“Tenure is a bit like getting married” Seven Faculty Reflect on New Clark Commitment

Lexi Hanson, Luc Hoekstra and Sandra Maszak contributed to this story (Photos from Clark College)

The college’s Board of Trustees awarded tenure status to seven faculty members this year, based off of self, student and peer evaluations and recommendations from tenure review committees.

Dr. Lindsay Christopher, Michael Ludwig, Brian McVay, Alexis Nelson, Tobias Peterson, Mary Ellen Pierce and Lora Whitfield earned tenure following a Board of Trustees meeting on March 14.



Mary Ellen Pierce

“I had to think about it,” said Mary Ellen Pierce, “It’s a big commitment and a lot of work.” Pierce, a nursing instructor with 35 years of experience in her field, has been living in Vancouver for over 30 years. Pierce started at Clark as an adjunct instructor, and said that she later accepted a full time tenure track position because of her passion for teaching.  

“Becoming tenured says to me that others believe I have something of real value to contribute to Clark and our students,” Pierce said.

After receiving tenure, Pierce has high hopes for her future in teaching and wishes to continue to grow as an instructor by learning “from others, from self-study, and from continued education.”


Tobias Peterson

Tobias Peterson is an English instructor at Clark College, and has served on several Clark committees and task forces, including Planning and Accreditation, Program Improvement Process and Teaching and Learning.

“Getting tenure is a bit like getting married,” he said. “The school is making a formal commitment to you, but it’s not a gift.”

Peterson said the students and staff he works with make his life at Clark worthwhile. “The people are what really make Clark important to me,” he said. “I get to work with dedicated, talented and inspiring professionals every day.”

But according to Peterson, receiving tenure isn’t the only exciting development for him this year.

“I am working on a number of projects for the English department, as well as serving on the Academic Excellence Council in its first year,” he said.

Peterson said he’s pleased with this new step in his teaching career, and plans to continue being a “productive contributor to Clark’s development as a college.”


Alexis Nelson

“It feels like myself and the college are making a promise to each other,” English professor Alexis Nelson said. After becoming a tenured professor, Nelson said she’s promised to keep growing as an individual and teacher. Clark’s support in Nelson has allowed her to continue doing what she cares about, she said. Nelson said her teaching focus is to involve students in the learning process as much as possible.  “I try to balance fairly high expectations and an equally high level of support.”

In the future, Nelson said that she hopes to continue developing the Subtext Literary Festival, a Clark event May 15-18.

Nelson advises new students to use the student services at Clark, paid for by tuition costs. “Being really actively involved in the life of your campus and not just coming in for your classes can make the experience a lot richer,” Nelson said.


Brian McVay

Welding professor Brian McVay said finishing the tenure track is one of his greatest accomplishments. McVay describes it as an honorable feeling. McVay took several of Clark’s welding classes before becoming an iron-working apprentice. McVay said his teaching style can vary between students because he believes everyone learns in a different way.

“This is the best job I’ve had in my life and I truly love it.” McVay said, “I have no intention of ever going anywhere.” McVay has worked at Clark for three years and hopes to continue teaching while helping to advance the welding program. Mcvay said that his future goal is to develop greater discipline and he advises students to stick with their studies. McVay said that sometimes students can “wind up costing themselves by not finishing the program they started with.”


Michael Ludwig

“Clark is a community where a lot of professional educators, staff and faculty work together for student success,” said dental hygiene professor Michael Ludwig. Tenure allows Ludwig to be a bigger part of the college community and the decision making process on campus, where he hopes to contribute to improvements in students’ education.

Ludwig said that students should visit advising. “You have to have the courage to ask for help.”

Ludwig hopes to see his fifty dental hygiene seniors graduate this year equipped with the skills and experience they need for their careers.

Dr. Lindsay Christopher

For Dr. Lindsay Christopher, being tenured means being a bigger part of her community. “Not only do you get academic freedom,” Christopher said, “But you can evolve into the community in a way you haven’t before.” Christopher said that Clark is important to her because it gives her personal challenges to overcome.

Christopher said she wants to make her classes a place where all people are included in a safe and comfortable learning environment. Christopher believes in teaching to prepare students for transferring and giving them skills that are applicable elsewhere. Christopher is currently participating in a professional learning community on white privilege. She also wants to get back into boxing and learn to balance her personal life with her duties at Clark.

Lora Whitfield

Lora Whitfield, who teaches Early Childhood Education at Clark College, was unavailable for comment.









Editor’s note: In a previous version of the story, the Independent incorrectly reported that Dr. Lindsay Christopher created a professional learning community on white privilege. The Indy should have said that Christopher participated in the learning community.

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