Center for Excellence Honoree: Deborah Clark

Deborah ClarkDeborah Clark, professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, rarely passes a student without stopping and asking about his or her day.

"She's the type of professor who learns her students' names on the first day of class," said Alyssa Nastro, who took two of Clark's classes and is now one of her teaching assistants. "She cares deeply about her students."

Clark, who has taught biology at Quinnipiac since 1992 and has served as the director of the Faculty Collaborative for Excellence in Learning and Teaching since 2006, said she realized that students needed professors to do more than just teach the material.

"You slowly figure out they are looking up to you, they are looking for role models," Clark said. "If I can help them figure out what their passion is, I can see that spark and ask, 'How can I help you get there?'

Clark isn't blind to students' needs, Nastro said, but rather is compassionate and understanding. "Last fall, my grandfather passed away," Nastro said. "Dr. Clark was extremely understanding. She said, 'Calm down. We'll meet and catch you up.' " Talking with Clark is like speaking with a family member, Nastro said.

Although Clark is sympathetic and compassionate with her students, her class is challenging. "You will work harder than you have ever worked before," Nastro said. "However, that makes it so much better when you succeed."

Clark is in constant communication with her students through e-mail and Blackboard. "She is there for her students," Nastro said. "She doesn't want anyone to fail."

Working with the students is what Clark said is the best part of her job. "It's like watching a light bulb go on when students grasp the material," she said. "It's really rewarding. I push them pretty hard because I know they can do more than they think."

Alison Larson, the student who nominated Clark for the honor, said she has not experienced a better learning model than the one used in Clark's cell physiology class. "Dr. Clark has gone both above and beyond to intrigue her students and inspire them to learn from her both inside and outside of the classroom," said Larson, who now tutors Clark's class. "Even after the semester was over, I was able to seek Dr. Clark for help within the science field, as well as find help getting into medical school."

Clark said she utilizes different techniques--including skits and demonstrations--to best illustrate the materials. "Quinnipiac is a wonderful place to be," she said. "It's a sharing community in terms of teaching where everyone loves talking about their teaching and sharing ideas of what worked and what did not."

Clark said she is constantly trying new techniques to determine if they are the most effective. She said having students perform skits to demonstrate their understanding of the materials gives her an increased perspective into their level of comprehension.

"I can see how they are thinking," she said as she recalled a recent sketch. "There was one group that was doing it the way I was envisioning, and another group that was doing it completely differently. Both ways were incredibly informative for me and for the class."

The honoree wants her students to own their education and savor their accomplishments, said Stephanie Saucier, who had Clark for two courses and a lab and is now one of her teaching assistants. "She gives you the skills and tools to use in the future," Saucier said. "She opens the doors for lots of different experiences and successes."

Clark, who has been married to Brooks Clark since 1988, has three children: Becca, a sophomore at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and Meagan, a senior, and Daniel, a sophomore, at Hamden Hall Country Day School.

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