The Clemson University College of Science has named Mallory Neil as its inaugural director of industry partnerships.
Neil comes to the College of Science from the University of Virginia where she served as assistant director of experiential learning. In that role, she helped graduate students and postdoctoral scholars navigate the complexities of experiential learning and facilitated recruitment activities working closely with the university’s centralized career center and employer relations. She also led the institution-wide internship program for graduate students.
She earned a master’s degree in history from Clemson in 2012. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in history from the University of Houston in 2019.
We caught up with Neil and asked her about her job, Clemson and her life outside work.
Q: Tell the College of Science community a little about yourself.
A: I am originally from Georgia, but I have lived in several different states while pursuing my graduate degrees. Ohio was cold, Texas was hot and Virginia was beautiful. I love going to the beach. It is the place where I can relax, recharge and recenter myself. I think I make a great trivia partner because of my love for history, books and movies. Most of all, I love working in higher education. I felt a connection the first moment I stepped on a college campus as an undergraduate student, and those feelings have not dissipated.
Q: What attracted you to work in your field?
A: I knew early on as an undergraduate student that I wanted to work in higher education. At first, I thought that would be as a professor. During graduate school, I decided I wanted to pursue a career path where I worked with students in an advising capacity. I transitioned into the career and professional development space after earning my Ph.D. and fell in love with the content. I enjoyed helping students find clarity in the paths they wanted to pursue, working with faculty to incorporate content into their coursework and connecting with employers to develop experiential learning opportunities.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Clemson?
A: Clemson played an important part in my own journey. As a student, I made lifelong connections that have carried me to where I am today. I have been looking for ways to return, but I was waiting on the right opportunity. In the meantime, I was able to work at both a small and a large institution, which allowed me to grow as a career and professional development practitioner. The director of industry partnerships role felt like a perfect alignment between my professional experiences and long-term career goals. The fact that it was at a place that means so much to me was an extra bonus.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
A: I am looking forward to collaborating with key partners —such as administration, faculty, alumni, students, postdocs and partners — to define what industry partnerships mean for the College of Science. I want to create a framework that centers the Accelerate Science strategic plan and fosters intentional connections within and beyond the university. This will be a big task, but I am excited to see the impact it can have.
Q: Why is providing experiential learning opportunities for students important?
A: In the career and professional development field, there is this idea of career design, built on the principles of design thinking. I am a big proponent of this approach as it pertains to long-term development and navigating non-linear career paths. For students, I believe experiential learning is important for many reasons, but two stand out as crucial to their career development:
- Students need to engage in career exploration so they can find clarity and feel confident about their post-graduation plans. I have worked with students who, at the end of their internship or experience, decided they did not want to pursue that career path. I see that as a success! Life is about trying new things and making informed decisions based on what you encounter. Experiential learning plays this vital role in the educational journey.
- Students need the chance to strengthen existing skills and develop new skills. Post-graduation outcomes have become a central point in the field of higher education. Ensuring that students are competitive once they enter the job market means allowing them opportunities to foster technical and transferable skills valued by employers and graduate schools. For graduate students and postdocs looking to transition outside of academia, experiential learning opportunities also allow them to learn how their skills and research translate into industry.
Q: Where would we find you on the weekend, and what would you be doing?
A: Sometimes I may have a relaxing weekend catching up on the shows I missed or making a dent in my to-read pile. I also enjoy visiting new towns to check out the local restaurants, shops and sites. A lot has changed in the area since I last lived in Clemson, so I can’t wait to get out and explore. If anyone has recommendations, please send them my way!
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
A: As is the case for many people, having resilience has been important in both my academic and professional careers. A mentor of mine once told me, “You will encounter challenges and be told ‘no’ throughout your life. It’s how you navigate those experiences that will shape the person you become and define the life you have.” I have seen the truth in this statement over the years, and I try to remind myself of this during the challenging times.
Q: What is at the top of your bucket list?
A: I love to travel so my “to visit” bucket list is continually growing. I would love to visit Ireland to see friends and explore the sites I have only seen in pictures and films. Both sides of my family also have connections to the country, so that adds another personal layer to why it’s at the top of my list. A potential family trip is in the works to visit, so I am hoping to mark it off soon!
Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I have always been fascinated by weather, so for the longest time I wanted to be a meteorologist. This goal changed over time, as is often the case with career decisions that are made when you are 10 years old. I am still interested in weather, however, to the point where colleagues in the past have associated me with knowing the forecast for the week.
Q: Besides the necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
A: For me, it is important to be able to connect with my family. They have been my biggest support as I navigated the different points of my life, and I start to feel adrift if I don’t communicate with them in some way.
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