Dana Buskovitz remembers touring Clemson’s campus for the first time. She remembers the Blue Ridge Mountains looming on the skyline and the loblolly pines swaying in the March breeze.

“I just fell in love with this place,” she said. “It was really difficult to say ‘no’ when I was here on a tour.”

Dana Buskovitz works at a computer at the Visitors Center desk.

Dana Buskovitz, second from left, works with Visitors Center staff member Allison Addison, left.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Now she spends her days guiding prospective students around campus, hoping they fall in love with it just like she did.

Though she loved the campus, she didn’t immediately find her perfect academic path. Buskovitz enrolled at Clemson with the plan to study biology, but that subject didn’t quite match her interests. She enjoyed learning about plants and the environment more than the inner workings of the human heart. After considerable deliberation and soul-searching, she decided to become an environment and natural resources major. In the course of her studies, she splashed around in local creeks, searching for salamanders. She analyzed bird migration data. She stood in the dappled shade of the trees on campus, craning her neck and listening as her professor named the various characteristics and identifying features of each individual tree.

Buskovitz wanted more than the right major, however. She wanted a place where she could feel comfortable and express herself. She wanted a space where she could grow.

“I hadn’t really found my place in Clemson that was my little home yet,” she said. “I had my residence hall, I had my friends, I had an apartment off campus that I was living in, but I hadn’t found that one organization that let me come into the best version of myself.”

In the process of searching for her place, Buskovitz stumbled upon an opportunity. She helped a friend go through the process of applying to be a Clemson University tour guide; the application process piqued her interest. When the next tour guide recruitment drive came around, she was ready to apply. She threw herself into the application process, this time on her own behalf. Around 250 people applied. Only 40 people earned acceptance — and she was one of those 40.

As Buskovitz gave her first tours, she discovered that she had a talent for the job. Parents and prospective students seemed to warm to her. They developed a rapport; visitors requested her contact information after tours, and she gladly obliged. She grew comfortable.

“I had a platform for my voice when I was talking to people, when I was telling them about Clemson.”

Buskovitz has spent long hours answering phones and giving tours. Over time, she came to regard her tour guide duties as a central part of her life at Clemson. Tracey O’Kelley, her supervisor, became a trusted adviser and an influential voice in her life.

“She was always asking me what I was interested in, and I was always in her office, putting my two cents in,” Buskovitz said.

O’Kelley saw that Buskovitz had a passion for Clemson, and that she was adept at communicating that passion.

“Dana wants visitors to campus to see how much she loves Clemson University, and how much Clemson University can love you back.” O’Kelley said.

It was O’Kelley who invited her to a leadership conference in Arizona, and it was O’Kelley who encouraged her to apply to be an executive in the Clemson University Guide Association, the student organization for tour guides.

Today, Buskovitz is the president of that organization. She runs meetings, sets the agenda, invites speakers and sets up workshops.

“The way I view my position is that the president should be a role model for the rest of the general members,” she said. “So, somebody who is enthusiastic, gives the tours and knows how the Visitor Center works.”

Although the Visitor Center only relocated to the first floor of the Strom Thurmond Institute in January, Buskovitz has already begun to settle into the new digs.

“The new space itself is beautiful and reminds me of some of our newer buildings on campus like the Watt Center and Core Campus,” she said. “Now visitors’ first impressions of campus will be aligned with the direction we are moving in.”

In a season of change at the Visitor Center, Buskovitz is looking toward her own future. She doesn’t want to limit her impact to Clemson. She wants to be an educator, someone who can bring knowledge about the environment and conservation to the general public. She wants to use her newfound communication skills and her command of her platform to make meaningful change.

“The knowledge I have is great. However, there are plenty of people who want to become environmental scientists and all of that good stuff. But if I can teach the next generation these skills and more, they can do even more than my generation can.”