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Vice President for Student Affairs Almeda Jacks handing out popcorn during move-in week

Vice President for Student Affairs Almeda Jacks handed out welcome gifts to students during move-in week.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I know, I know. You typically hear that phrase during a completely different season, but at Clemson University, it really doesn’t get much better than the beginning of a new academic year.

It all began last week with campus move-in, which for the first time spanned an entire week, rather than only a weekend. I was fortunate to spend a few hours with Vice President for Student Affairs Almeda Jacks, Donor Relations Manager Hannah Smith and Student Affairs Sponsorship Coordinator Kryssa Cooper roaming the halls of the new Douthit Hills residential complex and offering snacks and water to students and their families.

In speaking with another student this week for a future story, he described Clemson as “more of a melting pot than it once was.” He is a native of Wisconsin. And he couldn’t have been more correct. The percentage of out-of-state students is on the rise, and it was visible to us during move-in when it took about 20 or 30 minutes to meet our first South Carolina resident!

We met tons of new students, and they came from New Jersey, New York, Virginia — everywhere. We have a famous saying in Clemson that there’s “power in the paw.” But it’s true, and move-in week further affirmed this reality for me.

Move-in gave way to drop-in on Wednesday of this week when the Office of Student Transitions and Family Programs (STFP) paid tribute to Rebecca Atkinson, the departing director of Orientation programs. A mainstay in the department for over 12 years, she will be moving into a sponsorship coordination role with Mike Nebesky in Procurement and Business Services.

Jeff Brown, who oversees the STFP operation, provided some rough estimate numbers in an attempt to illustrate the impact Atkinson has had on the university and division.

Members of the Student Transitions and Family Program staff gathered on Aug. 22 for Director of Orientation Programs Rebecca Atkinson's final day

Rebecca Atkinson (front row, center) celebrated her final day after more than 12 years with the Student Transtions and Family Programs staff at a drop-in Wednesday in Hendrix Student Center.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

“Roughly, we think Becca has conducted about 150 freshman or transfer Orientation sessions during her time here at Clemson,” he told the crowd of family, friends and colleagues gathered in the Hendrix Student Center over light refreshments and cake. “In terms of undergraduates, we estimate that number is about 50-60,000 students impacted over the years … truly extraordinary work for Becca.”

Atkinson saw the office go through four iterations dating to her first year when it was known as Student Development Services. It then became New Student and Sophomore Programs before it was New Student and Family Programs. STFP adopted its current name last summer.

Her impact has been seen in many areas throughout the department, not just through Orientation. She was one of the first advocates for student veterans, who now have a resource center and designated full-time staff member in Brennan Beck. She helped transform Convocation into a university wide event. Lastly, she helped secure thousands of dollars in sponsorship for the department, a major reason her work was recognized by Nebesky.

While she makes the transition, Atkinson plans to work remotely. With that in mind, Erin Mayor and the staff in STFP decided to help create a “mobile” office. They presented Atkinson with a new laptop bag, as well as gift cards for coffee and sandwich shops.

“We thought we’d give Becca something useful for her transition,” said Mayor, who runs Clemson’s Orientation Ambassador program. “She has been my boss for a long time now, and we wanted to thank her for everything she’s done.”

DROP-IN PHOTO GALLERY

It wasn’t part of the official Kick-Off Clemson schedule, but a pretty cool event nonetheless was held Wednesday in the Coliseum Club of Littlejohn Coliseum. Staff Senate and the Department of Athletics combined to sponsor an appreciation gathering for first responders in the campus and local communities.

(Left to right) Brad Rhodes, Roberta Balliet, Dan Hofmann, Bill Daniel and Jimmy Dixon at the Aug. 22 First Responder Appreciation hosted by Staff Senate

Staff Senate hosted an appreciation event for university and community first responders on Aug. 22. Staff Senators Roberta Balliet and Dan Hofmann (center) are pictured with (left to right) CUPD Capt. Brad Rhodes, CUFD Chief Bill Daniel and Clemson City Police Chief Jimmy Dixon.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Clemson is unique in some ways because its municipal services — including fire/EMS, police and emergency management — are housed within the Division of Student Affairs. On Wednesday, those groups came together to enjoy brunch and hear remarks from several campus leaders.

When Almeda Jacks first took the reins as vice president in 1992, she assumed oversight of those municipal services, launching an educational process that continues even to this day.

“When I was first told they were coming under my supervision, I know I had a ‘deer in the headlights’ look,” she joked. “But I truly enjoy our first responders being a part of the division. I don’t give enough pats on their backs throughout the weeks. But from the perspective of students, faculty, staff, visitors, alumni and the community — the list goes on and on — thank you for what you do.”

Greg Mullen, who was recently named permanent associate vice president overseeing public safety and the police department, had another thank-you in mind Wednesday.

“I also want to say thank you to those who put this on for us,” said the former City of Charleston chief of police. “It’s not common for law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel, to have a group of citizens or supporters come together and tell us thank you. It’s infrequent we hear that. Thank you to Staff Senate and the Department of Athletics for taking the time to thank our people. As you go forward, or if you’re just walking down the street, if you see a police officer or firefighter, thank them. It will lift them up, I promise.”