Shondra Clay

Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Health Professions, College of Health and Human Sciences

Shondra Clay

What year did you start working at NIU?
Fall 2019

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I am originally from the South Side of Chicago. I currently reside in DeKalb. 

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I am a three-time alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving a B.S. in community health, an M.S. in public health and a Ph.D. in community health with an emphasis on biostatistics.

In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions

Were you a first-generation college student?
Yes.

What do you like about working at NIU?
Simply put, the people. The students are so engaging and curious. They really put a lot of effort into learning, and I am most appreciative of them. They are really my driving force and motivation. Also, my colleagues are amazing. I really appreciate the collegiality and the cooperative spirit that is displayed on a daily basis. It really makes working at NIU that much better.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
The tagline that resonates with me at NIU is: Huskies. Never. Quit. This is such an important motto that I would also translate into advice to students currently attending NIU. Meet your challenges head on and don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep going and know that you can do it.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My primary areas of research interest include maternal/child health and rehabilitation studies. Particularly, I have explored racial differences in maternal birth outcomes and the utilization of assistive devices by persons with disabilities. Aligned with my research interest, this year I am participating in the Research Rookies program. It provides undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in research with a mentor. This has been a great opportunity, as we are exploring social determinants of health and the impact on adverse pregnancy outcomes. This has been an exciting experience thus far, and hopefully this research will lead to a future publication.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
The phrase that comes to mind, which guides my teaching philosophy, is: “Create a path, and watch them blossom.” Albeit slightly cliché, it really summarizes what I hope students take away from my class. I want to give my students the foundational knowledge needed to understand the material, and then, it is my hope that they become autonomous thinkers, really embodying the idea of intellectual freedom and being critical of different perspectives. I want them to blossom.

What is your favorite campus event?
Prior to COVID-19, I really liked attending the sporting events with my family. I am a big sports fan and like anything sports.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
In my short tenure, there are so many to choose from - everything from participating in the rededication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bust, to speaking with underrepresented students, to the Women of Color Conference. I guess if I had to choose, my favorite memory of NIU would be the Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Conference, at which I was the guest speaker. It was such a powerful event, and I really enjoyed speaking to future faculty members representing different institutions across the state of Illinois. Being a DFI fellow myself in graduate school, it was nice to speak about my experience becoming a faculty member and to encourage others to keep going.

Who has influenced your professional path?
I think this is the perfect opportunity to praise my family and my mentors for their influence on my professional path. I have had a host of mentors who have been very instrumental in my life, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I always laugh at this question because going to college, the only thing that I knew was to be a “doctor” or a “lawyer.” I went to school and pursued the “doctor” route. Now the reason I am putting “doctor” in quotation marks is because the only “doctor” I knew was a medical doctor. In school, I was exposed to a different type of “doctor” - getting a Ph.D. through the Ronald E. McNair Program. This forever changed my life and my career path. So, to answer the question, I always wanted to be a “doctor,” and technically, I accomplished that goal.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of several professional organizations aligned with my research area of interest. I am also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. 

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I really love listening to music and reading books. I find it very relaxing and reinvigorating. I also love sleeping (when I can get it). It is my sure way to recharge.

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