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My Clemson: Bear Walker ’11

Bear WalkerGraphic communications major-turned-custom skateboard maker, Bear Walker reveals his creative process.

Q: HOW DID YOU GET INTO MAKING CUSTOM SKATEBOARDS?

A: I got my degree from Clemson in graphic communications, and for one of my projects, I actually chose to design a skateboard. After that, I didn’t touch anything skateboard-related for a few years. I became a prop master at a special rims company and then a fabricator at a custom sign shop. When I was carving out a custom sign one day, I thought it would make a pretty cool grip for a skateboard, so I tried it and made one. People started asking me where I got it from, and I started taking orders. It just grew from there.

Q: IS THERE A LESSON OR MEMORY FROM CLEMSON THAT STICKS WITH YOU?

A: My favorite stuff at Clemson was the printing projects, and that meant you were going to be in lab for, like, your entire life. But it was the fun part. That kind of translated to my career. If you’re going to do something more fun as an occupation, it’s going to be a lot more work because most of the time, passion projects aren’t necessities. Like if someone’s breaker goes out, they have to call an electrician to get a new breaker, but I have to convince someone to buy a skateboard.

Beacon by Bear Walker

Q: HOW MANY SKATEBOARDS DO YOU MAKE IN A DAY?

A: If I’m doing stock orders, I can make six. If I’m working on a custom, it’ll probably just be that one.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED WHEN YOU’RE WORKING LONG HOURS?

A: I do get burnt out every once in a while, but then I’ll do a custom for a client, and they’ll request something I’ve never done before. I’ll try it out and figure out new ways to carve, which brings so many new possibilities for other projects. That’s what keeps me inspired. I know the more I do this, the crazier and better stuff I can come up with.

Q: WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR RECENT GRADS?

A: Be susceptible to change. If you have a really good idea of what you want to do, that’s awesome — kudos to you. But if you’re not 100 percent set in your career path, don’t be afraid to take opportunities you didn’t quite have in mind to begin with. Sometimes, you get into a job or get offered an opportunity, and it completely changes your mindset for where you want your life to go.

Q: FAVORITE SKATEBOARD TRICK?

A: Power slide.

Show Me How You Really Feel: Brian Sullivan ’90

Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan at Vizbii Inc. headquarters

Imagine leaving an online review without having to write a single word. Thanks to Sullivan, there’s an app for that.

A 1990 PSYCHOLOGY GRADUATE and clinical psychologist, Brian Sullivan is also the co-founder of Vizbii Inc., a technological communication company headquartered in Charleston. Vizbii is home to Morphii, a platform that’s changing the game for measuring emotion in the professional world.

With more than 20 years of experience teaching and working in the counseling center at the College of Charleston as well as in private practice, Sullivan watched as his patients struggled to describe their feelings using traditional scales and typical Q&A formats, sparking the original idea for the Morphii project.

“What I quickly found was that the traditional method, especially when the answer format is a scale with some numbers on it, is too far removed from their actual experience,” Sullivan explains.

His patented solution is a collection of morphing cartoon faces called “morphiis” that are embedded in an analytics database platform. His co-founder, and now wife, Corey Sullivan, animated the idea and then developed several prototypes to perfect the application.

To combat the drawbacks of scales and questionnaires, morphiis are equipped with a sliding scale. Each morphii represents a different emotion — happiness, anger, disgust or surprise — and the scale is used to adjust the intensity of the morphii’s expression. This feature helps the participant account for a much larger range of emotions than the traditional numerical scale.

Morphii can be used in business or health care settings and is incorporated into mobile- and web-based applications to easily capture and measure emotions.

“It’s like an emotional Intel chip inside a computer,” Sullivan says.

Recently, Vizbii has helped big-name brands like Verizon, JetBlue and Capital One incorporate Morphii into development projects. Other clients include a preschool on Daniel Island that uses the application to assess teacher and employee engagement as well as parent satisfaction and a physician in North Carolina who is integrating Morphii into his practice to identify patients who may be on a pathway to opioid addiction.

Morphii’s usefulness across a range of industries has Sullivan excited for the future of his smiling — and frowning — faces.

Check out Sullivan’s TEDx talk on the power of emotion:

The Patriot: Robert McPherson ‘Mac’ Burdette ’72, M ’74, M ’77

Mac Burdette

Mac Burdette at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant

As the executive director of Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Burdette is motivated by his passions for history and the military.

PATRIOTS POINT Naval and Maritime Museum is home to the USS Yorktown, known affectionately as the Fighting Lady. The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, decommissioned in 1970, earned 11 battle stars in the Pacific offensive of World War II and five more in the Vietnam War.

In 1968, the Yorktown recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and their capsule in waters south of Hawaii. Now, moored in Charleston Harbor, the ship falls under the watch of Robert McPherson “Mac” Burdette.

