Professor William Clark: ‘I like helping students develop their environmental ethic’
Science Professor William Clark joined AUBG together with his wife Lisa Clark, who coordinates the university’s Writing Center, back in 2007. Read our interview with him to learn more about the reasons why he loves teaching biology and environmental science at AUBG, his involvement with social causes – including work with orphanages and mentoring young people, and his favorite free-time activities.
Where are you from? Where did you study?
I grew up in upstate NY (near the city of Buffalo). I got my undergraduate degree from the State University of New York - College of Environmental Science and Forestry and majored in Wildlife Biology (1974). Later we lived in central Pennsylvania and I received my master's degree in Environmental Pollution Control from Pennsylvania State University (2002) and then continued there and completed a PhD in Forest Science (2005).
How did you first become interested in biology and environmental science?
I've been interested in biology and the environment my whole life. I grew up in a rural area and spent a lot of time outdoors. I went hunting and fishing with my father and collected insects, fossils, shells, etc. Science, and especially the life sciences, were always my favorite subjects during my school days.
Could you tell us more about your professional/academic experience before AUBG?
After graduation from university, I worked for a couple of years in a biophysics lab at Syracuse University as a technician. After that, I worked full-time for a Christian student organization, which focuses on developing and equipping leaders. My wife and I have been working closely with university students since 1981 - at Syracuse University, Ithaca College, Penn State University, in Sofia, and now here at AUBG. We first moved to Bulgaria in 1992 and lived in Sofia until 2000. During that time I was involved in a number of projects: I taught English (at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, International University, The Ministry of Transportation, The Agency for Privatization, The First Private English Language High School, and other places), I worked with several orphanages bringing in humanitarian aid and facilitating international adoptions, and I help organize and lead workshops on various aspects of character development and leadership. In addition, I was involved in helping mentor several young people. From 2000 to 2005, I was a graduate student at Penn State University. During those years, I regularly traveled to Bulgaria. I was a Fulbright scholar in Blagoevgrad (2003-2004). In 2005, I moved back to Bulgaria (Blagoevgrad) with my wife. I taught a variety of courses at South West University from late 2005 to the spring of 2007 and then in the fall of 2007, I started teaching at AUBG.
What is your favorite teaching topic and why?
I enjoy all the classes I teach, but I think my favorite is teaching environmental science and especially the units associated with water. Water is such an essential aspect of life and it's the area I focused on during my graduate work. I like helping students develop their own environmental ethic and seeing them awaken to the importance of caring for our planet and each other. I enjoy teaching science to non-science majors and helping them see how integrated and connected science is with the rest of their studies and lives.
What is your favorite thing about teaching to AUBG students?
Before teaching at AUBG, we were living in Sofia and much of our work was conducted in Bulgarian (which I'm not very good at). It is wonderful to be able to teach in English. But more seriously... Overall, I've found the students at AUBG to be intelligent, committed to learning, and open to exploring new ideas. It's a real pleasure to be around such talented and motivated young people. It's a privilege to be a part of the lives of these students and to help equip them for the rest of their lives' journeys.
What advice would you give a recent graduate on building a fulfilling life and career?
I would encourage them to seriously consider where they want to be in 40 or 50 years. When they are 65 or 70 years old and looking back on their lives, what would they want to see, not just in their professional lives, but more importantly, what kind of person do they want to be. I'd encourage them not just to focus on developing their intellectual and professional skills, but also to take time to develop their characters (things like compassion, empathy, patience, kindness, etc.) and to think about what it is they'd want to leave behind as a legacy.
What are some of your hobbies?
Anything that gets me outdoors in a natural setting. In the warmer weather, I enjoy getting out on my mountain bike and exploring the back roads around Blagoevgrad. In the winter I enjoy getting up in the mountains and doing back-country skiing. I enjoy hiking year-round.