By Laurie Prince
What's in a name? A lot, if you ask students of Professor Cherie Clark.
The Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology has worked hard to know each of her students by name, and beyond their names, their stories. Since coming to Queens in August of 1992, that adds up to a lot of students. Twenty years' worth.
In May, she was awarded the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award, the highest faculty award given by Queens University of Charlotte and accompanied by a $15,000 gift.
Enthusiasm and joy, two hallmarks of Clark's teaching style, are key qualities the committee looks for in selecting a Hunter Hamilton honoree. Rodney Lee Camren '03 summed up his anticipation about her classes this way: "her classes were the ones I would run to, and not because I was late." Lively discussions of controversial topics and Q&A are some of Clark's hallmark teaching tools, drawing in students from a wide range of majors. "She has a love of learning that is contagious," wrote Jaclyn Jones '00.
"Students who are not even interested in psychology want to be a part of a 'Dr. Clark class' just to experience what the psychology majors are constantly bragging about."
Clark has accomplished something rare in the teaching world-a personal connection that inspires. "I continue to nominate Cheri each year," wrote Katey Baruth '98. After graduating from Queens, she wanted to pursue higher education but lacked the confidence because of learning disabilities. "I sent her many emails detailing the reasons why I would fail, each to be deflated by Cheri's honesty, perspective and reassurance," she wrote.
She now holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is engaged in a profession she loves.
Clothing may be a student's first introduction to Clark's colorful personality-she's known for wearing tie-dyed dresses or scarves and for dressing up at holidays. "She's fun," says Lynn Morton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "You can tell just by the way she dresses she's fun, creative, very original-in a good way."
Morton has worked with Clark since her early days at Queens and says that she's a demanding academician.
Her emphasis on research is extraordinary. Unlike undergraduates at some larger universities, psychology majors at Queens get hands-on experience in research. Lauren Weathers '11 wrote that research projects under Clark's tutelage made her a more competitive applicant for doctoral programs. With Clark's guidance, she began conducting research projects as a sophomore, something she later learned was an anomaly at the bigger schools.
During one conference, students from a well-known, university confided, "They had to fight tooth and nail to be acknowledged by their professors and had to fight even harder to be allowed to conduct research," she wrote in her nomination.
Clark's generous focus is not confined to students. She's been on numerous missions trips to Guatemala and has facilitated the university's involvement with Room in the Inn.
Professor of Art Jayne Johnson, chair of the Fine Arts Division, wrote, "Cherie has been involved in a wide range of service projects-working with the police to get junior high students off the streets, working with at-risk high school students at Olympic High, working with the aging at Sharon Towers," she wrote. "She is a unifying force for good at Queens, like none I have seen in my 21 years of teaching here. She is above all, a passionate teacher, a teacher's teacher, a reluctant leader, a friend and advocate to all in need."