Student commencement speaker Clare Baldwin on effecting change through leadership

by Matt Jardin  |   

Spring 2020 student commencement speaker Clare Baldwin
Economics major and student government president Clare Baldwin is one of UAA’s two student commencement speakers for spring 2020. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

It can be easy to overlook the impact individual components can have on complex systems. Clare Baldwin, one of UAA’s two student commencement speakers for spring 2020, not only understands that dynamic but is fascinated by it.

Born in Oklahoma City but an Alaskan since she was two years old, Baldwin originally enrolled at UAA as a psychology major. Her intent was to one day become an industrial and organizational psychologist, closely examining the management structures of different organizations.

Later in her freshman year, Baldwin took a student job in the dean’s office at UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy, which inspired her to change her major to business management. The new curriculum included two economics courses — micro and macro. Remembering how much she disliked economics in high school, Baldwin decided to pull off the proverbial Band-Aid and take both classes at the same time to get them over with. 

Baldwin’s macroeconomics course included using Kiviq, an app that turned the classroom into a simulated miniature economy. Through Kiviq, Baldwin and her classmates became buyers and sellers tasked with securing favorable profit margins for their virtual companies. Part of the learning experience — and the most compelling for Baldwin — included seeing everyone’s activities play out in real time.

“Up on the screen they showed a timeline of the game and it created this supply and demand chart. It was in that moment that I was like, ‘This is so cool. I love econ. This is going to be my major,’” said Baldwin. “It was different from reading a textbook. Seeing that graph of students in the class making changes of our own free will by participating in actual economic principles we learned about, it was like, ‘We did that.’”

Outside of classes, Baldwin takes an active role in impacting communities and organizations. While it took some time for her to discover the economics major, Baldwin immediately knew she wanted to not only be part of a sorority but become president of one as well. Baldwin joined Alpha Sigma Alpha early in her freshman year and became president by her senior year.

“Really the best way to be involved is to lead because you’re in the best position to give back to the organization,” said Baldwin. “I’m never happy being a participatory member. I always want to be more involved and have a say in how an organization changes.”

As further evidence of the importance of interconnectedness, Baldwin was introduced to the Union of Students at the University of Alaska Anchorage (USUAA), UAA’s student government organization, through some of her sorority sisters. After their encouragement, Baldwin joined USUAA as a senator and became vice president and then president her senior year — which, unlike her sorority, were presidencies she hadn’t planned on taking.

Coincidentally, Baldwin’s tenure in USUAA’s highest positions coincided with arguably the most precarious time at the university, which involved the reductions in the statewide University of Alaska system’s state-funded budget resulting in UAA’s expedited program and administrative reviews. According to Baldwin, that adversity has also been the source of her greatest learning experience.

“I learned a lot with my degree, but I’ve learned so much more in the student organizations,” she said. “Especially the last two years in student government, having to do so much to keep our university here. I’ve learned so much about how to work with other people, how to prioritize, even just public speaking and conflict management.”

Those experiences have also prepared Baldwin to be one of the student commencement speakers during this unusual time of COVID-19, when a global pandemic has forced universities to eschew traditional commencement ceremonies for alternative ones.

Baldwin notes it’s times like these that best demonstrate UAA’s connectedness, pointing to the quick efforts by students and faculty to mobilize to alternate course delivery for the remainder of the semester. 

According to Baldwin, that connectedness will continue to be crucial. Much like how the Kiviq app displays the immediate impact each of her macroeconomics classmates have on their simulated economy, the actions of each member of the UAA community can have an immediate and lasting impact on Alaska.

“Where you go to college defines you,” said Baldwin. “As our university continues to face challenges, being a UAA graduate and representing UAA really well is what’s going to save the university. Sharing our stories and telling people about how great our professors are, how great the research is here, how great the community is, that’s how we’re going to make our university even more integrated into our community.”


Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

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