Claflin Class of 2021 is Largest, Most Talented and Diverse In School History

Aug 16, 2017

Claflin University’s expanding profile as a premier higher education institution is the catalyst for attracting an increasing number of high achieving high school scholars from South Carolina and beyond, President Henry N. Tisdale said in an address to the newest class of aspiring students.

More than 500 freshmen, largest in school history, arrived on campus this past weekend.  The Class of 2021 and their parents were greeted by Claflin upperclassmen and alumni who helped carry luggage and other personal items to the residence halls during Saturday’s “Move-In Day.”   The students had two days of activities that included orientation sessions and presentations by Claflin administrators and staff. 

The onboarding of the freshman class for the weekend concluded with the “Freshman Parting Ceremony” on Sunday at the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center.   The ceremony is a Claflin tradition that symbolizes the students’ separation from their parents and other relatives and the entrance to a new learning phase in their development. The highlight of the ceremony took the Class of 2021 through the Claflin "Arch of Confidence."      

“We thank you for bringing your loved ones to us and we promise to take good care of them,” Tisdale said prior to the “Parting Ceremony. The Class of 2021 is the largest freshman class in school history. It is also our most diverse and talented freshman class and students were selected from our largest pool of applicants.”

The Class of 2021 comprises students from 44 of 46 counties in the state of South Carolina. Richland, Orangeburg, Charleston, Greenville, and Darlington counties have the highest representation.   Other states contributing to the class include Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, to name a few.   The Class of 2021 also has a significant number of international students. 

“I am very excited about coming to Claflin,” said Chandlar Glover, an Orangeburg native and a graduate of the High School for Health Professionals.  “I am a biology major and a member in the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College.  The rigorous curriculum and the opportunity to study abroad will prepare me to reach my goals of attending medical school and having a successful career in the healthcare industry.” 

Glover said several relatives who graduated from Claflin and relationships with

Dr. Verlie Tisdale, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Dr. Angela Peters, vice provost for academic programs, influenced her decision to enroll at Claflin.

“Dr. Tisdale and Dr. Peters have mentored and inspired me since I participated in the GEMMS (Girls Embracing Maturity Strength, and Scholarship) and AstroCHEM programs at Claflin,” Glover said, alluding to the NASA-funded initiative designed to engage school children's interest in space and chemistry. 

The leading majors for the freshman class are biology, business, psychology, computer science and sport management and more than 30 percent of the freshman class are enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs. 

Tisdale said he is particularly impressed with the number of students whose academic excellence in high school earned them prestigious scholarships.  Among this group are 36 students who were awarded Rudolph Canzater Scholarships from the James E. Clyburn Scholarship and Research Foundation. The foundation awarded 125 Canzater Scholarships and Claflin was the institution of choice for more recipients than any other college or university. 

“I hear a lot about Claflin from members of my family,” said Vithun Muthukumaran, a native of Sri Lanka who is majoring in computer science.  “My uncle, Dr. Somasundaram Velummylum, is a mathematics professor at Claflin and my aunt is an alumnus.   However, I moved here from Sri Lanka in July and I saw the campus for the first time when I came here for early registration.  I received a full scholarship and I will be in the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. I am really looking forward to the Claflin experience.”

Muthukumaran’s aunt, Rajananthini Velummylum, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Claflin in 2002. Like her nephew, Mrs. Velummylum was also a student in the Honors College. She currently teaches math at North Middle/High School.

“Mrs. Tisdale also recruited me for the Honors College,” she said.  “We are very happy that we chose Claflin.”

Vithun plans to return to Sri Lanka and become an entrepreneur after earning his degree.

“I want to help my country by increasing employment opportunities,” Muthukumaran said.  “I want to recruit businesses to Sri Lanka that create jobs and help the economy.”

Claflin made an immediate impression on Ricky Workman, a freshman from Aiken, S.C. While attending Aiken High School, Workman heard about the HBCU-UP Program which allowed him to earn college credit while taking summer classes prior to starting the fall semester.

“I believe the HBCU-UP Program gave me head start on my freshman year at Claflin,” said Workman, who will major in computer engineering. “The program helped me become familiar with the campus and the collegiate environment. I am looking forward to the start of classes and the beginning of my Claflin journey.”

President Tisdale believes the current freshman class is entering Claflin during one the most exciting times in the university’s history. 

“In 2019 you will be here when Claflin celebrates its 150th anniversary,” Tisdale said. “ In September, you will witness the groundbreaking of the new health and wellness complex scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.  In addition, you will also be the first class to matriculate through the new Cluster Pathway Initiative (CPI).”

The CPI is a $35.4 million grant under the UNCF® funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. of which Claflin received $6.3 million and also includes Benedict College and Voorhees College. The grant provides students a guided career pathway that will carry them through graduation. Claflin is leading a state-wide effort to help other universities prepare students for the 21st Century workforce. 

“We are extremely proud that Claflin was selected to take the leadership in implementing this grant,” Tisdale said.  “However, it is consistent with the University’s mission of preparing all of our students to become engaged visionary leaders with global perspectives upon graduation from Claflin.”



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