Getting to Know Our Newest Undergraduate Advisor
Forest Clarke, the newest advisor for the College’s individualized bachelor’s degrees, answers our tough questions. Forest has an undergraduate degree in psychology with a focus on neurocognitive aspects and a graduate degree in educational psychology.
What brought you to CCAPS?
Forest Clarke: I was really just looking for a place I could call home. Especially as a queer person, there are a lot of states that are off the list of possibilities for me, so I thought, well, Minnesota seems to be doing pretty well with that and my best friend happens to live in Minnesota. So I started to look at the possibilities.
I got to the University of Minnesota and loved it. I was actually in another college. I had a number of students who decided to come over to CCAPS, and they really felt like they could design their own path and not be so rigidly set in a path that was designed for them. The more my students talked about that the more I thought, hey, that sounds like a place that I could thrive. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position working with Individualized Degrees, and I couldn’t be happier that I made the move!
What do you enjoy the most about working with students?
Forest: I love being a trusted source of information and expertise for students. I grew up in a place where not many people were pursuing education. For example, my guidance counselor in high school, when I wanted to apply to college, said why would you do that? You're just going to farm like the rest of your family. As much as I value the role of agriculture in our society, that wasn’t the path for me and I knew it. So I had to find my own way to learn about college.
"I think the part I enjoy the most is helping students develop their independence, sense of self, and their problem-solving skills."
I love being that person for students who would not ever discourage them. Instead, I will find ways to help them achieve their goals. I think the part I enjoy the most is helping students develop their independence, sense of self, and their problem-solving skills. I think those things, no matter what the goal ends up being, are the pieces that are going to serve students well no matter where they land. I love being able to help with that.
How did you find your way to this kind of work?
Forest: I was on track to be a therapist before graduate school. I worked for a year in a domestic violence prevention organization, and while I felt fulfilled in a lot of ways, I also felt really overwhelmed. So I was looking for ways that I could still be helpful and dig into the development of people and be really supportive.
Beyond that, I started to think about my own educational journey and that getting an education was changing the trajectory of my life. Education can be a ticket for folks to have a life that they never imagined. Higher education shouldn’t be a choice for some people but not others, and I felt like that was happening a little too much, and I wanted to try to be a part of the solution.
What do you wish you knew as an undergraduate?
Forest: I didn't understand that there was so much support available. I knew that advisors helped me with getting into classes, but I had no idea the sort of breadth of expertise they had and how helpful they could be. I wish I knew that I could trust those folks and that they were there for my benefit.
What kind of advice would you give to students coming to CCAPS?
Forest: There is not a definable right or wrong time (to return to school), but whenever that is, there is going to be support available. The piece of advice I would have for anybody—whether they’re transferring in or they've been out of college for ten years—is that they just need to understand the why of what they're doing. That is just going to serve as a better source of motivation and inspiration than anything that I'm going to say or any faculty is going to say. That kind of inherent belief in understanding of self and path is just going to be something that nobody else can replicate.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Forest: If I could be a professional student, that's what I would do. If I had it all paid for or won the lottery, I would just keep taking classes. Since that's not the case, I read tons of books to absorb information just because I'm interested in it. I love the state parks in Minnesota, they're just so gorgeous, and there are so many options.
I also love to play a lot of video games. That is something I thought I would eventually stop just because of how people talked about it when I was younger. I find it connects me with students. We talk about games we play. You don't have to give up your hobbies just because you're a working adult!
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