Clemson University students help each other
Mentoring programs match grad students with undergrads, and upper-division students with incoming first-years. Students can do community outreach
With over 20,000 students on campus, Clemson University offers a wide range of graduate programs. The College of Engineering and Science offers masters and PhD programs in more than twenty majors, including automotive engineering and materials science.
To support diversity, the school has established programs that help students help each other. Undergraduates reach out to high school students, grads to undergrads, and faculty and professionals to grad students.
“We have a very supportive culture of community,” says Serita Acker, director of Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering program (WISE).
Mentoring programs ease the way
WISE grew out of Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER), and works closely with the older group. PEER focuses on African American and Hispanic/Latino American students. The mentoring program is the heart of PEER, matching upper-class students with incoming freshmen and transfer students for a yearlong relationship that begins during the summer before they arrive on campus. WISE Big Sisters do the same for women students.
“Experienced, successful students pass on their accumulated wisdom to each incoming group, forming a chain of success in STEM,” says Susan Lasser, director of PEER.
PEER mentors and WISE Big Sisters are assigned eight to twelve students to contact. They meet with their mentees throughout the school year, and can alert Lasser and Acker to any student problems before those problems become crises.
In addition to mentoring, PEER and WISE offer a variety of services, including a bank of practice tests from previous classes to help students study. Personal study skills coaching and time management help are also available. A summer bridge program, the Math Excellence Workshop, funded by the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, is also available to incoming PEER students.
Call Me Doctor is a fellowship for engineering and science graduate students that includes an educational outreach component. One Call Me Doctor Fellow, Jordan Gilmore, developed a module simulating brain surgery for fifth grade students.
Grad students get young women interested
WISE graduate students can reach out to young women through programs that include Project WISE for sixth to eighth-grade middle school girls, Bring Your Daughter to Clemson Day and the Girl Scouts’ Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which is sponsored by Lockheed Martin.
Some grad students have taught middle and high school age girls how to sample their own DNA. Others led a bone biology workshop, and a different group taught girls how to disassemble a Wii console.
“Graduate students are so important, because they are exposed to cutting-edge research in their fields,” says Acker. “They can talk about their research and communicate the excitement they feel. They are role models, encouraging young women to enter and stay in STEM fields.”
Acker also heads a program aimed at retaining undergraduate women in engineering. WISE offers academic, social and professional events to bring together all women on campus, from faculty to grad students to undergrads.
Since its beginning in 1995, WISE has expanded to create a pipeline of programs from elementary through high school. In 2013, WISE earned national recognition for its outreach efforts from the National Engineering Foundation and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network.
Mentoring institute for African Americans
In May, Clemson received a $5 million NSF grant to launch the Institute for African American Mentoring in Computing Sciences. The institute will serve as a national resource and will emphasize mentoring as the primary strategy for increasing African American participation in computing. It is under the direction of Juan Gilbert, presidential endowed professor and chairman of the Human-Centered Computing division at Clemson, and Shaundra Daily, assistant professor in the School of Computing.
Under the auspices of the new institute, the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon University, Rice University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Winston-Salem State University are partnering with Clemson to find ways to increase African Americans in computing sciences. The institute aims to increase the number of African American doctoral graduates who enter the workforce with a research focus; retain and advance African American doctoral students, faculty and researchers in computing; and develop future African American leaders with computing expertise in the academy, government and industry.
Professional organizations on campus
Clemson has campus chapters of the National Black Graduate Student Association, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, Theta Tau (a professional engineering fraternity), Alpha Omega Epsilon (a women’s engineering sorority), and the Association for Women in Mathematics.
All Clemson students are welcome to join PEER and WISE. “Many of our programs are run for the entire college,” says Lasser. “They are a benefit we provide to every student.”
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