Since then, the program has branched out in terms of the clients and projects that it undertakes, developing a strong reputation and a long list of clients ranging from Clemson Dining Services to Anderson Adult Education and Habitat for Humanity.

Solving real problems

Richard Gaines, director of Anderson Adult Education Center, has been working with professor Philip Randall’s classes for the past three years, and admires the creativity and commitment displayed through each project and semester. The classes have assisted with a variety of projects, including marketing efforts, boosting morale of students and faculty through building enhancements and surveys, communicating GED requirements and research.

“It’s been motivating for our students and staff to see the hard work and dedication of the University students,” Gaines said. “Beyond the obvious benefits, there are countless rewards that both groups experience by being challenged and inspired by each other.”

A goal of Randall’s is to enable students to excel in business writing while using their talents to positively impact society by solving real problems in the real world.

“Helping people get more education so they can qualify for better jobs is helping solve a very big problem,” Randall said. “It can change life for a person or even an entire family. So the work that Clemson students are doing for adult ed is very important.”

Moving students toward confident communicating

In addition to teaching and recruiting clients to participate in the program, Cowden is responsible for recruiting faculty members like Randall and orienting them to an approach unlike most of their other classes. Classes are very much student-centered, as class members work directly with clients. And faculty members collaborate with their students in a variety of ways throughout the process.

“In the beginning of the semester,” Cowden said, “we’re teaching a lot of the theory, how to perform good audience analysis, what a good proposal sounds like, how to do research, and so on.” Once the class moves forward in the process of actively working with a client, the professors direct students’ attention to the client when they have questions.

And while Cowden and other faculty members don’t tell students how to solve problems, they do work to guide them toward finding a solution.

“The client comes and says, ‘Here’s my problem, and here’s what I think I need.’ I know in my head how I would do it, and I try to ask students questions to help them get there, but I try to let them figure that out on their own,” she said.

And watching them succeed is especially rewarding, according to Cowden and Randall.

“Watching these students do amazing things for a client is exciting,” Randall said. “I often think, ‘I get to do this!’ I find it that enjoyable. It’s the best way to teach, in my opinion.”

Cowden views the program as one of the more unique experiences offered at Clemson.

“You have to meet real client expectations, and it’s not just for a grade,” Cowden said. “These skills give our students more confidence to be able to ask tough questions, give a client feedback, and feel more confident in their communication ability.”

Building résumés while building character

As the program enters its tenth year, it exhibits the potential for growth in the midst of its success. Cowden would like to expand the program across campus into a wider variety of courses. That has already begun “in little pockets,” she said, including some graduate classes. “I would also love to have more classes collaborating on projects, like having a business writing and marketing class working together.”

In all its efforts, the Client-Based Program is motivating business and technical majors to develop writing skills that will be useful in their careers. And with these new skills, students are building résumés while also building character through using their knowledge for the betterment of the Clemson community and surrounding areas.

“The IPTAY project we worked on not only gave me experience in writing technical documents, but it also gave me a chance to give back to the University,” Roper said. “And the experience will definitely benefit me in my career, because it’s given me an effective approach for writing technical reports and procedures.”

CLIENT PARTNERS

In addition to on-campus clients, the Client-Based Writing Program has worked with the following off-campus organizations:

AMECO division of Fluor Corp.
American Haitian Project
Anderson County Board of Education
Anderson County Department of Health     and Environmental Control
Anderson County Museum
Anderson County Transportation
Anderson Emergency Food Bank
Anderson Free Clinic
Anderson-Oconee Speech and Hearing    Clinic
Anderson Services Association
Anderson Sunshine House
Betty Griffin House
Cancer Association of Anderson
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
City of Clemson
Clean Start
Clemson Child Development Center
Clemson Elementary School
Code Elementary School

Concerned Citizens for Animals
CYT-Upstate
Doclink
Dining for Women
Foothills Conservancy for the    Performing Arts
Foothills YMCA
Frazee Dream Center
Gignilliat Park Academy
Greenville County Library
Greenville Humane Society
Habitat for Humanity
Happy Hooves
Helping Hands of Clemson
Hope Academy
Impact
Iva Recreation
Keep America Beautiful
Littlejohn Community Center

Mary’s House
McCants Middle School
Michelin Tire Co. Research and      Development
Oconee County Foster Parent Association
Oconee County Track Team
Oconee Pediatrics
Parenting Place
Pendleton Historic Foundation
Pickens County YMCA
Sharing Inc.
South Carolina Urban and Community Forestry Program
United Way of Pickens County

Upstate South Carolina Red Cross

We Stand for Kids