Clemson’s female leaders share plans for a lasting impact on the University and its students
The estate of Thomas Green Clemson first came into his possession through his wife, Anna Calhoun, well before it was eventually bequeathed to South Carolina to found a college. It’s just one of the earliest ways that women played a vital role in making Clemson University what it is today.
The work women have accomplished here has grown with time and access. The first women were admitted as students in 1955, and the first female dean was named in 1968. Since then, many more have left lasting impressions on the University and its students, serving in leadership capacities across campus, including as provost, vice presidents and deans and as members of faculty senate and student government.
The newest women to join leadership ranks at Clemson include Dean Leslie Hossfeld (CBSHS), Dean Wendy York (Business) and Dean Cynthia Young (Science). They are each championing innovation and enhanced student experiences for their respective colleges. And with only a few years at Clemson, they all have made steady strides. Bringing passion, vision, experience and dedication to lasting outcomes, the deans have set forth strategic priorities and are checking goals off their respective lists. From prioritizing community outreach initiatives in support of the land-grant mission to connecting with students, faculty, alumni and business leaders to strengthen the prominence of our research, their work is leading Clemson forward.
Dean Leslie Hossfeld, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
Leslie Hossfeld assumed leadership as dean of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences in July 2018. Once in the role, Hossfeld began work to find the common thread between the seven departments and schools that make up the College while increasing student engagement and encouraging research activity.
She has also transformed CBSHS into a 21st-century land-grant college by prioritizing outreach. Through initiatives like Building Healthy Communities, Hossfeld has focused on improving lives at both the individual and community levels across South Carolina.
“The influential work that our researchers do across the country and the globe is, of course, vitally important,” Hossfeld said. “But we also want to focus on what’s going on in our own backyard. There are underserved communities across the state, so we want to do all we can do as a land-grant college to improve health outcomes and address issues such as food insecurity in South Carolina.”
Hossfeld said that folding these relevant issues into curriculum and research is the next big stop on the horizon for the College. The disciplines represented are many: communication; nursing; parks, recreation and tourism management; political science; psychology; public health sciences; and sociology, anthropology and criminal justice. She knows the students coming through these disciplines are the key to making lasting, positive changes.
“Imparting on each and every student a sense of responsibility in helping people and the communities around them to be stewards of their communities will probably be the most important thing I do as dean,” Hossfeld said. “It’s on us to make changes now and prepare the changemakers of the future.”
Dean Wendy York, College of Business
When Wendy York became dean of the College of Business in summer 2018, she made history.
As the 15th leader of business education at Clemson University, she became the College’s first female dean, following successful leadership roles in business and academia.
The entrepreneur and former associate dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business arrived on campus at an exciting time: in the midst of one of the largest construction projects in the University’s history — a 176,000-square-foot building that also will be home to her program. Scheduled to open on time this summer, the building will be the center of business education.
In addition to overseeing construction of this state-of-the-art project at the gateway to campus, York was charged with elevating the quality of business education at the University and, in the process, advancing the stature of Clemson’s brand.
In less than two years, a strategic roadmap is in place aimed at producing business-ready graduates capable of leading and succeeding in a dynamic global economy. Her strategic plan builds on the College’s already solid foundational core majors: accounting, economics, finance, graphic communications, management, marketing and the MBA program. The plan identifies eight differentiating “signature programs” such as business analytics, sales innovation, value chain and advanced manufacturing that are focused on skills critical to 21st-century business.
While York maps the direction of business education at Clemson, she’s also on the road speaking, listening and learning with students, faculty, alumni and business leaders. That engagement propelled fundraising to record levels in 2019 and into 2020, providing funds for the new building and the College’s top educational priorities.
“I’m excited about what lies ahead for the University and the College of Business,” York said. “Our expanded curriculum, record fundraising and an ambitious strategic agenda bode well for business education’s future at Clemson. All signs indicate the best is yet to come.”
Dean Cynthia Young, College of Science
An applied mathematician who spent much of her career working with optical scientists modeling laser communication channels, Cynthia Y. Young became founding dean of Clemson’s College of Science in August 2017.
Since then, Young has assembled a dynamic leadership team, and together with faculty and other stakeholders’ input, she has created an aspirational vision for the College along with a path to get there. The ScienceForward strategic plan converges around five distinctive pillars of strength: genomics and precision medicine, health innovation, data and decision science, advanced materials, and astrophysical and planetary sciences.
Brimming with positive energy, Young is leading the charge on strengthening the prominence of the College’s research, elevating the learning experience for its students and challenging the status quo in overall operations.
She loves teaching this generation of students because “they are the convergence generation,” she says, referencing the influential National Academy of Science’s Convergence report that says the big challenges of the next century will be solved at the intersection of traditional disciplines.
Her team is preparing the next generation of scientists and leaders by teaching them to “fail forward.”
“We are teaching them adaptability and resilience, and our faculty are teaching them that the greatest risk is not in dreaming too big; the greatest risk is not dreaming big enough,” she said.
Before coming to Clemson to help launch the new college, Young spent 20 years at the University of Central Florida as a faculty member and in several leadership roles including associate dean, NCAA faculty athletics representative and vice provost.
Her favorite thing about Clemson? The Clemson Family.
“People talk about the Clemson Family, and I thought that meant you had to be born into it or have graduated from here,” Young said. “But my husband, daughter and I quickly learned that the Clemson Family is very special and very real, and it includes all of us — faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, neighbors, friends, industry partners — united with a purpose higher than self. There really is something magical in these hills.”