Former professor set to publish new book of poetry
Cheryl Clarke, former dean of students of Livingston campus, founder of the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities and a teaching affiliate in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies gave an interview to The Daily Targum about her published books of poetry as well as her work during her career at Rutgers.
Her 41-year administrative and teaching career at the University began with what every student has access to: Student clubs. Clarke joined student clubs that were related to the Dean of Students Office.
Her involvement in the Dean of Students Office resulted in her achievement of changing the information and resources available for LGBT students, according to her website.
“I stayed in student affairs from 1981 to 1982,” Clarke said. “Then I became a director of LGBT services or services to LGBT students. I did that for 17 years.”
The Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities is a resource that many students use or are aware of, but many are unaware of the founder, LGBTQ+-identifying students said.
Clarke worked as a campus “liaison” for LGBTQ+ students seeking assistance, created the first annual program for LGBTQ+ students and allies such as Annual Fall Reception for LGBT Communities and Our Friends, created Rainbow Graduation which honored all LGBTQ+ graduating students and allies with rainbow tassels, authored the first student handbook and faculty handbook on LGBTQ+ issues and established the Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence awarded to a graduating senior who exhibits leadership and scholarship, according to her website.
Clarke said her involvement in LGBTQ+ affairs, specifically the foundation of The Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, was her biggest accomplishment at Rutgers.
“I had been part of a two year study from 1988 to 1990 of lesbian, gay and LGBT student life at Rutgers University,” Clarke said. “So then, I was asked by the Office of the Provost in New Brunswick to head up an office for lesbian, gay students and services. I was a fairly public person at Rutgers, I was out and I had a fairly good reputation for being a good administrator.”
Clarke also taught nine classes at Rutgers from 1998 to 2012, in Africana Studies, the English Department, the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, the Honors College and the Department of Women's and Gender Studies on the Rutgers University—Newark campus, according to her website. She also taught at a workshop at Poets House in New York City in 2003.
Clarke said she switched once more to a position in the Dean of Students Office, and became the dean of Livingston campus, her last position at the University before she retired in 2013.
Although Clarke was only dean of students on Livingston campus for three years, she said her big accomplishment in this position was being “able to foster a more collegial atmosphere among staff and other departments.”
Clarke has since moved to the Catskill Mountains, co-owning the bookstore Blenheim Hill Books, according to her website.
“I’ve been writing poetry for a long time, since college.” Clarke said, “And I began to publish it as I became more involved with lesbianism. There were many outlets for publishing. And so, I think once you find a publishing avenue, it becomes easier to write, to publish. So I did. And I have five books of poetry.”
Clarke began her education at Rutgers after receiving her bachelor's degree in English at Howard University in 1969, according to her website.
After completing a master’s degree in English in 1974, Clarke moved on to graduate with a master's degree in social work in 1980 and a Ph.D. in Program of Literatures in English at Rutgers in 2000.
Clarke’s website lists her having eight published books, ranging from topics on being a Black female and being a lesbian. She is also accredited with co-editing two books, more than 30 pieces of poetry, two fictional short stories and five performances that are stage adaptions, films and narrative poetry.
Clarke said she is now working on a collection of essays.
“So, you know, that’s how the writing goes,” Clarke said. “I always felt that I had the audience LGBT people, communities, and once you identify an audience, that will help you to write.”