People of Central: Dr. Jennifer Clemens

Story by Megan Mearnic

Photo provided by Dr. Jennifer Clemens

Jennifer Clemens Ph.D. is a Central Michigan University alumnus and professor in the Political Science and Public Administration Department.

Clemens attended CMU from 1998 to 2003. While attending CMU she double majored in pre- Physical Therapy (Health Promotion and Rehabilitation) and Interpersonal & Public Communication.

“I chose Central because it had a great physical therapy program, and at the time I considered going to medical school,” she said.

Clemens said her best memories from Central include being a part of the women’s’ rugby team and making it to nationals in Florida where they fought valiantly, but lost spectacularly to the Navy. Along with great memories, Clemens remembers life challenges and family heartache.

“One of my greatest sources of pride during undergrad was teaching myself how to study. As crazy as that sounds, I didn’t know how to study when I left high school,” Clemens said. “Once I learned how to study and succeed, I made the Dean’s list every semester. More importantly, I finally started to believe I was smart.”

The most important life lesson Clemens said she learned during her time at CMU is being enough of an adult to have and build a meaningful relationship with those closest to her.

Clemens has worked at the university since 2019, after applying for a fixed term faculty position. She never planned on coming back to CMU, it just happened. The university’s culture is what had the greatest influence on persuading her to come back.

“I have never worked at a university where the school cares so much about their students,” she said. “CMU strives to make sure it can provide the best resources for their students to succeed. That’s more rare than it ought to be.”

Her favorite part about being a professor is when her students actively participate in class discussions and are passionate about the subject they are learning.

“While watching your students succeed is the greatest thing you can experience as a professor, the worst thing you can experience as a professor is watching your students struggle and having no other option but to drop out,” Clemens said.

This semester, Clemens is teaching “Women in Politics, Introduction to Political Behavior”, and “Introduction to Political Science Research Methods.” She says her favorite class to teach is Women in Politics, because the course content focuses on topics that people go through in society in a very head-on and open way.

“Students should take my classes so they can learn how to talk about things in general and confront the awkward head on,” Clemens said. “We need to have uncomfortable conversations, and this is the best way to do that.”

Clemens said she would like to be remembered as a professor that made students think, but at the same time made them feel safe and confident in themselves.