My name is Nova Clarke, my first exposure to W&L was as a summer scholar before my senior year in high school. I have to admit it was not my first choice of a school to attend, but I was lucky enough to have been offered a full ride scholarship and due to the economic circumstances of my family, I decided to accept. My first year was hard since it was such a different atmosphere from my high school. After that I embraced the experience and enjoyed being the campus liberal and the benefits of the small classes and the close relations with the professors.

W&L is the reason I ended up in my current career as a ranger. I had to take a science class and chose geology and on a spring term trip fell in love with the West. I had intended to go to law school when I arrived at W&L but now I can’t imagine being anything than what I am now. I am currently the Visitor Services Manager for the Kansas Refuges Complex, part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I have had a 20 year career working for the US govt with USFWS and with the National Park Service. As an interpretive ranger my job is to connect people with nature and to learn how to connect with all kinds of people and figure out how to build the connections with them.

The voice I can bring to the board

I came to W&L as an urban kid from a largely minority school. I enjoyed my independence while I was there and the confidence in who I was that was built while I was a student. However, I also never felt completely part of the social environment there.

Since graduation I have been mostly a federal employee although also had periods where I was not sure where I would be working next. On the plus side of all of that I have been all over the country and worked with a variety of people from all backgrounds. I think that has granted me a pretty wide perspective of people and realizing how many viewpoints and experiences that shape those viewpoints there are. I would hope to bring that to the Board as a voice of someone who has a non-traditional career and life.

My service to the University community

While at W&L I was active in Kathekon as well as a student/faculty committee member. I served as chair of the campus Democrats and was also involved with Habitat for Humanity, the Outing Club, Mock Convention, and had a column in the Ring Tum Phi.

Since graduation I have not been able to volunteer since my job has taken me to places where there is not an alumni chapter. It’s one of the things that I think needs to be addressed for alumni is how to feel connected if you are not near a chapter—even when I was within an hour and a half of one ,it seemed the only way to be involved was with cocktail gatherings and not anything really meaningful.

Other community service

I have worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, served on the Board of Keep Ouachita Beautiful when I lived in Louisiana. Currently I volunteer with Powell Gardens, Overland Park Arboretum, and the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra.

My job is outreach and connecting with non-traditional communities, so I am also involved in a lot of community groups as part of my job from teaching girl scouts how to fish to working with veterans.

Relevant personal and professional experience

Again, my job has taken me all over the country in all kinds of communities and brought me in contact with a lot of people. I think the diversity of perspectives I have had and learned from would be an asset. In addition my job is communication with people. “To help build intellectual and emotional connections to the resource”, is the definition of my job. I think 20+ years of experience doing that would help the Board connect to the alumni who like me, may not feel as included.


I was recognized as the Louisiana 2018 Environmental Educator of the Year.