Driven is how this Tiger describes herself. She leads the annual orientation program for more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students and believes that change is good and reinvention is better. She constantly thinks of way to improve orientation and transition programs – and isn’t afraid to transition herself. In fact, this Tiger is training for a marathon next year.

Meet Rebecca Atkinson.

Title: director of orientation programs, Student Transitions and Family Programs

Years at Clemson: 10.5 (12 with grad school)

What I do at Clemson: I coordinate undergraduate and graduate orientation programs in addition to supporting University Convocation and Kick-Off Clemson events. This summer will be my 10th orientation summer and 10th cohort of welcoming first year students to Clemson.

What I love about Clemson: People are very student-centered and the students are big dreamers. Everyone seems to be focused on making Clemson the best that it can be.

What was a defining moment for you at Clemson:  When I’m off campus interacting with people, I say “I work for Clemson,” and they get that sparkle in their eyes. When I get to say that, I feel a sense of pride in what Clemson means and what it’s doing for education, for the state, for knowledge. When I start to hear about the innovation and research that’s coming out of this institution, it’s amazing. You can go to the packaging building and see some of the projects that are available in stores. Clemson has innovations that are part of people’s everyday lives, and that’s amazing to me.

Accomplishment I’m most proud of: The relationships that I have helped build and cultivate that contribute to the success of the program. People enjoy orientation and I want it to be a positive experience for everyone involved. Relationships take time and energy and result in a positive long-lasting experience.

Also, with the great support of my supervisor, Jeff Brown, I have been able to become a national leader within my professional association, Association for Orientation, Transition and Retention (NODA). While I currently serve as the executive secretary/treasurer, my proudest Clemson moment was when I served as the NODA Region VI conference host [Southern Regional Orientation Workshop (SROW)]. We brought 2,600 undergraduate orientation leaders from across the southeast to Clemson in 2014. They experienced a weekend of professional learning and the many great things Clemson has to offer–including a “hill” experience! The state and college roll call was held in Death Valley and they got to run down the hill to enter the stadium! Since then I know of several graduate students who found their way to Clemson because they attended that conference here as an undergrad. Between their enrollment here and the excitement students had running down the hill, hosting SROW was a very proud Clemson moment.

Where I see myself in five years: As long as I enjoy coming to work every day. The people I work with are the family away from my family and they are the number one reason why I enjoy coming to work every day. If I’m at Clemson in five years, it’s because I’m still enjoying the ride.

Last thing I watched on TV: I’ve been watching the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. I don’t really have much time to watch TV. I’m the mother of two and the wife of a guy who is really a big kid. I’m in the third year of a doctoral program (educational leadership) on campus and am training for a marathon (The Disney marathon in January 2018).

Guilty pleasure: Shopping – clothes, jewelry, shoes, handbags. I have quite the tote collection.

One thing most people don’t know about me: I have a few things: I saw the oval office twice, during the George W. Bush presidency. I got to go to Obama’s inauguration. I saved the life of a five-star general on a basketball court at the naval academy (where I used to work) with the use of a defibrillator. I really like fixing things. I should have been MacGyver.


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