Clemson president targets links with Miami
By Rachel Tannenbaum
Between tourism, the need for natural resources and a large number of retired residents, the academic and research programs at Clemson University are as relevant to South Florida as South Carolina, with the university acting as a pipeline to address many issues that affect both areas, says Clemson's president.
During a Monday "Partnership and Innovation Brunch" at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood preceding his university's participation in the annual Discover Orange Bowl football game, Clemson President James F. Barker cited many direct connections between South Florida and South Carolina.
Like South Florida, Mr. Barker said, South Carolina is heavily dependent on tourism, particularly in the coastal area, which has seen significant growth. He said the region is also a retirement magnet because of its climate.
"You can connect what we are doing at Clemson to what you are doing in South Florida," Mr. Barker said.
Mr. Barker said Clemson has three goals, starting with providing talent for a new economy by recruiting and retaining outstanding students and faculty.
Although Clemson's high school freshmen come from the top 10% of their high schools, Mr. Barker said, South Florida has great universities, some of the best in the nation, and Clemson can help these students by offering them advanced degrees.
Mr. Barker said one of Clemson's strategies to improve student quality and performance includes implementing a strategic enrollment management plan to increase the quality and diversity of the undergraduate and graduate student body. Mr. Barker said he's impressed with the diversity found in many of the universities in South Florida.
"UM is a melting pot of the world; it is amazing how diverse it is," Mr. Barker said. "Miami is an example of what we want to be. We are nowhere near as diverse."
Clemson's second goal is to drive innovation through research and service that stimulates economic growth, which will create jobs and solve problems, Mr. Barker said.
"We can help develop the current workforce [in South Florida] by helping them get advance degrees," Mr. Barker said. "Say you have people already in your company and you want them to get advanced degrees. We can help develop their education by bringing you to Clemson and Clemson to you."
Its third goal, he said, is to drive innovation that stimulates economic growth and tackles great challenges in four areas that also affect South Florida: health, energy, transportation and the environment.
In terms of health, Clemson developed bioengineering research on hip, knee and valve implants. Clemson has also developed research on elderly drivers that allows them to drive safely for as long as possible, with three driving simulators already being used in Florida, Mr. Barker said.
Since South Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, Mr. Barker said Clemson's wind engineering research is the best lab for studying wind structure on buildings and bridges. The university has mobile hurricane watch towers, which Mr. Barker said can save lives and prevent financial lost.
The university has also begun testing along the Savannah River to monitor water.
"South Carolina and South Florida are both areas that need natural resources, particularly water," Mr. Barker said.
As for the university's presence in South Florida for the Discover Orange Bowl game, Mr. Barker said that during his 13 years as president he had never received the kind of hospitality he received in South Florida.
"The hospitality has been as warm as the weather," Mr. Barker said. "This has been a president's dream."
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