College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences; College of Science; Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access

Clemson University’s COSMIC and PEER & WISE Programs Receive INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine’s 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award


Clemson University’s COSMIC and PEER & WISE programs received the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.

The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Clemson will be featured, along with 78 other recipients, in the September 2022 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

COSMIC Director Sharetta Bufford advises Wriley Johnston, a student participating in the program. Photo by Robert Bradley.

Inspiring Programs in STEM Award winners were selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity based on efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, and successful programs and initiatives.

COSMIC (College of Science Mentoring and Inclusion Collaborative) is an award-winning ecosystem of support for students in Clemson’s College of Science. The program matches incoming students with student mentors from similar backgrounds and interests. Besides mentorship, the program includes study halls, service-learning opportunities, classes and a series of Diversity in Science seminars.

SCIENCE in Living Color, designed to support students from racial groups traditionally underrepresented in science fields, was COSMIC’s first affinity group. Next came Women in Science Defining Our Moments, or WISDOM. COSMIC has since added groups for men, military and veteran students, first-generation college students, transfer students, students with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ students. Faculty and staff who identify with at least one affinity group serve as a support system.

Serita Acker

“COSMIC is the epitome of what it means to be a diverse and inclusive program. Our ecosystem fosters support and representation of all students within our eight affinity groups,” said Sharetta Bufford, assistant director of recruitment and inclusive excellence for the College of Science and director of the program. “It makes my heart happy to see our students flourish in their respective science fields.”

PEER & WISE is headquartered in Clemson’s Freeman Hall and is part of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. The program aims to increase diversity in engineering, computing and applied sciences by supporting students with a wide range of initiatives, including mentoring, coaching, tutoring, networking and career-development opportunities.

“We are thrilled to win an Inspiring Programs in STEM Award,” said Serita Acker, the executive director of PEER & WISE. “The honor reaffirms that we are empowering the next generation of leaders and widening and diversifying the talent pipeline. I thank all those who have played a role in PEER & WISE’s success.”

The awards showcase Clemson’s commitment to providing students the resources and environment they need to excel.

“Students who feel supported and empowered are more likely to thrive. COSMIC participants have significant student success gains — earning higher GPAs and demonstrating increased retention rates over their peers. We’re proud to be recognized for doing the work that makes a difference for our diverse community of students.”

— Calvin Williams, associate dean for undergraduate excellence, global engagement, community engagement and inclusive excellence for the College of Science

“The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award is an important milestone as we work toward creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable environment where everyone is empowered to achieve their maximum potential. We are well positioned for continued success.”

— Oliver J. Myers, associate dean for inclusion and equity in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

“A cross-disciplinary team spanning the college and the entire university is pulling together to level the playing field for all. This award underscores that we are having an impact, and that is great news for the future of engineering, computing and applied sciences.”

— Melissa C. Smith, associate dean for inclusive excellence and graduate studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

“This national recognition for our COSMIC and PEER & WISE programs highlights the collective impact of Clemson’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and industry partners, who together are preparing the next generation of diverse and innovative scientists and engineers. Serita and Sharetta are transformational leaders and outstanding role models for our students. We congratulate them on this award and thank them for their leadership.”

— Cynthia Y. Young, dean of the College of Science, and Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

To learn more about COSMIC, click here. To learn more about PEER & WISE, click here.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

A call for nominations for this award was announced in April 2022.

For more information about the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award and INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, visit

About INSIGHT Into Diversity

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education today and is known for its annual INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, the only award that recognizes colleges and universities for outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts across their campuses. INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine presents timely, thought-provoking news and feature stories on matters of diversity and inclusion in higher education and beyond. Articles include interviews with innovators and experts, as well as explorations of best practices and profiles of exemplary programs. In our Career Center, readers will also discover career opportunities that connect job seekers with institutions and businesses that embrace a diverse and inclusive workforce. Current, archived, and digital issues of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine are available online at

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