Diversity in STEM fields is important because it better reflects the makeup of today’s population, it keeps us relevant with our competitors and it allows us to innovate to meet the needs of a diverse society.

This Tiger seeks to increase diversity in STEM fields by sharing resources to educate, recruit and retain underrepresented student populations at Clemson.

Meet Serita Acker.

Title: Director of PEER & WISE

Years at Clemson: 28

What I do at Clemson: I oversee educational outreach programs to increase and retain underrepresented students in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

What I love about Clemson: I love seeing students who come in as freshmen graduate and reach their career goals.

Many students have come through my doors and have had a hard time financially or academically. One student came here and started working in our office, and she also became a mentor. During that time, her mom suddenly passed away. It was a really trying time because her mom was a single parent and, out of the blue, she passed. But, she was able to finish. She became like a daughter to me. She now has a great job in Greenville, and she recently got married and asked me to officiate at her wedding.

Another student came in, and she was majoring in civil engineering. She was having a hard time. She came from a single-parent home, and she was trying to stay in school. She worked at fast-food restaurants, at Clemson and did whatever she could to stay in school. She worked so efficiently here. Everything she did was so very organized. But, she wasn’t doing very well in the classes under her major. So we sat down, and she decided to change her major to industrial engineering. She graduated and is now an industrial engineer who travels all around the country, helping them with their logistics.

A lot of students come in from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are first-generation college students, who are part of single-parent families. They just don’t have the funds, but just to see them come in as a freshmen and work their way to become seniors and see them become a professional – it’s just like “wow.”

Accomplishment I’m most proud of: I’ve won a number of national awards with our program, and have been asked to speak on panels to share information about our programs. Clemson is on the map for being in the top 20 in the nation of graduating African-American students in engineering and among predominantly white institutions, we are number 12. I’m excited about the fact that we are making some progress. I’m very proud that I’m able to share in work that we’ve done – it has really made a difference.

Where I see myself in five years: Hopefully, still encouraging and assisting others in achieving their dreams in spite of  any obstacles.

Last thing I watched on TV: Housewives of Atlanta (I like reality shows!)

Guilty pleasure: Cupcakes—especially the ones with whipped topping. If you put a cupcake in front of me, it’s just very hard to resist it.

One thing people don’t know about me: I’ve been a minister for nine years, and I became a campus minister last year. We do a lot of things with college students at our church and sometimes they come to my home and have dinner. I just love to encourage them from a spiritual point of view when I have the opportunity.

I’m also an author. I write stories from a Christian point of view – mainly about forgiveness, love and faith.

Want to nominate a colleague to be featured in Meet a Tiger? Contact Jackie Todd at jtodd3@clemson.edu.