Giving youth a Clemson experience
By Scott Harkey
Office of Media Relations
Fran McGuire, Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus, has taught 16 different courses at Clemson and is well-known throughout the country for his numerous books and publications on aging, therapeutic research and humor projects.
McGuire has been part of the Clemson Family for a long time. “I enjoy the challenge of working with new programs and helping them grow and mature. I’ve tried to retire on many occasions, but I’ve found to just not be good at it,” he said. He also enjoys pushing Clemson’s boundaries as a university and expanding the envelope to include nontraditional populations and participants as part of the community of learners.
In May 2011, McGuire decided to turn his attention to giving youth a true Clemson University experience. Working with Jacob Repokis and Greg Linke, he helped lead the effort to establish the Pre-Collegiate Programs Office at Clemson. The office, created with assistance from the provost, the Youth Learning Institute and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, focuses on working with faculty and staff on current and new youth programs for a safe, personal and memorable Clemson experience. Last year, the University operated approximately 27 youth programs on campus for 6,875 participants.
“Our goals are to proactively support a high-quality, safe environment for children who participate in programs affiliated with Clemson University,” said Repokis, who is the assistant director.
Another objective of the office is to serve as a resource to faculty and staff who have ideas about potential youth programs. With topics ranging from multimedia journalism to automotive engineering — and more ideas to be explored — there can be a program to fit everyone’s interest.
“We provide all the resources for finding housing, setting up meal plans, writing policies and procedures, and training employees,” said McGuire, who is serving as the office’s director of program advancement. “We want to give them that ‘Clemson stamp’ early.”
McGuire and Repokis reflect on what brought them into the program and why they are so drawn to help youths experience Clemson.
“It is so important for us to cultivate and steward youth because, I believe, that the development of young minds is what ultimately leads to generations of success individually and collectively,” Repokis said. “This is achieved by committing our greatest efforts to effective programmatic experiences and by creating the most physically and emotionally safe environment possible.”
McGuire has been a longtime Clemson faculty member, working in multiple contexts and mediums throughout his time here. “I have had many opportunities to see the difference Clemson can make in peoples’ lives,” he said. “The Pre-Collegiate Programs Office is an opportunity to introduce Clemson to an additional audience; I think my interest in the program is captured in a Chinese proverb: ‘If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.’ I am excited by the opportunity to be involved in the educational and enrichment opportunities offered through youth programs led by Clemson faculty and staff.”
With 30 potential programs in the works, the initiative could be one of the top in the nation.
“In three years, I want this to be the best pre-collegiate program in the country,” McGuire said. “We have the structure in place, we have employees that focus on the safety of these kids every day, and we have a wealth of resources here at Clemson.”
The future is bright for pre-collegiate programs at Clemson, which includes youth sports programs on campus and the growing number of academic programs to appeal to a wider range of potential Clemson students.
“We are planning many different programs for academically talented pre-college scholars, and we already have an array of offerings at the University. It’s just exciting to see the variety that is coming up,” Repokis said.
McGuire also is excited about another upcoming opportunity for the Pre-Collegiate Programs Office in summer 2014, in joining the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on an intergenerational trip to Spain.
“We are thrilled to offer a chance for grandparents and grandchildren to go abroad to a great country and learn from each other while sightseeing in a beautiful place,” he said. “When we established the Pre-Collegiate Programs Office, we never thought about combining the two. But, with an opportunity like this, I know everyone will benefit from the experience.”
McGuire was instrumental in starting the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Clemson with 80 members. It has more than 1,000 members today.
“What I would like to accomplish with the Pre-Collegiate Programs Office is the same as I have wanted to accomplish in all those roles, make sure things are at least no worse than when I started and hopefully are better. For the most part I have been able to do that. We believe that 2013 has been our most successful year yet, and we are equally as excited about the years to come.”
With the goal of having the top pre-collegiate program in the nation, McGuire and Repokis are on their way. Clemson University is predicted to have 8,000 youth students on campus in the summer of 2014 as well as 30 or more total programs. Surrounded by a great staff and supported with dedication from the University, every youth will be able to have their own Clemson experience.
For more information about any of the programs mentioned, please contact the Pre-Collegiate Programs Office at 864-656-5535 or visit clemson.edu/summer-scholars.