SUU to Everywhere

Claire Cleveland ('15)

Claire Cleveland ('15)
SUU to Paleoecologist

Originally published on April 07, 2017.

A business management professional for nearly 20 years, Claire Cleveland came to Southern Utah University as a non-traditional student with a passion for geology and biology.

Before enrolling at SUU, Claire spent her spare time travelling in southern Utah’s public lands. She had a multitude of questions about the incredible outcrops, fossils and structures she was seeing.

“I wanted to do something that brought more meaning to my life,” said Claire. “It wasn't just about a career change or a title, rather, it was about getting in touch with who I am, an explorer. I have always been a nature-girl.”

When Claire came to SUU, she found the intersection of life and earth fascinated her, leading to an honors double major track with emphasis in geology and biology. Claire credits her mentors at SUU for giving her the confidence to see herself in a science-based field.  

“My mentors were excited to support me in my research, even when it wasn't exactly part of their core expertise,” said Claire.

Claire was encouraged to participate at national conferences in her field, and presented at the Botanical Society of America Annual Meeting in New Orleans, the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Sacramento, and the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Vancouver. Through her many real-world assignments and experiential learning opportunities, Claire has transitioned from the business world to become a paleobiologist/geobiologist.

A National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Claire is now pursuing a doctorate degree at Pennsylvania State University. Her focus is to find new ways to make science more accessible to the public. She is also working with SUU professors, Dr. Johnny MacLean and Dr. William Heyborne, on a pilot project they call SMARTS, Science Made More Accessible Through Stories.

“SMARTS collaborators use new techniques in scientific storytelling to establish best practices in teaching to support and train sixth through ninth-grade educators, expand science-based public outreach, and provide specialized training events for pre-college and undergraduate emerging scientists,” said Claire.

SUU continues to be a resource and partner for Claire as she continues her education at Penn State. Claire said she could not be where she is at today without her education at SUU.

Learn more about SUU’s Biology, Geology and Honors programs.