Faculty, staff celebrate degree completion at employee recognition luncheon
The second annual degree recognition luncheon celebrated faculty and staff members who’ve obtained degrees from Clemson or other higher education institutions while working for the University.
First held in January 2019, the luncheon is attended by graduates across the University. Executive leaders, including Provost Robert Jones and President Jim Clements, also attended the event to recognize the educational achievements made by faculty and staff.
“Commitments such as this should be recognized by Clemson, and I am grateful our executive leaders do not hesitate to provide support for this opportunity to recognize and appreciate faculty and staff for their achievements,” said Vivian Morris, director of engagement and retention for Human Resources.
One of the speakers for the event, Alfred Bundrick, is a lecturer in the Master of Public Administration degree program. Bundrick, who has been at Clemson for 21 years, recently earned his Ph.D. in policy studies. Bundrick credited his family for their support on his long journey.
“They understand how important education is and I want to continue setting a good example for them,” Bundrick said.
Bundrick, who now has his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. from Clemson, said, “Going through the program as a faculty member helped make me a better teacher and employee at Clemson by incorporating what I’ve been learning into my own classes. It’s helped me show students how our class is part of a bigger picture.”
Like Bundrick, the other employees honored at the luncheon charted their own paths to obtain degrees while working full time.
Mikah Jones, the director of finance in the College of Science, has been at Clemson for 13 years and graduated with a Master of Business Administration degree in May 2019.
Having obtained her bachelor’s degree from Anderson University, Jones opted to work professionally before pursuing further educational opportunities. She said she doesn’t regret her decision to wait, citing the valuable experience she received in the process.
“I wanted to gain professional work experience before going back to school,” she said. “It turned out to be very beneficial for me because I was able to apply the practical experiences I learned during my time at Clemson in the classroom.”
Jones also credits the flexibility of her work environment at Clemson for setting her up for success, giving her the needed time to obtain her degree
“The PRTM department, where I worked at the time, were some of the best people I’ve worked with. They helped me through whatever I needed when I asked for it,” Jones said.
Having a valuable support system is important when deciding to pursue a degree while working full-time.
Jill Williams-Wilk, an administrative assistant for football operations, has worked for Clemson 41 years and decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree in business management. Encouraged by a friend, Williams-Wilk started taking classes at Clemson and Southern Wesleyan University.
“My husband was very supportive. Having been retired, he would make sure I was on time for my morning class, had all my books and that I had everything I needed,” said Williams-Wilk. “He’d have food ready for me when I got home and helped make sure I was always prepared. I was also able to leave work early on the days I had classes, and my supervisors were very supportive through that process,” she said.
When Williams-Wilk was wrapping up the four-year journey to get her degree, her husband and friends surprised her with some gifts, which included a graduation gown.
“I was so tired when it was over. I wasn’t going to walk (at graduation) at first, but my husband didn’t take no for an answer,” Williams-Wilk said.
Moving forward, Morris is optimistic the event will continue growing and attracting more Clemson employees to celebrate their hard-earned achievements.
“We hope our faculty and staff know we appreciate their dedication and sacrifices and hope more employees will pursue attaining a higher level of education using our excellent Employee Tuition Assistance Program,” Morris said. “Moving forward, we want to continue recognizing their achievements.”