The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award is presented annually to two seniors for outstanding service to Clemson University and the extended Clemson Community. The winners of the award for the Class of 2022 are Hannah Roebuck and Ronnie Clevenstine, two Honors College students united both by friendship and a drive to serve others.
Roebuck graduated with a double major in religious studies and political science, and she distinguished herself inside and outside the classroom. She is a National Scholar, Dixon Global Policy Scholar, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a winner of multiple awards including the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Achievement—the top student award in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences—as well as the Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit and Dre Martin Service Award from the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
Clevenstine, who majored in economics with a minor in political science has had a similarly distinguished academic career. Also a National Scholar and Dixon Global Policy Scholar, she was named a 2021 Truman Scholar, a finalist for the 2022 Marshall Scholarship, a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, a winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Excellence in Service Award and winner of the 2021 Matt Locke Leadership Award.
Both students have in their own way dedicated themselves to helping society’s most vulnerable members. Clevenstine has committed herself to the issue of food security, serving as co-executive director of Clemson’s Food Collective and leading their “Stories of Hunger” initiative to give a voice to food-insecure students. She also provided research assistance on food insecurity initiatives as an intern for the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.
Personal experience made an indelible impact on Clevenstine’s career goals. As a high school senior, hard times for her family led to a period of houselessness for her and her father, forcing her to stay with a family friend as she was applying for college. The ordeal changed her perspective.
“Conversations regarding providing public assistance for food, housing, and other necessities are often accompanied by questions of worth or labeling certain populations as ‘undeserving’ of aid,” Clevenstine said. “These conversations create a culture of stigmatization that I understand intimately and am committed to dismantling throughout my career.”
It is her work to ensure her fellow students have access to basic needs that she feels most proud of.
“With the Clemson Food Collective and the Student Basic Needs Coalition, I worked with incredible teams of Clemson students to bring attention to the pressing issue of food and housing insecurity among the University student population,” she said. “We eventually met with Clemson University administration and legislators at the South Carolina State House to advocate for increased resources for undergraduate students.”
Roebuck’s service and research have been guided by the philosophy of one powerful word.
“‘Welcome’ is the driving force of my work, service and personhood. I believe deeply that people are of immeasurable value not because of what they have to offer or what they produce but simply because of who they are,” Roebuck said. “People deserve space to exist and evolve in their fullness—to be seen, to be heard, and to be honored—and I have committed myself to that mission in a variety of ways at Clemson and beyond.”
Her work has centered above all on welcoming immigrants and refugees to the U.S. In 2020, she interned with the non-profit Refuge Coffee Co., which offers job training and assistance to refugees in the Atlanta area. She also completed a service internship with New American Pathways, providing support to refugees in the Atlanta area.
At Clemson, her service work spanned an array of interests and responsibilities: founder and director of the Clemson History Committee; a founder and leader of the Youth Scholars Program; editor of “The Pendulum” magazine; member of the Council of Diversity Affairs; chair and member of the Honors Student Advisory Board and more.
“In her many roles on campus, Hannah consistently interprets others’ perspectives with remarkable generosity, assuming the best of others’ motives,” said Elizabeth Jemison, assistant professor of religion. “She is humble and unassuming, but she is unafraid to defend her views when challenged. Hannah wants to make the world better, and I fully believe she will.”
While Roebuck and Clevenstine each have their own passion projects, their paths came together while working on the Youth Scholars Program, an initiative that connects students in Title 1 elementary schools with Clemson honors students.
“We created a sustainable tutoring and mentorship program for low-income students in the Clemson community, and we have already seen the YSP students soar inside and outside of the classroom,” Roebuck said.
Working together with each other, and with Class of 2022 Norris Medal Winner Natalie Claypool, the students formed a bond of mutual respect.
“I have watched Hannah time and time again devote herself entirely towards unselfish service to others during the past four years of our friendship,” Clevenstine said. “It has been a great privilege to walk alongside her throughout my time at Clemson and constantly learn from the unique way she approaches serving others. To share this award with such a strong advocate for others is such an honor.”
After graduation, both students plan to continue their education with a focus on the same issues that have driven them as undergraduates. Clevenstine plans to spend a year working with MEF Associates, a social policy research firm, before pursuing a Ph.D.
“Ronnie combines the intellect, work ethic, initiative and inquisitive research mind necessary to thrive in graduate school with a commitment and drive to affect change in the world, particularly through better and more just social welfare policy,” said Jeffrey Fine, professor of political science, who was the advisor for Clevenstine’s political science honors thesis.
Roebuck is set to attend Duke University, pursuing a master’s degree in teaching as a Durham Teaching Fellow, after which she plans to become a public school social studies teacher. She says that after teaching she may consider making an impact through administration or a policymaking role.
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