Congratulations to Serita Acker, the 107.3 JAMZ Upstate Black History Maker for February 6, 2019!
Women and minorities need a clear path to equal representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Today’s Upstate Black History Maker, Serita Acker, has paving that pathway with bright orange bricks made of perseverance, dedication, and seemingly limitless passion for the last few decades.
Serita Acker has worked at Clemson University for over 28 years. She has been instrumental in overseeing programs designed to increase the number of minorities and women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. She’s the Executive Director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program, as well as Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER). The mission of both programs is to educate, recruit and retain women and students of color in STEM.
Serita believes education is an important gateway to a better situation. Her life goals are to make sure others know how important education is to improving not only one’s self but also the community around them. She believes getting more women and students of color in STEM is so important because less than 10 percent of engineers in the U.S. are female but 70 percent of the consumer base is comprised of women. She believes strongly that women should be a part of the creation and designing teams for major inventions and new technologies. Women comprise half of all college graduates but represent only 28 percent of individuals with college degrees in STEM. Likewise, Black and Latinos account for about 11.5 percent and 13.9 percent of U.S. population, respectively, but hold only 4.6 and 5.2 percent, respectively, of science and engineering jobs (source: 2015 report of “Revisiting the STEM Workforce” from the National Science Board).
African American students still lack access to educational resources. The achievement gap in math and science is still a big problem. There is still so much work to be done for equity in education and career development. Serita is an advocate for change in this area. Serita oversees programs to promote academic enrichment for current students through mentoring, coaching, tutoring and pre-collegiate programs. She also founded, implemented, and managed a host of STEM programs and initiatives (camps and workshops) to educate students on opportunities in STEM at Clemson University. Creating an environment of support and networking is one of the major aspects of her job. Even in 2019, minorities and women can find themselves few in number in STEM majors and in the workforce. It is very important to fill the pipeline.
She wrote a booklet “Math, Science and Engineering—It’s a Girl Thing,” which is a program trademarked by Mrs. Acker. The booklet is aimed at young girls, and describes the various fields of engineering.
For the past 18 years, she has also collaborated with Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands. Through this partnership, she created “Girl Scout Engineering Day at Clemson” which is sponsored by Lockheed Martin. In addition, every summer, Mrs. Acker runs Project WISE, which is an engineering and science camp for middle school girls sponsored by Duke Energy. She uses current female STEM majors as camp counselors, as well as female faculty in STEM as presenters. The girls work together on STEM projects, making it a truly memorable experience. Nearly 50% of camp participants end up studying in STEM fields at Clemson University.
Just a few of her impressive accolades include:
- Recipient of the Calder D. Ehrmann Diversity Leadership Award from the Riley Institute at Furman University
- Recipient of the Women of Color Magazine’s 2014 College-Level Promotion of Education award (for her role in promoting STEM and recruiting and retaining women in science and engineering majors
- Awarded by the National Engineering Foundation for her role with the Girl Scouts (in 2013)
- Named Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Mountain to Midlands (2018)
- Awarded the James E. Bostic Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Award as a diversity champion at Clemson University (2017)
- Featured on cover of Insight into Diversity (a National magazine) September edition for her work at Clemson University
- Served on the national board of the Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN)
- Consultant for the National Science Program “The MentorLinks”
- Trainer for Clemson University’s participation in the National Coalition of Building Diversity
- Chair of the committee investigating sexual harassment for the University’s Access and Equity Office
- Professional Development Chair for both Clemson’s Staff Development Program and its President’s Commission on the Status of Women
- Under her leadership, the PEER program was recognized as a top school in recruiting African Americans in engineering!
Please join us in congratulating this 2019 Upstate Black History Maker!