College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Three Clemson University Programs Receive INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine’s 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award


Today, three Clemson University programs received the 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. It is the third consecutive year PEER & WISE and COSMIC have won the honor and the first award from the magazine for STEM ALL-In.

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). The three Clemson programs will be featured, along with 77 other recipients, in the September 2023 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

Among the programs organized by PEER & WISE are summer camps, such as Next Engineers, supported by GE.

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.

“The recognition of three Clemson University programs as 2023 Inspiring Programs in STEM from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine reflects how our programs and people positively impact all students and demonstrates how the work of the university community elevates Clemson by ‘delivering the No. 1 student experience where every student thrives,’ one of the bold pillars of the strategic plan, Clemson Elevate,” said Felicia Benton-Johnson, vice president for diversity and inclusive excellence at Clemson.

Serita Acker, executive director of PEER & WISE, said the award affirms the program’s commitment to empowering communities that are underrepresented in STEM.

“This recognition fuels our passion for breaking barriers, creating opportunities and unlocking students’ boundless potential,” she said. “The future of STEM is bright, and we are fortunate to be at the forefront of this transformative journey. It takes a team effort, and I thank all who have played a part, including the PEER & WISE staff, students, alumni, donors, supporters and affiliated faculty.”

COSMIC matches incoming students with student mentors from similar backgrounds and interests, creating an ecosystem of support.

Sharetta Bufford, director of recruitment and inclusive excellence for the Clemson College of Science, said the award recognizes the crucial role COSMIC plays in the College’s commitment to inclusive excellence.

“COSMIC continues to make strides towards student success as we have been even more intentional about peer interactions, academic and social spaces, faculty and staff support, and availing research, scholarship and on-campus job opportunities. More people are vested in the program as they see how it impacts students, and it is only up from here,” she said.

Tonyia Stewart, the director of graduate recruiting and inclusion for Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the award underscores the progress STEM All In has made in widening and diversifying the talent pipeline.

“By offering personalized campus visits, faculty and staff engagement and a supportive network, we aim to create a vibrant ecosystem that fosters growth, innovation and a path to a graduate degree,” Stewart said. “We are immensely proud of our students’ hard work and dedication and look forward to continuing our outreach with the next cohort.”

STEM ALL In celebrated its first three graduates in May. Those pictured are (from left): Cornelius Walker, Tonyia Stewart, Jonathan Bolanos, Melissa Smith and Presley Ihezue. Walker, Bolanos and Ihezue are the first three STEM All In participants to graduate. Stewart serves as director of graduate recruiting and inclusion, and Smith serves as associate dean for inclusive excellence and graduate studies, both in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

Here’s more about each program that won:

PEER & WISE : Headquartered in Clemson’s Freeman Hall, the program is part of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. PEER & WISE 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.

COSMIC: COSMIC (College of Science Mentoring and Inclusion Collaborative) is an ecosystem of support for students. The program matches incoming students with student mentors from similar backgrounds and interests. In addition to mentorship, the program includes service-learning opportunities, classes, a series of Diversity in SCIENCE seminars, and a newly created lounge to foster a greater sense of belonging. Affinity groups in the COSMIC ecosystem include women, men, military and veteran students; first-generation students; transfer students; students with disabilities; students of color; and LGBTQIA+ students.

STEM All In: The program, first started in 2018, brings some of the nation’s best and brightest underrepresented students to Clemson to learn about graduate school. Students meet with faculty and staff to have their questions answered before deciding whether to enroll. The three-day visits also allow the prospective students to meet each other and begin forming a network. The program celebrated its first three graduates in May.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” said 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 2023.

For more information about the 2023 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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