“You’ll Be One of the Best”: Professor Spotlight on Dr. Alexis Claire

Interviewer: Echo Chapman, Class of ‘25

Interviewee: Dr. Alexis Claire, Prof. of Glass Science & Engineering

Transcribed by Sam Sage

Echo: So, my first question. How many years have you been teaching here?

Claire: 30. Well actually, this is ‘21. So, 32.

Echo: Nice, wow! What brought you to Alfred University?

Claire: Well, I was doing a post-doc at Sheffield University in England and at that time Sheffield University and Alfred University had a student exchange between ceramic engineers and glass engineers and so quite a few Alfred students came over to Sheffield and, you know, they were pretty friendly and everything and also, I was a senior tutor of the senior residents in the Senior Hall of Residents. And a lot of the Americans were staying there, so I got to know them quite well. So, anyway, when I got to the end of my post-doc, I thought, “I need a job.” And so, I wrote to Alfred and said, “You got any jobs?” And they said, “Here, come over and interview.” [laughs]

Echo: What is your favorite thing about being a professor?

Claire: Well, I like that the job’s very different every day and that there’s a lot of things you get to do. You get to teach classes, you get to do research, and, you know, sit on the weirdest committees. [laughs] And, you know, sort of do things like the Common Ground. You know, that is really kind of an off-the-wall thing. You know, so it’s something I’ve never done before. I have never taught something that isn’t science or engineering.

Echo: Oh, so this is your first year doing Common Ground?

Claire: Oh yeah, I…oh, well, that’s not entirely true. I taught…I told a fib there [laughs]...because I did teach some Honors classes and I have taught one on this class about British language versus American language. [laughs] And I’ve taught one about the British invasion of music in the ‘60s. And I’ve also taught one on some films, as well. And so, you know, I get to do weird things like that and that’s really enjoyable. Because I wouldn’t get to do that in a British university. In a British university, if you’re a scientist or an engineer, that’s all you ever teach. You don’t get to try anything else.

Echo: That’s unfortunate. My next one is, do you have any funny or heartwarming stories from your time here?

Claire: Oh, lots of them. [laughs] I don’t think we have long enough for all of them, but I’ve had a lot of fun teaching here. I’ve really enjoyed it and, you know, I’ve met a lot of people who, you know, I consider friends. So, you know, it’s…and there’s always things where you start off and you’ll have a student who is having a really hard time with something, especially in engineering, you know, and then suddenly: the light comes on! And it is just so wonderful to see that happen. You know, because they could do it all the time, they just didn’t know they could do it, and it wasn’t until they knew that they went, “Ooh! It’s not so hard!” [laughs]

Echo: [laughs] My last one, do you have any words of advice for students?

Claire: Yeah. Always work hard, and it’s important to take something you enjoy and not take a subject just because someone else tells you, “This’ll be really good for you.” Because, really, what you should do is find out what things you enjoy, because everybody, doesn’t matter who they are, enjoy learning something. You know, there are plenty of things to learn about and everybody enjoys learning something. So, you know, if a student finds out what they enjoy doing, it doesn’t matter if people say, “Well, there aren’t any jobs in that,” because there are jobs in everything. And, if you enjoy something, you’re going to be so much better at it.

Echo: You know, I originally came here for Art and Education. I took an Environmental Science class for fun, first semester, and now I’m an Environmental Science major. [laughs]

Claire: That’s exactly what you should do! Because, you know, if you find something you really like, you’re going to be way better at it, and it doesn’t matter how many jobs there are in it. You’ll be one of the best, because you like it. And not everybody likes what they’re doing.

Echo: Yeah, no. I know a lot of people like that. Well, thank you so much for doing this with me.

Claire: Of course!

By: Sam Sage


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