CLEMSON — Students continue to be the top priority at Clemson University, and this year there will be a more focused effort to support students and faculty through private giving, President James F. Barker said Tuesday at the Victor Hurst Convocation. The convocation marked the start of Clemson's 118th academic year.

Financial support helps fund scholarships for students and professorships for faculty, he said.

“Over the last two decades, annual giving has played a big role in our funding,” Barker said. Annual giving at Clemson has grown from $14.5 million to $32 million in the last 20 years. The value of Clemson’s endowment grew from $54 million in 1991 to more than $380 million in June 2010.  

“Since 2007, we have raised funds for 224 new scholarships and fellowships and 79 new endowed chairs and professorships,” Barker said. “But truthfully we are just getting started in this effort. To put our endowment in context, the average endowment of 19 of the top 20 public universities was $2.2 billion in 2009. As I noted earlier, Clemson’s endowment is $380 million. “

Barker told faculty and staff members they would hear more about the effort to increase private giving in the coming weeks and months.

“I’m spending a lot of my personal time working to get you the support that you need,” he said.

Alumni Distinguished Professor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Fran McGuire delivered the keynote address, which focused on overcoming a fear of change.

“We in PRTM have spent this past year engaged in radical surgery on our curriculum, which had changed over the years, but our way of teaching had remained largely unaltered,” McGuire said. “Our dissatisfaction with the curriculum led us to ask two simple questions: How can we best prepare our students to thrive in the 21st century and what is the best way to get this material across in a meaningful and effective way?”

The educators came up with what they referred to as the immersion semester, now called PRTM EDGE (Engagement in Diverse Guided Experiences).

“During the semester all of our second-year students, approximately 120, spent the spring semester taking a common 13 credit cores composed of four courses that are more of a convenience for grading and administrative purposes than an actual class, and a Creative Inquiry class. There is no set time to meet, no set location for meeting and no permanent instructor. Learning is unencumbered by the traditional class structure,” McGuire said. “In the end, students learned to think, collaborate, critique, create and succeed.”

At the convocation, assistant professor of physics Fivos Drymiotis received the 2010 Prince Award for Innovation in Teaching. The annual award is named for Clemson President Emeritus Philip Prince and recognizes outstanding teachers who demonstrate creative and novel teaching methods in the classroom.

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