Claire King: Using Her Gifts

Claire King“Claire – we’re not looking back. We’re just going to do it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s ok. At least you can say you did it.”

This was the conversation Claire King had with herself when she decided to apply to be a member of the Spartan Orientation Staff (SOS). She loves talking to others, so it’s natural that she also has talks – often pep talks – with herself. They usually produce good results.

Claire is a junior from Clayton, NC majoring in community and therapeutic recreation. Her freshman-year pep talk paid off, because she became a member of the SOS for her sophomore and junior years. The job opened more doors and taught her more than she expected.

“They always tell you that there are transferable skills – it’s not just ‘woo-woo, rah-rah’ – it’s also about communications, problem-solving – quick problem solving, time-management, and professionalism. The skills that came out of that job were more than I ever imagined. “

The experience also taught her a lot about other opportunities available at UNCG. It lead to her become a member of the African Student Union (where she now serves as Advertising Chair on the executive board), an admissions tour guide, a Peer Academic Leader, and a part of the Dean of Students Conduct Team.

Like many students, Claire initially viewed the Dean of Students Office as a place to avoid – like the principal’s office. Through SOAR (Spartan Orientation, Advising, and Registration) she realized that the office really was an advocate and resource for students. When she saw a flyer online about joining the Dean of Students Conduct Team, she decided just to swing by to get a little more information.  After that session she realized, “They’re a happy medium between the principal in high school and the counselor. Students sometimes are intimated by their professor – and they (The Dean of Students office) can be that middle man with issues.”

When it comes to the “principal” aspect, being on the conduct team made her realize the goals of the conduct process. “We don’t ever want to just give out a punishment – it’s all about educational sanctioning in a way that you’ll learn, ‘maybe I shouldn’t make that choice, maybe I should have better decision-making skills’ just so we’re not throwing you out to perhaps make the same not-so-good decision again.”

Claire started as a member of the conduct hearing panel, and then became a case coordinator.

“I like room for growth. I love when offices give you the opportunity to grow. I feel like students sometimes don’t take the initiative because they feel like ‘oh well, I’m not qualified.’ You’ve got to fake it ‘til you make it! Put on that you have the confidence to do it, then who knows where it will take you.”

Claire credits her mom with instilling her with confidence. Her parents, immigrants from Africa, have always talked to her about work ethic and confidence.

“My mom is the hardest-working human being I’ve ever seen. She always sees the positive in every situation.  Things may not be going her way and she’ll still smile and persevere. My dad always reminds me that hard work is the only way to get to success.  They both have really made an impact on me. My parents have this saying – your gifts will make room for you at the table. So – I’ve always had in my head – work on your strengths. If you key in on your strengths, the more confident you’ll get.”

Claire credits UNCG professor Dr. Michal Cauthen with teaching her another important lesson – that it is important to understand why other people have different views. She realized she couldn’t just dismiss people who thought differently that she did, and that asking questions was the only way to learn.

“If you don’t know, you don’t know – and until you ask ‘why’ you’ll never know the answer, and that makes you unintelligent because you never took the time to ask.”

Claire encourages students to turn to the Dean of Students whenever they have questions. “The Dean of Students Office is a great one-stop shop for any questions. That office is great for referring you to the office or person who has the answer you need. Their motto is ‘Creating a Culture of Care’ – and I feel like those who care ask questions and find answers to them.”

Claire also encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities around them.

“Getting involved is the best thing – besides getting a degree – you can do on campus. It gets you out of your comfort zone. I was scared – as a freshman I was from a small town, where everyone knows everyone and I didn’t know how it was going to be to make new friends in college. I needed to do something to make sure I wasn’t in my room doing homework all day and watching TV. There’s no reason to when you’re on a university campus where there’s so much going on and so many people to meet. You don’t have to be involved up to your neck – if you just do one organization, and you dedicate your time, energy, passion to that one organization, I’m telling you – that’s better than any other experience here.”