Arkansas Tech University faculty member Dr. Erin Clair is the 2021 recipient of the Jerry G. Gaff Faculty Award in the emerging campus leader category.
The national award is bestowed each year upon a full-time, instructional faculty member who has demonstrated significant campus-wide leadership in general education curriculum reform, revision, implementation, assessment or administration.
Clair chaired the committee on teaching and learning quality during Arkansas Tech’s recently completed Higher Learning Commission reaffirmation of accreditation process.
In 2019-20, Clair was elected to serve as vice chair on the university’s general education committee. She was subsequently chosen to serve as chair of the committee in a new multi-year appointment as the first director of ATU’s general education program.
Dr. Christine Austin, ATU director of assessment and institutional effectiveness and professor of student affairs administration, nominated Clair for the award.
In her letter of nomination, Austin wrote that Clair "evokes the exact spirit that this award was developed to recognize through her campus-wide leadership of Arkansas Tech University’s general education curriculum."
Austin went on to write that Clair "has proven herself time and again as a visionary, capable and innovative leader with the ability to inspire her colleagues in echoing her dedication."
Clair began her time at ATU as a visiting lecturer of English in 2006. She was elevated to visiting assistant professor of English in 2008 and was appointed to a full-time position as assistant professor of English in 2010.
She subsequently earned a promotion to associate professor of English in 2016.
Clair added the duties of director of college operations for the ATU College of Arts and Humanities in 2017 and she has served as chair of the ATU faculty and staff well-being committee since 2019.
A graduate of Case Western Reserve University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Clair went on to earn a Master of Arts degree from Texas State University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Missouri.
"I am thrilled to receive this award on behalf of Arkansas Tech’s general education program," said Clair. "This award represents the dedicated work of the faculty who teach our general education courses, as well as many years of work by the faculty across all colleges and campuses who serve on the general education committee. General education is the backbone of any university. It reflects the values of an institution and the knowledge the faculty believe every college-educated person should possess. While in their degree programs, students learn the skills needed to succeed in their fields, but in their general education program students learn how to understand the ways in which their choices impact the world. General education teaches students how to be leaders, how to switch paths when needed and how to understand perspectives that are different from their own. These are not just important skills to have for a career. They are important skills for all citizens."
Clair expressed appreciation to Dr. Barbara Johnson, ATU vice president for academic affairs, for appointing her director of general education and to Austin for nominating her for the award.
"I am earning this award because of the continual hard work of so many people at ATU," said Clair. "The joy of this award is that it celebrates what our faculty do day in and day out."