“It’s almost a feeling of destiny,” Burdette says. “This is where I was supposed to end up because I do have a passion for [the military]. Frankly, everybody who works here does. No doubt Clemson prepared me for what I do today.”

Burdette was a history major at Clemson when his studies were disrupted by the Vietnam War. He enlisted: “The wisest thing to do was enlist because you assumed you were going to be drafted. Enlisting meant getting a commission, and that was the smartest move.”

After serving in active duty as a second lieutenant in the Army, Burdette entered the Army Reserve, where he achieved the rank of colonel after 30 years of service, including a year in the Persian Gulf War.

Outside of the Army Reserve, Burdette spent much of his career as the city manager for Mount Pleasant, helping it grow and develop for almost three decades. In 2010, he was considering retirement when the executive director opportunity at Patriots Point came into view. Burdette couldn’t resist.

Along with the USS Yorktown, Patriots Point hosts the USS Laffey, a destroyer, and the USS Clamagore, a submarine, as well as a Vietnam War exhibit and a Medal of Honor museum. Each year, the museum sees more than 300,000 visitors and hosts 24,000 overnight campers. The site also has an economic impact of more than $29 million on the area, according to a 2014 College of Charleston study.

Burdette’s goal for the museum is to help younger generations of Americans understand the sacrifice and courage of veterans. “I like to think we’re a lot more than a museum,” he says. “It’s more about gaining perspective on what war is all about. As difficult as it is, there are times when men and women are called to preserve the values we hold dear as Americans.”

A Voice for the Community: Whitney Sullivan ’13

Whitney Sullivan

Whitney Sullivan at WLTX News 19’s headquarters

As an early-morning anchor, Sullivan has been nationally recognized for her dedication to viewers.

WHITNEY SULLIVAN begins her day as Columbia sleeps. She usually settles into her desk at WLTX News 19’s headquarters around 1 a.m. The office, a utilitarian mishmash of brick and steel on Garners Ferry Road, is never truly quiet.

In the digital age, news is not only constant but also constantly documented, and Sullivan knows this dynamic better than most. As an anchor in the 4:30 a.m. slot, she must pull double duty keeping her viewers informed and keeping them from crawling back into bed. But the early hour creates a bond.

“If you get up at 4:30, we’re family,” she says. “Those are my people, those who have to get their day started a little earlier than everyone else.”

Sullivan’s embrace of her viewers is an extension of her approach to journalism. In her role as an anchor, reporter and producer, she favors a community-focused approach acting as a mouthpiece for unsung local heroes and a watchdog for local concerns.

Sometimes that community-conscious approach means covering national news as well. Sullivan’s coverage of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, which was nominated for an Emmy, helped Columbia viewers empathize and express grief in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.

“I’m proud of that show because not only did we do that within hours of finding out about it, but I feel like we really presented the facts,” she says. “We worked toward healing. We really got to hear from everybody, about how they felt about that, in our community. Even though it happened in Orlando, there were people hurting in the Midlands from what happened miles and miles away. We were able to tap into that and give a voice to the people and let them express how they were feeling.”

The twin desires to inform and give voice to the local community animate Sullivan’s work.

“I get to be a voice for the people in the community that I love,” Sullivan says. “It’s something that I fall more in love with every day.”

Just Go For It: Permelia Luongo M ’16

Luongo

Permelia Luongo at Midlands Technical College

As the bridge program coordinator for Midlands Technical College, Luongo is helping change students’ futures.

EVERY DAY, PERMELIA LUONGO has the opportunity to encourage prospective students of all ages to attend Midlands Technical College in Columbia. Whether on the phone or in person, she’ll say, “Come on, you can do this! What’s stopping you?”

After 30 years of higher education service, Luongo began to reflect and ask herself the very same question.

“I had an undergraduate degree, and I just said, ‘I’m never going back to school,’” says Luongo. During a leadership program at the University of South Carolina, a mentor and former Midlands Technical College president encouraged her to pursue graduate studies to be more involved in policy affecting the academic outcome of students.

“I did some research and discovered Clemson had online graduate-level programs,” she says. “It was as if it were meant to be.”

Luongo began work on her master’s in human resources development, focusing on organizational change. Originally, she wasn’t keen to pursue online learning because she liked being in the classroom, but she said the experience was better than anything she imagined.

“My Clemson degree complements my work in higher education and provides me with additional skills and resources to contribute valuable information and insight into organizational change,” Luongo says. “I believe this is mission-critical as community colleges shape partnerships with secondary institutions. Through these partnerships we share professional expertise, resources and facilities and in turn promote student success.”

Luongo has reaffirmed her dedication to changing students’ lives through education, working to further develop new means to meet students’ expanding list of needs and enhance enrollment practices to make four-year universities more accessible.

“My guiding principle and ultimate desire is for all students to be successful,” she says. “Learning makes you feel alive. I want to give that experience to as many people as possible. As a result, I try to be an encourager, offering as much advice, support and guidance as I can to the students I come in contact with.”