CLEMSON — As a senior at Daniel High School, Clemson resident Hannah Allison toured several in-state universities in preparation for college, but Clemson University was always at the top of her list.
With its ranking as a top-20 national public university with exemplary academic programs and resources for students, Clemson had everything she was looking for.
“It was the best fit for me as a student,” remembers Allison.
When she narrowly missed admission to Clemson in 2008 and was offered enrollment in Tri-County Technical College’s Bridge to Clemson program, she admits she was disappointed and a little surprised. But she quickly saw the silver lining.
“Math was my struggle in high school so I worked hard at Tri-County so I could be successful at Clemson. I knew I needed the chance to prove myself and Bridge was the way for me to do so. It gave me confidence, for sure. I ultimately wanted to be at Clemson, and this was a direct link,” said Allison, who transferred in 2009 to Clemson and earned a B.A. in communication studies in 2012.
Bridge to Clemson, a first of its kind in South Carolina, is an invitation-only program that blends the traditional academic experience at Tri-County with the social and cultural experiences of being a Clemson University student.
The program, which began in 2006, offers select Tri-County students a university experience and seamless transition to Clemson for the sophomore year. Bridge students must earn 30 transfer credits at Tri-County during their two semesters and transfer to Clemson with a 2.5 GPA.
“It’s a good way to ease into college. Tri-County’s smaller classes are a positive for college freshmen,” said Allison, who earned six dual credit hours in English while at Daniel High School. “The instructors are very accessible and you’re not competing with 500 other students in a class to talk to him or her after class. Instructors can take time to get to know students. That’s a positive for freshmen who need guidance and support.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Allison enrolled in graduate school in 2012 at the University of Arkansas where she earned a master’s in communications with an emphasis in health and culture. After completing grad school, she was offered a job at Clemson University as Assistant Director of Healthy Campus, located in Fike Recreation Center, and an Aspire to be Well program coordinator.
Aspire to Be Well is a 70-minute, peer-led health and safety-focused dialogue for undergraduate students. The program, in its third year, is presented by about 25 highly trained student facilitators. The session is a mandatory requirement for all incoming undergraduates, including Bridge to Clemson students.
Each spring semester, Allison and her co-worker train the peer educators who present the program to new students.
The program addresses mental health and suicide prevention, alcohol and other drugs abuse and misuse, interpersonal violence prevention, and bystander intervention skills. Nearly 5, 000 students take the class between August and October in the fall, and Clemson’s transfer students go through the program in the spring.
“It’s important to educate students on these topics. The dialogue covers areas that are key to maintaining a safe campus,” said Allison.
Students also gain an understanding of campus resources and learn how to help others in need.
“It may be the first time they are talking about these issues,” she said. “It’s our hope to start a dialogue among participants of how to be a member of a safe and healthy community and how to help other students in need if critical situations arise. We then introduce them to resources right here on Clemson’s campus to help them so they leave the session with valuable information. We also have a website that students can refer to and that facilitators use throughout the session.”
Allison is responsible for the curriculum and assessment for Aspire. She works with the data collected in the pre-, post-, and four-months post surveys for evaluation The data collected also is used to help inform other health and safety initiatives on campus and further research (through faculty partners).
“Moving away from home and beginning college is a huge adjustment for freshmen. The more resources and skills you can give them to be successful, the more successful they will be,” she added. “I never dreamed I would end up in my hometown. I’m happy to be back. Healthy Campus is a great work environment with passionate people. That makes coming to work very easy.”