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Reviving a Tradition

People often say that there is “something in these hills” — a quote from Joe Sherman’s poem that embodies the way that many cherish Clemson University.

Clemson is a place defined by traditions, both experienced as students and carried on throughout the rest of our lives. Colonel Sandy Edge, a lecturer in the Department of Management, and his Creative Inquiry team developed a project that takes a further look at one of Clemson’s most prominent traditions, prized by graduating seniors and alumni for over a century: the Clemson ring.

The project began when the Clemson Alumni Association approached the Marketing Department about involving students in the development of a new marketing strategy to revive the tradition of purchasing and wearing the Clemson ring.

“In initial discussions with the Alumni Association, we knew that the ring is very, very special,” Edge said. “Now that the Clemson Alumni Association owns, markets and has the total rights to the ring, it’s also an opportunity for revenue interests. They wanted us to go back with a totally unbiased, fresh look and give each area a fresh set of eyes. I don’t think the Alumni Association could have been more excited.”

Creative Inquiry students researched ring sales at Clemson and other universities. They also attended and analyzed Clemson’s Guarding of the Rings and Ring Ceremony held in October.
“The Alumni Association took over the ring within the last two years, and so they’re not really quite sure of what the direction is. That’s where our project fits in,” Creative Inquiry leader Carter McElveen said. “In order to create a good marketing plan, you have to look at where you’ve been. You have to look at the past so that you have an understanding of the past, so you can go forward to the future.”

After reviewing successful and unsuccessful marketing strategies for ring sales across the country and the history of ring sales at Clemson, the students met with the Alumni Association to develop an integrated marketing plan.

“Developing an integrated marketing plan that the students may have to construct once they get to the real world allows students to produce a real world product for a real world project that has definite applications,” Creative Inquiry leader Colonel Ed De Iulio, a lecturer in the Department of Management, said. “It enhances their ability to synthesize all the different pieces and parts of various courses and put them together.”

The Creative Inquiry not only produces a real world product for the Alumni Association, but also functions as a business with a class-elected CEO and designated project teams and managers. Student members of the Creative Inquiry work collaboratively to develop a marketing plan for the Clemson ring.
“It’s about something I’m so passionate about,” class CEO and junior communication studies major Morgan Burns said. “I think it makes it even more interesting and intriguing because I feel like it’s not just a Creative Inquiry that’s personal to me, but personal to my parents who are alumni, and it tangibly affects every student who comes through Clemson’s campus.”

McElveen believes that her love for her alma mater and students was what influenced her to get involved in the project.

“I couldn’t resist getting involved in something that would benefit the students by allowing them to see first-hand how to make a marketing plan and how to improve something they truly care about,” McElveen said. “To me, your ring is your lifelong connection with Clemson and it’s everything: the tradition, all your memories- everything wrapped up into one thing that is Clemson. If I can help make the ring a better part of the tradition here, I want to help do that.”

The success of the Creative Inquiry team was fueled by the students’ enthusiasm to enhance Clemson tradition.

“I’ve never been amongst a group of students who are honestly so passionate,” Burns said. “There is not one person in the class who does less work than another. There isn’t a student who isn’t excited to get dirty and get their hands wet and get excited about it.”