By Libby Roerig, Indiana State University
South Africa was declared the “cradle of humankind” by UNESCO in 1999 because of the important human ancestral fossils discovered there near Johannesburg.
The moniker is also appropriate when describing the metaphorical rebirth Indiana State University senior Bryant Clayton experienced while on a semester-long study abroad trip there.
“I believe I gained strength in South Africa,” he said. “I learned people are people wherever you go, regardless of race.”
Part of that newfound strength is being comfortable with who he is and not feeling pressured to fit into a preconceived ideal.
“I felt a renewed sense of self-value and worth there,” he said. “My race and my skin color in Africa allowed me to share who I really was to a lot of different people. It really did not matter.”
Indiana State Professor Arthur Feinsod, himself a graduate of three prestigious universities — Harvard, University of California-Berkeley and New York University — says Clayton is his most talented pupil.
Despite his warm and engaging personality, Clayton’s intellect is something that has separated him at times from his peers, he said. In South Africa, Clayton was free to have philosophical discussions with his classmates of all races and backgrounds.
Of particular interest was what it means to be black in South Africa versus the United States.
To the former, “It means you are a part of a history and a tradition of struggle. But, in that struggle, there is hope, there is unity, there is grit, there is determination,” Clayton said. “We (don’t) have to lower ourselves to our predecessors’ level. Meaning — we don’t have to oppress anybody, we don’t have to make them feel what we felt. It’s about unity, it’s about love, it’s about progress and moving forward. That’s being black in South Africa.”
When it comes answering the black-in-America part of that question, however, the response is more questions.
“It’s asking ‘Am I really of value?’ ‘Am I seen equally in the everyday workforce? Or do you judge me based on what you see on television?’ ‘Is there progress? Have we really progressed from the Rodney King riots in 1992?’” he said. “The dreams that Civil Rights activists felt in the 1960s — was Martin Luther King right? Or was Malcolm X right?”
Clayton is one not to be confined by convention. Upon entering Indiana State, Clayton was a biology/pre-med major. He’s good at science and did well his freshman year, but it just didn’t seem to fit his four-year path.
Holly Hobaugh, coordinator of academic services and pre-professional advisor at Indiana State, recommended he consider an interdisciplinary degree.
“That really fascinated me. I didn’t want to go into one particular discipline. I have an interest in history, a keen interest in philosophy, psychology, sociology,” he said.
Clayton settled on a cultural communities studies program — a design that combines his interest areas with African-American studies. While a medical degree is not out of the picture, Clayton said he wants to earn a Ph.D. first, perhaps double majoring in psychology and philosophy.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X “had an idea. They had a principle, and they followed it to the end. You remember them because they had the courage to say, ‘If you follow me, I have a vision or dream that life as it is right now is not where you need to stay. There’s something better,’” Clayton said. “Maybe it’s because I’m young now, but that’s what I believe right now and I’m sticking to it.”
A defining moment of his experience in South Africa came early when his luggage didn’t arrive with him. To make do, he bought a couple of T-shirts, a pair of shorts, swim trunks and flip flops and washed them in the sink and hung them on a laundry line fashioned out of his belt.
After a week, he asked a friend to take him back to the airport to check if his luggage had arrived yet. He stopped once again at the main desk and told them his name.
“‘Mr. Clayton, we’ve been looking for you! Your luggage has been here since Tuesday.’ Here’s the thing: I got there on Wednesday. It was there the entire time,” he said.
During the rest of his stay, he didn’t wear half of what he packed and gave a lot of it away to the homeless. “That was the beginning of a long, adventurous journey while I was in South Africa,” he said.
As a senior at Heritage Christian High School in Indianapolis, he applied to universities all over the nation, including Southern Cal and Harvard. On their way back from a campus visit to Washington University in St. Louis, Clayton and his father passed by Terre Haute. His dad mentioned Indiana State is his alma mater.
Clayton started considering becoming a Sycamore after a personal tour of the campus by John Newton, the now retired executive director of the Indiana State University Alumni Association.
“I felt like it was a place I needed to be. I felt welcome, I felt appreciated,” Clayton said.
Being offered the university’s most generous award — the President’s Scholarship, which covers all tuition, provides premium housing and more — sealed the deal.
“All of the other schools I was accepted, there would have been these huge bills I would have had to pay for tuition. That’s not something I planned on doing,” he said.
The scholarship also requires and provides assistance for study abroad.
“The experience has been phenomenal. I would not have been able to go to South Africa, meet the people I’ve met,” he said. “Indiana State is a fine academic institution. Whatever you want to put into it, especially the honors program, you’re going to get out of it.”
Indiana State partners with PrecisionHawk for unmanned systems research, pilot testing
Indiana State University
Indiana State University and Raleigh, N.C.-based PrecisionHawk have signed a research and development partnership that aims to advance the unmanned aerial systems industry from multidisciplinary perspectives. The university-business collaboration will focus on safety, education, training and algorithm development for PrecisionHawk’s DataMapper aerial data software.
“PrecisionHawk is a strategic partner for Indiana State,” said Robert English, dean of Indiana State’s College of Technology. “Together we make a strong team in research and development of flight crew training, UAS applications, and data analysis. We see this collaboration as a foundation for the future our students, the state of Indiana and the nation.”
Patrick Lohman, vice president of partnerships at PrecisionHawk, said the company has a longstanding relationship with Indiana State that “creates the perfect environment to explore the next frontier in aviation and beyond line of sight unmanned vehicle operations. PrecisionHawk is fortunate to boast a number of ISU alumni on its team, and we look forward to enhanced collaboration around our data and safety initiatives.”
The partnership will explore and pursue the following areas:
• Airspace deconfliction
• Advanced mission planning algorithm development
• Environmental monitoring
• Opportunities within PrecisionHawk safety initiatives, including LATAS, its low altitude traffic and airspace service platform.
• Development of analytics clusters and full-spectrum analytics support
“Indiana State is proud to be stepping forward with PrecisionHawk in this partnership to further the applications of unmanned systems,” said Richard Baker, associate professor and chair of the aviation technology department and director of the university’s unmanned systems initiative. “We will work to strategically address issues across the entire spectrum of data collection, analytics, and safety for unmanned aerial systems.”
The university will provide access to airspace, indoor flight facilities, unmanned aerial vehicles and flight crews. PrecisionHawk will provide access to its software platform, DataMapper, algorithm licenses, desktop orthomosaic processing and the ability to test its safety services platform, LATAS.
About PrecisionHawk Inc.
PrecisionHawk is a terrestrial data acquisition and analysis company founded in 2010. The company provides an end-to-end platform using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for data collection and analysis, software tools to provide better business intelligence to clients across a wide range of civilian industries. PrecisionHawk also owns drone data software, DataMapper, satellite imagery provider, Terraserver, and the Low Altitude Traffic and Airspace Safety platform, LATAS. PrecisionHawk currently holds a contract with the FAA to test technology solutions for drone flight outside line of site. A privately held company PrecisionHawk’s investors include Intel Capital, Millennium Technology Value Partners, Bob Young, and the Indiana University’s Innovate Indiana Fund. More information about PrecisionHawk can be found at www.precisionhawk.com or on Twitter @PrecisionHawk.
About Indiana State University
Indiana State University combines a tradition of strong undergraduate and graduate education with a focus on community and public service. Serving more than 13,500 students and offering more than 100 areas of study in five academic colleges, Indiana State integrates teaching, research, and creative activity in an engaging, challenging, and supportive learning environment to prepare productive citizens for Indiana and the world.