Wise Advice

Prof. Al Clark has won an astounding number of best-teaching awards at UR, and has won statewide honors for his teaching as well. At the Fall Convocation on Sept. 11, 1998, Prof. Clark accepted his most recent honor, a Goergen Award for his individual accomplishments in undergraduate education. The following are his remarks.

I am both pleased and honored to receive a Goergen Award, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Robert and Pamela Goergen for their generous sponsorship of these awards. I would also like to thank my department chair, John Lambropoulos, for being incredibly supportive of my efforts, and to thank my colleagues for countless discussions of what works and what doesn't work in teaching. Many thanks to all of my students, past and present, whose energy, enthusiasm and intellectual abilities have made teaching for 34 years at Rochester such a rewarding experience for me.

Asking a professor to speak in public is risky, because we are conditioned by years of experience to speak for no less than 50 minutes. The organizers of this convocation are aware of that risk, and have quite rightly given us firm instructions to be brief. Therefore I will take only a few moments more to engage in a standard professorial activity: I am going to give the class of 2002 some advice. I guarantee that this will not be the last time you will receive unsolicited advice from a professor! My advice is this: take an active role in your education. An education is not something that simply happens to you, it is something that you create for yourself by making use of the opportunities that are provided here. How do you take an active role in your education? Here are four examples:

  1. If you find a course particularly interesting, spend some time with the professor in that course, and find out what other courses might be logical follow-ups, or what careers might involve that material.
  2. Be alert to the possibility of following your interests beyond the classroom and doing some research. At Rochester, research isn't just for Ph.D. students, it is for any student at any level who has both interest and initiative.
  3. Discuss your career plans frequently with faculty, classmates, and more advanced students, and use the information you collect to make adjustments to your plan of study.
  4. Inquire about, and take advantage of, special programs such as study abroad, internships, and Take Five.

Let me conclude, still in this advisory mode, with some very practical advice. GO TO CLASS! If necessary, buy a bigger and louder alarm clock, but go to class. The classroom is the primary arena of interaction for faculty and students, and if you are not there, that interaction won't take place. I feel a bit hypocritical with this last advice, because I am not going to go to class this semester - I am on academic leave. However, I will return to teaching next semester, and I look forward to seeing some of you in my classroom.

Al Clark , Dept. Mechanical Engineering, Univ. Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627
Phone: 716-275-4078; Fax: 716-256-2509

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