Diamond Brown advises a student athlete.

Graduating Clemson with a Master of Education in counselor education, Diamond Brown, right, now has a set of tools to help student-athletes get to where they need to be.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

It’s no surprise that Diamond Brown will emerge from Clemson as a finely tuned, student-athlete-advising machine. As a former high school softball player, she’s attacked her chosen profession with the same singular mindset that defines so many successful athletes. She shrugs off setbacks and always pushes forward.

Her love of sports is a major reason she pursued a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science at Campbell University. As a first-generation college student, she was proud of what she had accomplished, but she knew as she entered her junior year that working as a physical therapist wasn’t for her.

However, she places too much value on momentum to start over. It’s the athlete and competitor within her that refuses to take a step back. Instead of settling, Brown parlayed her degree and time working in Campbell’s freshman advising office into the next chapter of her academic career.

“I got to the point where I could see myself doing physical therapy effortlessly, almost mindlessly,” Brown said, “and the last thing I want to do is spend the rest of my life doing that. I didn’t feel that way when I worked with students who needed help or direction — and thankfully my supervisor pointed out that I could make that a career.”

Just like that, the vision of her future went from muddy to crystal clear, so much so that a gap year, gap month or even a gap week between receiving her diploma and starting her master’s in counselor education was out of the question. She allowed only a single day to pass between walking the stage for her bachelor’s degree and arriving for her first day as a graduate student at Clemson.

From there, she took advantage of every opportunity to hone her student support skills. In addition to a full course load, Brown worked in the communication department assisting faculty teaching soft skills to undergraduate students. Her graduate degree’s required assistantship saw her working in Clemson’s Healthy Campus program, where she provided students with resources and information for health and wellness issues.

She also worked in student-athlete development, where she got to work with a student population that she feels is often in the most need of assistance. In addition to advising student-athletes academically, Brown provided professional development, financial literacy courses and even holistic health support.

“Student-athletes are students first, and I think they often need more people to advocate for them,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of pressure to perform, and they often feel isolated from the general student population.”

Tony Cawthon is one of the many faculty members in Brown’s program who can attest to just how focused she was in achieving her goals. He said it was clear Brown wanted her Clemson experience to favor athletic academic advising because of the strategic way she pursued internships and academic experiences that related to that specific university role.

“As a former athlete herself, Diamond had a clear idea that the student-athlete population was one she wanted to give back to,” Cawthon said. “She’s compassionate, student centered and committed to learning; students just want to be around her.”

Although athletic advising as a concentration doesn’t technically exist, the path Brown carved out at Clemson gave her the experience she needed to land a job at Florida State University, where she will serve as a dedicated academic adviser for athletes. At Clemson, Brown has gotten to know that audience and gained the skills to effectively engage with it.

Now, when Brown encounters a student-athlete, she has a set of tools to get them where they need to be. She can help them organize their lives, provide them with a realistic career outlook or just act as a sounding board. More than anything, she just wants them to know that asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of and that self-care isn’t a luxury, but a necessity to stay sane.

Brown’s self-care usually comes in the form of a 5 a.m. workout or a good book. She admits with no small amount of shame that when a new book is on the way to her in the mail, she obsessively tracks the package. She’s looking forward to having a little extra free time after graduation to enjoy books.

“I preach the importance of self-care, but I don’t always do the best job of it myself,” Brown said, laughing, “but it’s been worth it to get the chance to reinforce the message that there’s a whole university here to support these students, to see them succeed. I’m looking forward to doing that the rest of my career.”