UW-Eau Claire senior finds her niche in a variety of places

    Senior takes on multiple leadership roles in the dorms and on campus

    More stories from Brian Sheridan


    Cleven-Peterson poses with Katelyn Klieve in fairy outfits for the Freshman Convocation this year.

    With around 250 organizations, more than 80 different majors and countless other events and opportunities to get involved with, the possibilities to get active at UW-Eau Claire are nearly endless and may seem impossible for a student to do everything they want.

    But they can certainly try.

    Senior Clarissa Cleven-Peterson is a special education major and theater minor who came to campus looking to say yes to every opportunity. Starting out unsure of what organizations had to offer her, Cleven-Peterson quickly got involved and rose to leadership positions in multiple areas on campus.

    Cleven-Peterson is currently the president of the National Residence Hall Honorary, an organization comprised of the top one percent of leaders on campus who “look out for the interests and welfare of residence hall students,” according to their website nrhh.nacurh.org.

    In addition to this, she is on her second year as a resident assistant in Oak Ridge Hall and works on the Living Learning Community floor, a first-year residential experience, she said, where she helps freshmen get involved, assists them in getting their service learning right away and other little things that are beneficial for first-year students.

    When not in the dorms, Cleven-Peterson works as a campus ambassador and in past semesters has been an intern in the Dean of Students office. Cleven-Peterson holds a number of roles here on campus because if an opportunity piques her interests, she said she’s going to go after it.

    “I’m kind of not a typical person,” Cleven-Peterson said. “I know what I want and I’m going to go for it no matter what.”

    Cleven-Peterson said her favorite thing about being so heavily involved in multiple organizations is meeting all the various people because each organization is completely different. As her roles mostly consist of working with students, she said she likes watching the growth they have and getting to learn from their different experience.

    But every job has its struggles. With the number of responsibilities Cleven-Peterson has taken on, having proper time management is her predicament, a skill she said she had to learn quickly.

    She said at first she needed to organize exactly where to start with everything and how to prioritize. She said it’s important to schedule those personal times and to make room for naps in between jobs and school.

    “That’s one of the hardest things,” Cleven-Peterson said. “Making sure to take time for yourself or there’s just time set aside for other things, like maybe homework has to be more of a priority.”

    Once everything was in place, she said it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. She said sometimes tasks would pile up and there would be a bunch of things happening at once, like homecoming week. Eventually it came to a point where she said she was scheduling something for every 15 minutes of a day.

    Thanks to her patterns and schedules, Cleven-Peterson said she now always knows what she needs to do and what needs to happen. She said during her freshman year, she didn’t expect any of this, much less leadership roles on campus and in the dorms.

    In high school, Cleven-Peterson said she held quieter roles in organizations like secretary so she could “just be taking minutes in the corner somewhere.” Once in college, Cleven-Peterson thought about making a difference in different people’s lives, she said, and getting to know everyone.

    Through this logic, she has become highly active in the dorms and involved with freshmen and their experiences at Eau Claire through both NRA, NRHH and being an RA. After being inspired by her freshman and sophomore residents assistants, Cleven-Peterson said she was “interested in the building of a community.”

    “I want them to have this feeling of everyone being involved and getting along with each other,” Cleven-Peterson said. “I just wanted everyone to have a community or a place to call home.”

    Freshman Lana Rubinstein, one of Cleven-Peterson’s residents, said it’s been great living in Oak Ridge and she enjoys all the programs that happen in the halls, such as pumpkin painting and ice cream parties.

    Rubinstein said the people on her floor are very inclusive and friendly, including her RA Cleven-Peterson who she said is funny and approachable.

    “I can’t even tell you the number of times she has walked into our room and just talked to us for 20 minutes,” Rubinstein said. “She’s very chill, but knows how to handle situations that come up.”

    Freshman Carmen Meuret said she had roommate difficulties her first semester and Cleven-Peterson was really understanding and helpful in handling the situation. She said she immediately got the vibe that Cleven-Peterson is a very welcoming person and someone you could go to with questions.

    Both Rubinstein and Meuret said they were unsure of what to expect from an RA, but were both happy with their experience with Cleven-Peterson and how she improved their time at Oak Ridge.

    “I love it here and I recommended it to my friends who are going to be coming here next year because I think it’s just like home,” Meuret said.

    So what’s next for Cleven-Peterson? She said she’s thinking about a career in special education where she would include a theater curriculum to help with emotional behavior disorders, teaching them life skills and helping them understand what “normal” is.

    Another option she’s considering is working with student affairs, which is more of a hall director route. Cleven-Peterson said this is a newer option she’s been considering but thinks she can do well after all the experience she’s had through her involvement in student-related organizations.

    For new people looking to get involved in organizations, Cleven-Peterson said not to be afraid to say yes to something. She said most the groups she got involved with, she didn’t really know what they were but still went ahead and did them because she wanted to.

    It’s the slow steps of saying “yep, I can do this,” she said, and making times for the things you care about.