By Jackie Todd, Office of University Relations
For years, women have contributed to the success of Clemson University. The President’s Commission on the Status of Women at Clemson University honors those efforts each year its annual Outstanding Women Awards.
This year, the spotlight was on six amazing women.
Diane Perpich, Ph.D. was recognized with the Outstanding Academic Faculty Award. A professor in the department of philosophy and religion in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, Perpich directs the innovative degree-granting program in Women’s Leadership and serves as director of Interdisciplinary Programs in the college. From fundraising to identifying and attracting guest speakers, Perpich has been instrumental in the program’s rapid growth and success.
The Outstanding Staff Award was presented to Mikah Jones. She raises funds for the American Cancer Society, works with youth sports and volunteers at a children’s ministry. Jones recently was accepted into the Women Excel Leadership Exchange, which teaches businesswomen the skills to become exceptional leaders. And if that’s not enough, Jones is working on her MBA while holding down her full-time job as a business manager for the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.
Also hailing from the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management is student Kellie Walters, who was honored with the Outstanding Graduate student Award for her work with Finding Your Voice, a camp which aspires to empower young girls through outdoor recreation experiences. She also participates in wellness coaching with adult women and Smart Fit Chicks (SFC), a program that she co-founded, which uses research-proven techniques to empower others to create healthy lifestyles. The initiative includes Smart Fit Girls — a multi-week after school program for teens that focuses on physical activity through strength training, nutrition, body image and self-esteem.
Senior women’s leadership major Gray Lee was an easy choice for the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. Lee will represent Clemson and the state of South Carolina at the United Nations in New York as part of a National Youth Engagement initiative. At Clemson, Lee is the public relations vice president for her sorority, an Order of Omega member, a University Orientation Ambassador, a student IPTAY board member, a UPIC intern with Campus Recreation and a ClemsonLIFE program volunteer. The former Miss Homecoming (2015) worked with Tiger Pride, a group of students that help with gameday football operations, recruiting visits and campus tours. Outside of Clemson, Lee has participated in mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Maine, Chicago, West Virginia, Boston and Atlanta.
Pat Zungoli never cared that entomology and related agricultural fields were dominated by men. She not only entered the field – she excelled in it. Zungoli, the recipient of the Distinguished Contributor Award, earned a Ph.D. in urban entomology in 1982 and continues to enjoy successful working relationships with all segments in entomology and the South Carolina pest control industry. In her 34 years of service, she has received accolades from industry Goliaths like Orkin and Syngenta and her teaching and mentoring has earned high praise from her students and the Entomological Society. Zungoli has contributed to her community as a Unitarian minister for a Pendleton church, a volunteer at the Clemson Little Theater and a former president of the Daniel High School PTA.
Student Emily Blackshire received the Thea McCrary Student Award for Outstanding Service. Through her work on the President’s Commission on Sustainability and her UPIC internship in University Housing and Dining, she conducted research and completed assessment for Clemson’s sustainability action plan. She served as a peer dialogue facilitator, co-chair of the ACC Student Leadership Symposium and chair of Clemson Student Government’s Health and Human Services Committee. In Psychology, she researched human trafficking and global injustices, and in Women’s Leadership, she studied adolescent females’ roles across the globe. In the community, Blackshire volunteers as a site coordinator for the United Way of Pickens County, assisting low-income community members with tax preparation and review. The Women’s Commission created the award in 2005 to honor the late Thea McCrary, former captain of the Clemson University Police Department, charter member and former chair of the Women’s Commission and a recipient of one of the first Outstanding Women Awards.
President Jim Clements, who, along with the university’s senior leaders attended the awards ceremony, had high praise for the recipients, the Women’s Commission, chair Jennifer Ogle, deputy chair Tina White and staff coordinator Linda Tindal.
“The work you all do is important as we try to ensure that women have the same opportunities that men do to succeed to achieve and to advance their careers in academia,” said Clements. “You do so much to help keep me informed of the issues that are important to women on our campus and the areas we need to work on, and I greatly appreciate that.”
The president outlined a number of initiatives that Clemson has undertaken – two of them in the past year. In 2016, he said, the university hosted a well-attended Regional Women’s Leadership Forum for the American Council on Education, where participants heard from experts in leadership and career advancement in higher education.
Also, last year, Clemson received a coveted $3.4 million dollar NSF Advance Grant that will be earmarked for a program called TIGERS Advance. The initiative will address improving the campus climate, retaining women in STEM fields, ensuring equitable workloads, providing support through mentoring and leadership development and implementing family-friendly policies.