Madison Maddox thrives on caffeine, late-night brainstorming sessions, and the triumphant moments when hard-fought goals are achieved. The junior computer science major and Calhoun Honors College student from Beaufort, South Carolina, says her biggest challenge is prioritizing time management while navigating a schedule packed with academic and extracurricular activities.

Among Madison Maddox's many activities is Virtual Reality Club, which recently opened the Immersive Space in the Watt Family Innovation Center.

Among Madison Maddox’s many activities is Virtual Reality Club, which recently opened the Immersive Space in the Watt Family Innovation Center.

But if these are the best four years of her life, she’s going to make the most of every second.

As a University Innovation Fellow (UIF) — an international program of the Stanford d.school —Maddox  was charged with leading change in higher education. Six weeks of training culminated in a trip to Silicon Valley, where she met fellows from around the world and heard presentations from trailblazing companies such as Microsoft and Google.

“Seeing other schools with the same passion for progress but at different levels of the process was really inspiring,” Maddox said. “That experience is what keeps me motivated to be so active on campus.”

The enthusiastic support from University stakeholders (she named Dean Anand Gramopadhye, Dr. John Desjardin, Student Affairs and the Calhoun Honors College) is crucial to the success of UIF at Clemson. During the California trip, Gramopadhye organized an alumni meet-up that left a lasting impression on Maddox.

“Clemson places a strong emphasis on cross-disciplinary education that has shaped the way I learn,” she said. “The opportunity to take courses outside core curricula, to start new initiatives, to have conversations with mentors who are eager to share from their own experiences? It’s all critical to our future success.”

The UIF program goes hand in hand with the Network for Innovation and Marketable Skills (NIMS), one of Maddox’s two Creative Inquiry teams. NIMS participants are working toward three objectives: unifying the making resources on campus; creating a network for similar organizations; and acquiring a physical collaborative space. The result will give every Clemson student easy access to shared resources ranging from the Makerspace to the Immersive Space to all the different departmental machine and woodworking shops.

Maddox is also in the leadership circle of the Design Entrepreneurial Network, more commonly known as The DEN. The DEN offers a semester-long course which provides students with the mentors and resources to bring their ideas to fruition. Maddox says it’s the passion DEN members have for their work that continues to draw her in and not just the projects themselves: “You don’t have to be successful in your endeavor to be considered productive. Failure is often the best way to learn.”

Maddox is minoring in Digital Production Arts and that interest comes into play in her role as an officer of the Virtual Reality Club. In October of 2017, the Virtual Reality Club opened the Immersive Space in the Watt Family Innovation Center, which serves as a hub for students and faculty interested in experimenting with virtual reality headsets, software and desktops.

“Again, we want to make the incredible technology we have here as accessible as possible,” she explains. “There’s always staff present who can teach you about development or help you get further involved.”

When she’s not coding, Maddox is climbing. She’s vice president of the Climbing Club, one of Clemson’s club sports that meets once a week for an open practice, usually followed by pizza at Todaro’s dollar slice night. Representing the Tigers at the national collegiate climbing competition in San Diego ranks among her most epic accomplishments.

“It’s about pushing myself outside my comfort zone by learning a sport and then taking it to the next level,” said Maddox. “I love climbing outdoors, so Clemson’s location and proximity to the mountains is ideal.”

Long-term aspirations?

Right now, Maddox is interested in the field of software consulting. She landed an upcoming summer internship with Deloitte Consulting LLP in the federal technology consulting department, and hopes to confirm her career path while still exploring all the opportunities her degree program — and Clemson — can offer.

“Finding a balance between academics and campus life changed everything,” she reflects. “I believe the best mindset to have if you’re not sure you’ll like something, is to at least give it a try.”