Serita Acker has worked at Clemson University for over 28 years. She has been instrumental in overseeing programs to increase the number of underrepresented minorities and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Serita serves as 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 there is less than 10 percent women engineers in the U.S. She believes with 70 percent of the consumer base comprised of women they should be a part of the creation and designing teams for major inventions and new technologies.
Black and Latinos account for about 11.5 percent and 13.9 percent of U.S. population but hold only 4.6 and 5.2 percentage of science and engineering jobs according to 2015 report of “Revisiting the STEM Workforce” from the National Science Board. Meanwhile women, comprise half of all college graduates but represent 28 percent of individuals with college degrees in STEM.
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 in equity in education, career development. Serita is an advocate for change in this area.
Serita oversee programs to promote academic enrichment for current students through mentoring, coaching, tutoring and pre-college programs. She also founded, implemented, managed a host of STEM programs and initiatives (Camps, workshops,) to education students on opportunities in STEM at Clemson University.
As a first generational college student, Serita believes education is an important gateway to a better situation. Her life goal is to make sure others know how important education is to improving not oneself but also the community around them.
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 describes the various fields of engineering to girls.
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 women STEM majors as camp counselors, as well as, women faculty in STEM as presenters. The girls work together on STEM projects that makes a truly memorable experience. Nearly 50% of camp participants end up studying in STEM fields at Clemson University.
She has served on the national board of the Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN). She served as a consultant for National Science program-Mentor links.
Serita is one of the recipients of the Calder D. Ehrmann Diversity Leadership Award from the Riley Institute at Furman University. Ms. Acker was chosen as 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. In 2013, Ms. Acker was awarded by the National Engineering Foundation for her role with the Girl Scouts.
Last year, she was named a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Mountain to Midlands; and also award the James E. Bostic Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Award in 2017 as a diversity champion at Clemson University.
Mrs. Acker was featured on cover of Insight into Diversity a National magazine September edition for her work at Clemson University.
Under her leadership, the PEER program was recognized as a top school in recruiting African Americans in engineering,
On campus, Serita has served as a trainer for Clemson University’s participation in the National Coalition of Building Diversity and as the chair of the committee investigating sexual harassment for the University’s Access and Equity Office. She has served as the Professional Development Chair for both Clemson’s Staff Development Program and its President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Please join us in congratulating this 2019 Upstate Black History Maker!