Hannah Pearson and Alexander King are graduating with big dreams and concrete plans – and a string of accomplishments already to their credit.
The two are among the 150 undergraduate and 27 graduate students who are on track to receive degrees from the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities in December.
To Disney and beyond
You could say that Hannah Pearson planned her life’s work at an early age.
“If you asked me at age 5 what I wanted to do, I would have said ‘write,’ even though I could barely read,” she said.
Pearson, 22, is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in English and Modern Languages-American Sign Language and hopes to combine those two interests in her future career.
“My dream job would be to teach English in a school or college for the Deaf, and I hope to bring creative writing into my life as well,” Pearson said.
But first, the Honors College graduate has an internship lined up at Disney World in early 2020. She’ll journey to Orlando to take part in the prestigious Disney College program, working in a Disney resort and putting her ASL skills to good use as a language ambassador.
“I hope to create magical moments for Deaf families and children,” she said.
Pearson, who was born in Galveston, Texas, but grew up in Upstate South Carolina, will work full time and live at Disney World from January to May, with the opportunity to study courses such as marketing and communications through Disney College.
For the fall of 2020, she’s looking toward graduate programs, with plans to pursue an MFA in creative writing.
At Clemson, Pearson won the English Department’s Creative Writing Award for Fiction in 2019. She also won the Writers’ Harvest Student Reader Award in both 2018 and 2019.
Pearson’s Clemson experience has been a whirlwind of activity and accomplishment. She served as an intern with the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, providing communications and marketing support for the University and its clients.
She was also a marketing intern for Clemson University Relations, a resident assistant at a Clemson dorm, and a tutor for student athletes in both English and American Sign Language.
In addition, she helped create a sci-fi magazine on campus called Constellation.
Pearson is also the recipient of Clemson’s highly competitive Duckenfield Scholarship, presented to only two honors students a year. The scholarship gave Pearson the opportunity to spend the summer of 2018 at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford.
It was there, studying the English novelist Jane Austen, that Pearson gained the confidence to redouble her efforts in creative writing, particularly novel-writing. Before that experience, she had doubts that such studies were realistic.
“It was a big turning point,” Pearson said. “I allowed myself to accept what I’m interested in.”
She credits creative writing professor Nic Brown with providing strong support for her creative writing ambitions.
As a reflection of her two majors, Pearson has an equal passion for American Sign Language, a fast-growing field.
“When it came time for college, I saw that Clemson had the only American Sign Language degree program in the state, and one of the only ones in the South,” she said. “I love what I’ve learned at Clemson about the Deaf community, and I know I’ll be involved with the community for the rest of my life.”
Big projects ahead
Alexander King will hardly have time to celebrate graduation before he’ll be off to Atlanta to take up his new job as a real estate developer with RocaPoint Partners.
In a little more than a year, he’s scheduled to assume a top leadership position on a $1 billion project: the redevelopment of County Square in Greenville.
“I’m excited to work on projects on such a big scale,” said King, 26, who is graduating with a master’s degree in Real Estate Development.
King will serve as assistant project manager for the mixed-use County Square development, in charge of day-to-day construction, scheduling and coordination.
King has a longer-term goal as well: He hopes to return eventually to his hometown of Buffalo, New York, to work with his family’s business, King Brothers Construction.
The firm was started by his father and his brothers, and now it’s run by King’s four brothers.
“It’s just hometown pride,” King said. “Buffalo has been hit pretty hard with the flight of the industrial sector. I want to be a part of its renaissance.”
King was attracted to Clemson’s Master of Real Estate Development program, based in Greenville, by the prospect of gaining real-world experience.
“The majority of the professors are practitioners,” King said. “They’ve done real estate development before, and that really drew me to the program. I also noticed the impressive jobs that graduates often obtained.”
The connections King made through the program led to an internship with RocaPoint, followed by the job he’ll have after graduation.
“The program emphasizes networking,” King said.
Before coming to Clemson in 2018, King served in the Air Force for four years. As an aerospace crew chief, King maintained C-5 cargo planes out of Dover, Delaware. He traveled around the world – to Europe, Africa and South America.
While on active duty, King earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from The College at Brockport, part of the State University of New York system.
As an Air Force reservist, King returns to Upstate New York for training once a month.
King grew up in Buffalo and worked for his father’s construction company in the summer.
His studies in real estate development will ultimately help his family’s company to diversify, he said.
“We’ll be able to develop and construct in-house,” King said. “Instead of building other people’s buildings, we’ll be building our own.”
Clemson’s 18-month Master of Real Estate Development program has been tremendously beneficial, he said.
“It has given me a set of fundamentals I can use for the rest of my career,” King said. “If there’s anything I learned, it’s that real estate is a people business. I’m really excited to take what I learned down here back to Buffalo.”
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