Northern’s School of Fine Arts has welcomed five new faculty members since the fall 2019 semester, and among those was Alexis Doerr – an NSU 2017 graduate and alumni.
As an Aberdeen local, Doerr was initially interested in leaving the state to pursue her art degree after graduating from Aberdeen Central High School, but an interest in attending Northern held her attention.
“I realized Northern had the technology, studio space and faculty to meet my artistic and academic needs,” said Doerr. “At that point, other in-state schools couldn’t really compete, and so in the end Northern won out, which has proven to be a great life choice.”
Doerr graduated from Northern with a double major in art and communications studies, as well as an arts administration certificate and public history certificate, in Honoribus. She has since acquired her Master of Arts in art history with a concentration in curatorial studies from the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
Northern holds many fond memories for Doerr, including her time living in Lindberg Hall, which has since been razed to make room for new residence halls; her involvement in the Honors program; and being a resident assistant. These experiences gave her the opportunities to meet friends, whom she keeps in regular contact with.
“Sometimes, we all wish we could go back in time to play another game of ultimate frisbee on the green or undergo one more late night in the Spafford studio working on an art project,” Doerr reminisced.
As a current faculty member, Doerr finds her experiences at Northern to be just more enjoyable, and finds herself humbled by working alongside some of the faculty she had as a student. Doerr hopes to learn even more from her new colleagues.
Faculty Influenced her Teaching Approach
Doerr always held an interest in teaching higher education, but Northern’s prioritization of teaching became the main reason she decided to return to NSU. Her experience with previous Northern faculty greatly influenced her approach to teaching, as well as determining how she could best help her students learn.
“As a student, I appreciated how dedicated the faculty were to my success,” Doerr said. “They take an active interest in their students’ career goals. Like them, I want to be a resource that supports and also challenges my students.”
As a lecturer, Doerr hopes that her previous experience as in Northern’s classrooms will allow her to reflect on her own education and identify aspects she wished she had learned or been more prepared for in order to integrate it into her curriculum.
Doerr’s new teaching career isn’t without its challenges, the alum-turned-teacher admitted. Figuring out the pacing of her classes has been a big obstacle for Doerr, but for good reason.
“There are so many topics I want to discuss, simply because I love it all! I’ve really had to be mindful about what will best serve my students. To help determine if I’m covering material too quickly or too slowly, I made a simple evaluation for my students to fill out a few weeks into the semester. The students’ comments and suggestions were extremely helpful,” Doerr explained.
Hopes to be an Example for Students
In her years to come, Doerr hopes to be an example for her students of what they can achieve in their own futures with a fine arts degree from NSU, and that skills and opportunities available through NSU will enable them to succeed wherever they may go next.
“As for my own future, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint a specific career title or position that I see myself in,” Doerr admitted. “But instead I have personal objectives, and whether it is three or five years from now I see myself in a position where I am an advocate for the arts.”
Doerr intends for her future to involve expanding opportunities for artists and encouraging community engagement in the arts, as well as helping artists continue thriving in South Dakota. A personal career goal of hers would be to establish affordable studio spaces with an accompanying gallery and to draw attention to the numerous opportunities for community involvement and education when creative spaces are made available.