Each spring, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities recognizes dozens of students in an Honors and Awards ceremony. Three graduating seniors who have earned CAAH’s highest honors — Nehemiah Ashford-Carroll, Sarah Adams and Danny Jarabek — have made their mark on Clemson during their journey here. Despite separate interests, they share the common goal of building a better world
Headed to Harvard
Nehemiah Ashford-Carroll (Cameron Chase Huntley ’11 Diversity and Inclusion Award)
For Nehemiah Ashford-Carroll, design is more than an area of study. It’s a consuming passion.
“I love all kinds of design projects,” Ashford-Carroll said. “It doesn’t have to be related to a building. It can be a flyer, anything artistic. I just dive right into it. The visual arts have always been a driving force in my life. I think that gives me my passion and work ethic.”
With a bachelor’s degree in architecture in hand from Clemson, Ashford-Carroll is headed this fall to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to earn his master’s degree in architecture.
But first he’ll conduct architectural research this summer, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Clemson Architectural Foundation.
Ashford-Carroll’s summer research will focus on “invisible architecture” — buildings in the Black community that have been altered from past uses or completely destroyed.
He studies how these buildings have influenced the community in the past and how they will continue to do so in the future. He’ll visit cities in the Southeast as well as Washington, D.C. and Oakland, California.
“Architecture makes our cities and our society what they are,” he said.
Ashford-Carroll, 22, recently was recognized with the Cameron Chase Huntley Award, which honors a student whose service has benefited underserved populations and bridged cultural differences.
As co-president of the Clemson chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students, Ashford-Carroll helped to create an elective course in the School of Architecture that explored racial injustice in design.
With funding from the Clemson Architectural Foundation, Ashford-Carroll also helped to establish a new emergency scholarship that provides money for such expenses as software programs and other materials architectural students need.
In addition, the Columbia, S.C.-born Ashford-Carroll was active as a mentor to first-year architecture students. He himself was mentored during his first year at Clemson in a program for underrepresented student populations, and he attributes his own success to that experience.
“It was great to work with students who wanted that extra support,” Ashford-Carroll said. “The mentoring program helps freshmen become more comfortable and feel at home in Architecture. I wanted to inspire them to do great things.”
Ashford-Carroll credits the School of Architecture for “developing me as a person, not just as an architect.”
“With all the connections and friendships I’ve gained, and the leadership development opportunities I had, the School of Architecture has helped mold me into the person I am today. I’m motivated to make a positive impact on my community.”
Inspired by wide-ranging interests
Sarah Adams (Dre Martin Service Award)
Sarah Adams discovered Women’s Leadership in an indirect way, but once she found the interdisciplinary program, it felt like home. It was the perfect place for a student with leadership aspirations and wide-ranging interests.
“It has given me the most flexibility to study things that are important to me, which largely center on gender issues, sexuality and racial issues,” Adams said.
While majoring in Women’s Leadership, Adams minored in English and Religious Studies, and almost accumulated enough credit hours in Sociology and Performing Arts for those to qualify as minors as well. She was also a member of the Honors College, and graduated magna cum laude.
Adams is the recipient of the 2021 Chardrevius “Dre” Martin Service Award, presented to a student who is highly committed to service in the surrounding community, demonstrates a passion for helping others and has a strong academic record.
Among her many volunteer activities, Adams served as a research assistant to Rhondda Robinson Thomas, the English professor who has been documenting the lives of enslaved and convicted laborers who helped build Clemson University. Adams also founded and organized a student group, the Call My Name Student Advisory Board, to support Thomas’ research efforts.
“Rhondda Thomas is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met because she always tells the truth so gracefully and firmly as she fights for racial justice,” Adams said.
“Her project is about Black history, but it’s really about the history of all of us,” Adams added. “All of us have a responsibility to understand our history, and when we fully understand it, we can perhaps move forward.”
Adams also served as president of Prism, a LGBTQ+ affirming and Christian student organization. In addition, Adams was one of the organizers of the 2019 Women’s March Against Violence.
A Columbia native, Adams arrived at Clemson as a theatre major, then considered English before embracing the Women’s Leadership program for its multidisciplinary focus.
This fall, Adams will work for a year teaching English at the Hammond School, the private school she herself attended in Columbia. In the future, she may return to the University to earn a master’s degree in Education or English.
“Some of my English teachers in college and high school were the most meaningful teachers and mentors for me,” she said. “I feel like I could do that for other students. English classes tie together all of our cultural issues, and they teach students to talk about things that may be painful to talk about. That’s why I’m most excited by teaching English.”
Motivated to create community
Danny Jarabek (Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit)
Danny Jarabek thinks he was destined from an early age to become an architect.
“I was always obsessed with Legos and building things when I was a kid,” Jarabek said. “Later, traveling with my family and in high school, I fell in love with the designs of ancient buildings.”
Jarabek is one of the School of Architecture’s top graduates this Spring. He’s a member of the Honors College, graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade-point average.
Armed with his bachelor’s degree, Jarabek this fall will attend the University of Pennsylvania to earn his master’s degree in architecture.
Jarabek, 21, also is being honored with the Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit, one of the College’s most prestigious awards, recognizing academic accomplishment and contributions to the Clemson University community.
Jarabek has balanced the demanding schedule of an architecture student with challenging volunteer leadership activities. With fellow student Eugene Rocco Utley, Jarabek founded Clemson Reel Dialogue, a Clemson forum for screening and discussing films.
The pandemic actually inspired the creation of Reel Dialogue.
As Jarabek said, “It was a chaotic, difficult, isolating time, so we got together and thought, ‘How can we combat this and find ways to build a community?’”
From a few members meeting by Zoom, the club, now with about 30 regular members, has become an officially recognized and funded organization at Clemson.
The club has screened 202 feature-length films over the past year and also produced short films. The club capped off its one-year anniversary with a formal party to watch the Oscars broadcast.
In the past year, Jarabek also served as president for the gender-inclusive honor fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi.
“It was a huge responsibility and a great honor,” he said. “It was a challenge to navigate going virtual for an honor fraternity that has been 100 percent in person in the past.”
Despite the pandemic, the fraternity’s leaders were able to boost membership from 75 to 110, even with 20 students graduating.
“We thought it would be hard to recruit virtually, but this spring we had the biggest recruitment class we’ve ever had,” Jarabek said. “I think that speaks to all the work we as leaders put in to advertise who we are and to get our values out there. We’re a tight community with strong values.”
As a business minor, Jarabek hopes one day to open his own design firm.
“I came into the School of Architecture knowing nothing, but the faculty and the people and the connections I’ve made have been absolutely priceless,” Jarabek said. “The faculty have been there for me day in and day out in terms of helping me to get through projects and helping prepare me to be a professional architect. I can’t speak highly enough about the faculty and how amazing they are.”
The School of Architecture also has molded Jarabek’s ideas about leadership.
“To be a leader, I think it’s incredibly important to understand people and bring them together to create positive change,” he said. “Architects are really unique in the way we think about the world. We have a strong optimism that we can do things better. Why would you design a building if you don’t want to make it better than those that already exist?”
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