Collaboration is key to Clemson helping improve quality of life


More than 15,000 members of the Clemson University family are in South Florida this week to paint the town orange, leading up to Friday’s Orange Bowl showdown against The Ohio State University (OSU). The passion of Tiger students, faculty, staff, and alumni — a passion that helped lead me to Clemson as its new president — will be evident throughout the Greater Miami area.

But our passion isn’t just about football: It’s also a passion for teaching that transforms lives, research that drives economic growth and outreach that improves quality of life. In this, we share a direct bond with colleagues at OSU as well as institutions in Florida.

On the football field, one school is pitted against another, but higher education today is characterized by collaboration among universities, industries and communities. Gone are the days of silos: Today’s academic leaders understand that success often depends on knocking down the walls that separate institutions.

Clemson and Ohio State — both land-grant institutions, both ranked among the top 25 public universities, and both significant contributors to economic

prosperity for our states — share these beliefs and lead by example. Clemson educators and researchers are working directly with colleagues in Florida:

• At Florida State University to prevent human joint disorders.

• At the University of Florida as part of a regional project to help area growers deal with strawberry diseases.

• With Florida Organic Growers to create regionally and nationally recognized models for sustainable agriculture through research, teaching and extension programs.

And as Clemson researchers work to address the greatest challenges facing society, such as healthcare, energy, transportation and environmental sustainability, their impact will be felt all across the Sunshine State. Consider the potential local importance of these Clemson research initiatives:

• With a $17-million federal grant, faculty are finding ways to improve reliability and performance of artificial implants — from hips and knees to heart valves. These breakthroughs promise a better quality of life for aging Americans.

• Clemson’s Department of Automotive Engineering is helping older adults drive safely and independently as long as possible — using smaller, more portable mobile driving simulators that can readily be used at rehabilitationhospitals.

• We just dedicated a new energy systems research center that represents more than $100 million in federal, state, industry and private investments. Clemson is now home to one-of-a-kind wind-turbine and electric-grid testing and research facilities — which could speed America’s energy independence.

• Researchers at Clemson and Georgia Tech have developed a new approach for protecting coastal areas from flooding, which could be used to safeguard cities in hurricane-prone areas such as Miami. The process raises ground elevation by injecting sediment beneath the surface of the city. This novel idea is gaining interest in the aftermath of HurricaneKatrina and Superstorm Sandy — which showed the limitations of physical flood barriers.

We’re even collaborating with Ohio State, as part of an OSU-led consortium of universities working to improve literacy by training teachers to deliver an effective, early-reading intervention program called Reading Recovery.

If this strategy sounds familiar to you, it should. As chair-elect of the board of directors of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and in my work as chair of the American Council on Education’s Commission on Leadership, I frequently meet with academic leaders from all across the country, and I know that South Florida boasts many institutions that share this passion for collaboration and partnership. There is consistent cross-collaboration among publics and privates, two-year and four-year institutions, research and liberal-arts universities — all for the benefit of the industries and communities of South Florida.

Friday’s Orange Bowl will have Clemson and Ohio State competing on the football field. As institutions of higher education, though, we are on the same team, alongside colleges and universities throughout South Florida. Colleges and universities do not exist only for their students or their alumni: We all exist to serve the public good.

James P. Clements is the president of Clemson University.

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