Celebrating the Women of Clemson; College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

When opportunity knocks, Erica Wearing answers

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Sometimes it seems like there are multiple Erica Wearings. There’s no other way to explain how the junior agricultural education major from Seneca is able be involved in so many aspects of Clemson University life. Whether it’s academic excellence, student leadership or experiential learning, Wearing takes advantage of every available opportunity.

With her handy-dandy Google calendar always pulled up on her laptop, she easily maneuvers through her busy days. Yet, they never stress her out, because she has a passion for everything on her calendar. 

“I am really only involved in things I have a passion for. It makes getting everything done a whole lot easier because I have a big interest in making it happen,” she said.

The Truman Scholarship

Wearing was one of four Clemson students nominated this year as a Truman scholar. The Harry Truman scholarship is a merit-based scholarship grant that identifies college juniors who are committed to careers in government, non-profit, advocacy centers, education or anywhere in public service. 

Wearing says that the road to becoming a nominee was a long one. The Seneca native first heard about the scholarship opportunity when she was watching 2020 scholarship recipient, Ashni Bhojwani, a 2020 graduate with a dual degree in criminal justice and psychology, as she was going through the application process. Not long after that, Wearing was contacted in July 2020 by Robyn Curtis, the director for the Office of Major Fellowships at Clemson University, to apply for the Truman Scholarship. From there, Wearing and Curtis met for six months on and off to complete the scholarship. 

Although she was not selected for the next stage in the Truman scholar process, Wearing strongly feels that the experience benefited her in the end. 

“It’s been such a great process because going through the application causes you really figure out what your interests are. The big thing about the Truman scholarship is being a change agent.

 “So really figuring out what do I want in my life and what I want to have an impact on. So, applying for Truman really made me knuckle down and think about some things,” she said.

Wearing’s dedicated work ethic didn’t just emerge for the Truman scholarship, but it was something instilled in her from her parents and grandparents. 

“Both of my parents graduated from high school and college and have two graduate degrees each, and three of my four grandparents have college degrees,” she said. 

On-Campus Organizations 

Her strong work ethic has not only impacted her academics but has shaped her involvement with organizations on campus. Wearing is in many campus organizations and holds several leadership positions. She is a secretary with the Clemson University Guide Association, president of the Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) representative for the CHANGE Student Ethics Board, CAFLS ambassador and a member of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS). 

With all of these different experiences under her belt, she had made an impact on those around her. Caterra Heard-Tate, a senior nutrition major from Anderson, S.C., and the president of MANNRS, said Wearing stands out because of her confidence. 

“She is confident in who she is and what she brings to the table. This confidence exudes from her and enhances every room she is in,” she said. 

Heard-Tate is not the only person whom Wearing has impacted. She has also impacted faculty as well. Julian Nixon, advisor of MANNRS, said she stands out because of her vision. 

“Erica has vision, and that is a very, very rare asset for any leader,” Nixon said. “Vision allows a leader to see the interconnectivity of an initiative to the greater cause, and those who will feel it’s affects in the distant future. I’m not sure if you can teach that kind of sight, but you can certainly learn from it.”

The Honors College 

Wearing’s vision has allowed her to excel with any opportunity she has decided to take up. One opportunity she has taken while at Clemson is being a part of the Honors College, where her focus is interdisciplinary honors. This allows her to combine two different subject areas of research that she is interested in, allowing her to expand her knowledge on subjects she is interested in. 

Being a part of the Honors College is a special thing for Wearing, as she is the first agricultural education student to be a part of it on Clemson’s campus. This accomplishment has allowed her to stand out from other students. 

Stepping up for Stem It Up

Along with her research and dedication in the Honors College, she has also been an asset as she has worked closely with her professors. One of those professors is Catherine DiBenedetto, an assistant professor of agricultural education in the agricultural sciences department of CAFLS. 

DiBenedetto met Wearing in fall 2018, during Wearing’s first semester at campus. DiBenedetto believes she knew Wearing was a special student right away. 

“I identified her as a leader and a dynamic person,” she said. 

Because Wearing stood out from the other students, DiBenedetto offered Wearing the opportunity to work as a UPIC Intern as her mentee. Wearing accepted and began working with the Teach Ag Campaign and the Stem It Up Program

The Teach Ag Campaign is a national campaign that focuses on teacher recruitment and retention for agricultural teachers. The campaign is based out of the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Hosting six regions with over 9,000 members, the campaign’s mission is to provide agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service. States involved in the campaign can become State Teach Ag Results (STAR) program. This program is designed to assist states in creating sustainable and effective recruitment and retention plans. STAR states receive in-kind design and consultation services, access to Teach Ag grant funds, priority preference for Teach Ag Ambassador positions, access to promotional materials and assessment summaries. South Carolina has been one since 2017.

DiBenedetto serves as the SC STAR State Teach AG Campaign Coordinator and the Ag Ed Degree Institution faculty member for South Carolina. She introduced the program to Wearing, who adapted to it quickly. Wearing’s role with the campaign is to help with strategies that the SC STAR state committee has identified to help support recruitment and retention of Agricultural Education teachers. She is responsible for designing and developing materials, like recruitment videos, newsletters and other resources to help retain in-service agricultural education teachers and to promote strategies to “tag” students. She then communicates with students who may be interested in studying agricultural education when they go to college.

Sponsored by the American Floral Endowment, the Stem It Up Program is designed to teach agriscience teachers more about plant science, specifically floriculture and horticulture. The goal of the conference is for the agriscience teachers who attend to be able to return to their schools and teach their students what they have learned using inquiry-based instruction and the STEM concepts that are naturally found in the plant science curriculum. 

In the past, the Stem It Up Conference has been held in person. But with the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, forcing many meeting platforms to change, Stem It Up had to make some very quick changes. 

“We knew that we wanted to use Zoom for our virtual meeting space, but didn’t know all the aspects of the relatively new technology for conducting professional development,” DiBenedetto said. “I gave Erica the task of researching how to use the features and navigating the ‘behind the scenes’ logistics.” 

According to DiBenedetto, Wearing became their “Zoom expert.” She was in charge of running Zoom polls, acquiring and sharing links for websites, resources and handouts in the chat feature, preparing breakout rooms, and she organized and managed the daily presentations during the conference. 

“She did a phenomenal job. Erica added additional technological features along the way and created a workshop for teachers to educate them on other technological strategies we used in addition to the Zoom features throughout the conference,” DiBenedetto said. 

With Wearing’s help, the Stem It Up Program was able to host more teachers than they had in previous year. DiBenedetto believes the hard work Wearing demonstrates comes from her natural desire to help others.

“She’s not only an innovative thinker, but she’s also someone that goes those extra steps to be a helping hand. She’ll take that extra step to figure out specifically what someone needs that is individualized for them,” DiBenedetto said. 

This love of helping others not only affects Wearing’s current work habits but is something she desires to carry with her in the future. With a teaching emphasis attatched to her major, she aspires to work in education. Wearing knows that she wants to give back to those who are less fortunate. 

“Recognizing I’ve been afforded so many opportunities gives me the fuel to help someone who doesn’t have that background, who haven’t gotten to benefit from education as much as I have. Just making sure I learn as much at Clemson so I can impact students when I graduate,” Wearing said. 

With one more year of undergraduate study to go, Wearing has a motto that helps her further her goals. 

“I live by a mantra that says: What did you do yesterday to make you a better person for today, and what are you going to do today to make you a better person for tomorrow? I know I can leave the world better than I found it and never give up an opportunity to do something better than I used to,” she said.

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