By Nick Rigas, CURI & SCE&G Energy Innovation Center Executive Director
I am sitting in my office looking outside of my window trying to focus on the tasks of the day only to be captivated by a brilliant Carolina blue sky on this fall day. The sounds of construction activities provide the music score as a large container ship hugs the channel providing a moving scenic backdrop. Over the past five months, I have been serenaded daily by the sounds of bulldozers, pile drivers, graders, and trucks as work on the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center is reaching a crescendo. I have witnessed through my office windows the transformation of what was once a massive derelict Navy building sitting on the banks of one of Charleston’s main river estuaries disappear and gradually being replaced by a modern sustainable structure that will soon house Clemson’s graduate education programs for today’s workforce and serve as an inspiration to the workforce of the future to pursue careers in STEM. As the daily buzz of construction brings out of the ground the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center there is a flurry of activity underway at CURI and on the main campus to prepare for the launch of the graduate programs in the Fall of 2016. Whether it is how to best position the workstations for the students that will be working diligently on their film shorts as part of their pursuit of a Master’s in Digital Production Arts to figuring out how faculty can best engage students here and on the main campus using the latest technology in audio visuals and distance learning.
With all this flurry of activities, last week we took a pause to showcase to the Clemson family and industry and community leaders in the Low Country what is emerging out of the ground at CURI. A group of 100 plus supporters gathered at the South Carolina Electric and Gas Energy Innovation Center to listen to the President and Provost share their thoughts about the future of Clemson’s Graduate Programs in the Low Country while sipping on wine, nibbling on local cheese and sharing their thoughts about the building renderings. Ms. Anita Zucker and her family, the patrons of the Graduate Education Center, expressed their excitement of seeing the building come up out of the ground, the impact the graduate programs will have to the growing Charleston economy and the hope that Clemson’s activities at CURI will entice a new generation of students to pursue careers in technical fields. The evening was festive with discussions ranging from Clemson’s winning football season to ensuring the correct shade of orange is put on the building, to how can individuals and corporations become partners in the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center. Some visitors who have never had the opportunity to see the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center were escorted through the facilities and gazed on the numerous projects underway with industry partners that will help to define the electric grid of the future.
As the evening wrapped up, a sense of accomplishment came over the team that has taken the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center from a vision to reality including Clemson’s key partners, LS3P and Choate Construction. It was spurred by the acknowledgement by community leaders, corporate managers and the Clemson family in the Low Country that all the planning, designing and daily sounds of construction are creating an iconic structure for the Charleston area as well as a structure that Clemson University will be proud of. The daily sounds of construction activity will soon be replaced with the sounds of learning, discussing, exploring and resolving the grand challenges of tomorrow and creating new opportunities. That’s when the real work will begin.