Dear Clemson Community,
I am thrilled to welcome everyone to what I believe will be the best year yet for Clemson. As the beginning of 2016-17 academic year draws near, the campus is coming alive with much energy and excitement. Our future has never been brighter. New Clemson students are moving into residence halls, over 100 new faculty are joining the Clemson family, and staff all over campus are working hard to make sure this year is an overwhelming success. Plus, Clemson football practice has begun and other fall sports are gearing up for what I trust will be another great year for our Tigers.
Much has taken place since the last academic year ended in May, and before we start classes next week, I want to take a moment to provide this update.
Last week, we held our summer graduation ceremony. Graduation is one of the most important days in the life of a university and I was delighted to preside over our latest ceremony in Greenville where 380 students were awarded bachelor’s degrees and 535 students received master’s degrees. Another 88 students were awarded doctorates at a hooding ceremony in the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts.
The Board of Trustees in July approved moving ahead with our new Clemson Forward Strategic Plan. The plan is built upon the strong foundation of the existing 2020 Road Map and focuses on enhancing four primary areas — research, engagement, the academic core, and living. The plan advances the university’s mission of providing a practical and intellectual education, and serving as a “high seminary of learning” for the state, as outlined in Thomas Green Clemson’s will. This plan also provides the framework for us to create graduates who are leaders in all facets of today’s complex society, and focuses on excellence in undergraduate education, engagement and innovation, recruiting and retaining top diverse talent, and building a world-class physical infrastructure. Learn more about the Clemson Forward plan.
Also in July, the Board of Trustees and many of our top donors celebrated with us the successful completion of our Will to Lead Campaign. With the unwavering support from the Clemson community, we surpassed our $1 billion goal for our student-centered, 10-year capital campaign, reaching a total of $1,062,528,346 in gifts and commitments. Will to Lead was the most successful capital campaign in the University’s history, and has already resulted in the creation of 682 new scholarships and fellowships, as well as 26 professorships and endowed chair positions. We also have renovated, built or have under construction numerous academic and athletic facilities as a direct result of the campaign. See the impact of your gifts.
Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our Clemson community remains a priority for me. The executive leadership team has been working hard over the summer months to make great progress on our commitment in this area and I am pleased to report that a number of initiatives are under way.
· The Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center has opened its doors at a new location on campus in Bracket Hall Suite 300. This new location offers better space for programming and is more centrally located for students looking to access the Gantt Center’s resources.
· Vice President Almeda Jacks and Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill have been meeting with different student groups to discuss a new funding plan for student organizations to ensure a fair process is in place and to increase funding where needed.
· We are continuing the effort to implement the History Task Force recommendations to transparently share the entire Clemson story. This includes new signage in front of Tillman Hall along with a display inside that details the building’s history. In addition, the biographies of the University founders will be included on our website. This work is to be completed soon.
· Creating a more inclusive campus climate has been a focus during student and parent orientations and in student monthly inclusivity luncheons created to encourage open dialogue. Also, plans are underway for inclusivity training and education for faculty and staff throughout the year.
· Our commitment to increase enrollment of a diverse student population remains a priority. While we are focusing on a cross section of diversity among students the number of African-American students in this year’s incoming freshman class will increase by 25 percent over last year.
· Also, the diversity of faculty hired over the last two years continues to rise. The percent of new faculty hired who identify themselves as African American, Hispanic, or Native American rose from 6.4% in 2014 to 12% in 2015 and 16% in 2016. The Provost Office, the Deans of the Colleges, Human Resources, and the Office of Inclusion and Equity are working together to build on this momentum.
· Finally, Chief Diversity Officer, Lee Gill, has reorganized and renamed his department The Office for Inclusion and Equity to better serve our community and to implement the important commitments in this area. Watch for more communications to come from Lee and his team.
As we prepare for classes to begin next week, Clemson is poised to build upon our success and create new opportunities for greater achievements. We are a community of scholars who encourages and supports the expression of differing thoughts and opinions between individuals and groups in a respectful and safe environment. Although we may have different views, different opinions and different backgrounds, we have one commonality – we are all a part of the Clemson community, and we value honesty, integrity and respect. Our Clemson community has the ability to bring about positive, meaningful change both on campus and in our larger community. It is a critical time for all of us in higher education to engage thoughtfully in the issues and challenges before us to enhance the world in which we live.
As we move forward, let’s be civil to each other and listen to points of view that differ from our own. Together, we can build a truly great university. I am encouraging all of us to begin this academic year with an open display of support and unity for all members of our campus community. All faculty, staff and students are invited to join me for a Clemson United (CU United) fellowship luncheon event on Wednesday, August 17th, 11am-2pm on Bowman Field. In case of rain, this event will move to Harcombe Dining facility.
What makes Clemson unique is how we come together to create a positive future. I challenge each of you to ask yourself, what can you do to move Clemson forward? How can you become more involved to ensure we keep the positive progress and momentum moving? How can we collectively build each other up and create a culture where everyone feels safe, respected and included? This is OUR Clemson University. And you make a difference.
Let’s move forward united.
Best wishes for a great academic year.