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Keeping the pipeline filled with diverse talent

Duke Energy continues to support two Clemson summer programs for middle school girls and incoming college freshmen interested in the STEM fields.

Duke Energy is continuing to support two Clemson summer programs — one for middle school girls and one for incoming University freshmen — with an $85,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation. Both programs are aimed at increasing diversity in the pipeline that carries talent from the classroom to the workplace.

Project WISE is designed to educate middle school girls about opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, at a time of life when peer pressure tends to drive them away. The PEER and WISE Experience offers 50 incoming freshmen a head start on academics and campus life. Both programs, which are based in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, are designed for students from groups who are underrepresented in STEM fields, including women and minorities.

“We know that quality education programs like these are critical to creating the high-tech, diverse workforce we need for the 21st century,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “Partnering with great institutions like Clemson University helps our communities continue to grow and produce skilled workers who bring new ideas and innovations to our lives.”

About 60 middle school girls attended Project WISE this past summer. This year’s program targeted Title I schools in the Pee Dee, a region where Duke Energy is working to have great impact. Girls attended mini-courses in a range of topics from electrical engineering to computer science, taught by Clemson faculty and staff. Ten undergraduate Clemson students lived in residence halls with the Project WISE girls.

Serita Acker, director of PEER and WISE, said that since Project WISE started in 1997, many of the program’s alumni have come to Clemson, majoring in STEM disciplines. “All of the research shows that middle school is when you start thinking about what you want to do,” Acker said. “What makes us unique is we have all these young women in our college who serve as role models. Students can see what they could be like in the future.”

The PEER and WISE Experience, based on two previous summer programs aimed at helping ease students’ transition to college, had its inaugural three-week session in July. While living on campus, students studied college calculus, physics and chemistry and learned about research, graduate school and success strategies, such as time management. They also met alumni, providing them role models to emulate.

Acker said Duke Energy has long been key to the success of PEER and WISE and thanked the company for its latest contribution. “It not only plants the seed of STEM, it plants the seed of what the future can be when you get a college education,” she said. “Together, we are keeping the pipeline filled with diverse talent.”

Passing it on: Emily Wallace encourages the next generation of underrepresented students

 

Nov. 20, 2015 - Emily and Jack Wallace of Cary NC. Endowing a scholarship for underserved students in stem fields being interviewed at Riggs Hall

Emily Wallace ’72 has been breaking down barriers and cutting new paths since she was a student at Clemson, and now she is helping the next generation follow in her footsteps. Wallace and her husband, Jack, have established an endowed scholarship through the College of Engineering and Science. The scholarship targets groups who are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math.

“As a manager in technology, it’s hard to find women in technical backgrounds,” Wallace says. “But it’s not just women. It can be hard to find men, too. I’m trying to encourage more students in technical backgrounds.”

Wallace serves as senior director of the Knowledge Management Center at SAS, a software development company based out of Cary, North Carolina, that employs 15,000 worldwide. Emily and Jack Wallace were among the first 100 employees when they began working at the company 34 years ago.

The husband-and-wife team returned to campus in November for Legacy Day and to see the Tigers play Wake Forest in the last home football game of the season. Their itinerary included a meeting with Serita Acker, the program director for Women In Science and Engineering (WISE). The program offers support to female engineering and science majors, ranging from mentoring and networking to test banks and tutoring.

“I’m a strong believer in the WISE program,” Wallace says. “I love Serita. I wish we had the program when I was here.”

While at Clemson, Wallace became the first female director of the student radio station, WSBF. As a female math major, she was in a distinct minority. The experience helped prepare her for what was to come. “It gave me a lot of independence,” she says. “Being among a minority of female students helped me develop a thicker skin and to deal with people who did not see my viewpoint.”

Tigers football head coach Dabo Swinney and his wife, Kathleen, helped inspire the Wallaces to give back. “I was so impressed with what they are doing for the community and academic programs, it made me feel like I should do more,” Emily says.

While on campus, the Wallaces also toured the Watt Family Innovation Center, a state-of-the-art building designed to link students and industry. “I was blown away,” Emily says. “I want to come back as a student.”

 

Duke Energy Foundation gift supports students and teachers

Four programs at Clemson will be enhanced this year by a $115,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.
PEER (Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention), which helps freshman minority students adjust to college life; WISE, which supports females in engineering and science majors; EMAGINE!, which encourages middle and high school students to consider engineering as a career; and a teacher education course that introduces S.C. teachers to the educational resources at the Duke Energy Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station will share in the grant.

“Education has always been a focal point of our commitment to corporate giving,” said Scott Miller, government and community relations manager with Duke Energy. “We have long been proud to partner with Clemson University to support efforts that continue to make a difference in the lives of so many students and teachers in the Palmetto State.”