Meet Clair Elaine Bryan, Assistant Director at the Illinois Leadership Center. Clair obtained a BA in Spanish and an Ed.M. in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining the Illinois Leadership Center, Clair worked at as Education Abroad Coordinator at IAGE (Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange).
Clair was born in Missouri and spent her childhood in a small town in southern Illinois before her family moved to another small town in central Illinois, forty-five minutes south of Champaign-Urbana. She considered taking up Spanish for higher education after being mentored by an extremely inspiring teacher from Uruguay at her high school. These formative influences affected the two major trajectories of her professional life: study culture and education. She was also a part of the translation program. Moving between two languages and cultures fascinated her.
Clair was a first-generation student and had to navigate the challenges of that position. In college, she worked with organizations that assisted foreign students with their English, helping them fit into American life. After getting her undergraduate degree, Clair decided to do a master’s degree in education to prepare herself for a career in advising. As someone who studied abroad herself, she found in that program the training necessary to guide undergraduate students seeking an education outside the US. This interest soon grew into a professional choice. For the first eight years of her career, she counselled undergraduate students from different backgrounds.
During her Ed. M. studies, Clair took classes in identity formation, institutions, and leadership. One of the major passions that drives her work is social justice for LGBTQ+ students: finding ways to represent them and their voices not just in the sphere of higher education, but also in the society at large. Being born and raised in yet-to-be-sensitized spaces where heteronormativity and homophobia are normalized, Clair appreciates the inclusive, diverse milieu of UIUC that encourage students like her to find their identities, come out, and articulate their life stories. She has been in Urbana-Champaign for the past fifteen years; she has been a witness to how the campus changed over time, upgraded itself to meet the demands of the present, as well as how the university continues to flourish despite all odds. When not working, Clair boxes at a gym in Champaign, cultivates her penchant for kung fu, thrifts, and takes care of her pet rabbits.