With a vast majority of Clemson students away from main campus during winter break, Hendrix Student Center has taken on a familiar state of serenity.
Inside the walls of the Center for Career and Professional Development — concealed on the east side of Hendrix’s third level — staff members are quietly recharging for the return of students following the turn of the New Year.
The departure of one staff member who has spent the better part of the last quarter-century as a key cog in Clemson’s career services machine is noticeable, however.
Deb Herman has served as director of employer relations since 2003 — one of four positions she’s held within the center — and is retiring at the end of the month.
“Over the last 23 years, Deb has worked tirelessly to help Clemson students and employers connect through fairs, interviews, networking events, information sessions, class presentations and more,” said Neil Burton, executive director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. “She has developed relationships with dozens of faculty and staff in a wide range of departments, and those relationships will bear witness to her impact long after she retires.”
Burton assumed the reins of the center in 2011, inheriting along with it Herman and her immense skill set. She started out as internship coordinator and career counselor, progressing to assistant director of experiential education and ultimately landing in employer relations and recruiting. Under her watch, she’s cultivated relationships with prospective employers and restructured the center’s corporate partner program — both of which have resulted in a slew of record-setting numbers.
During the 2011 fiscal year, a total of 2,660 Clemson students attended one of the career fairs put on by the center. In FY20 — the most recent fiscal year not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — the number ballooned to 6,701. Additionally, more than 900 employers registered for Clemson career fairs in FY19.
The numbers have paralleled Clemson’s uptick in enrollment, which has seen an increase of more than 25 percent over the past 10 years alone.
“We’ve seen a lot of increase over the years,” said Herman, who earned a master’s degree in human resource development from Clemson in 2003. “A lot of the academic rankings have really helped, along with the football program being in the spotlight, of course. A lot of employers — even if they didn’t graduate from Clemson — are really good about recruiting our students. It’s a combination of what the professors are doing, academics, athletics and what I think we do in terms of our outreach efforts.”
Herman estimates spending 50 percent of her time on the job developing relationships with employers. When she wasn’t reaching out to new prospects or stewarding longtime partners, she’s been busy planning Fall and Spring fairs, counseling students and preparing presentations for professors who wanted to expose their classes to the ebbs and flows of recruiting.
The impact of Clemson’s career services can often be difficult to quantify, but the center’s reputation among its peers on a national scale is not. Three times over the past six years (2016, 2018 and 2020), Clemson earned the top ranking in career services out of nearly 400 colleges surveyed by The Princeton Review.
“It makes you proud,” Herman said of the national acclaim. “We’re doing the same job we always have, but whether you’re No. 1 or No. 2 in the rankings, you want to put your best effort into it.”
Herman also put her very best into her own professional development. She served as president of the South Carolina Association of Colleges and Employers, was consulting services chair for the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers and completed the leadership advancement program through the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Prior to her departure, Burton organized a retirement drop-in earlier this month. Unsurprisingly, it was well-attended by several employer contacts, staff from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, and even faculty and department chairs she worked with over the years.
“Deb is indefatigable; a ball of energy that never rests until the last detail has been triple-checked and the final task is complete,” Burton said. “We will miss her tremendously in the Center for Career and Professional Development, but we’re hopeful she’ll come back to visit often and perhaps make sure we’re doing okay without her!”