New Faculty: Clinton Lanier, Technical Communication, Jan. 18, 2008

Clinton Lanier

by Valerie Kimble

SOCORRO, Jan. 18, 2008 – New Mexico Tech’s gain is the legal profession’s loss in acquiring Dr. Clinton Lanier, a native of Las Cruces who once had planned to enter law school.

Lanier joins faculty in the Humanities Department this Spring as an assistant professor of Technical Communication, the department’s only Bachelor of Science degree offering.

“Technical Communication is a very marketable, very valuable degree,” said Lanier, adding that opportunities for employment also are stellar. He is equally enthusiastic about the university itself.

“I’ve always recognized the potential (of New Mexico Tech),” Lanier said. “I jumped at the chance to come here.”

Lanier earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English, Technical and Professional Communication, from New Mexico State University in his hometown. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Professional Communication, also from NMSU, in 2006. He also spent three years working in the technical communications industry in between his M.A. and doctoral degrees.

Armed with a baccalaureate in English, Lanier considered applying to law school. However, his wife, Regina, still needed two years to complete her bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education, so Clint decided to stay at NMSU. Employment choices for English majors are limited, prompting Lanier to conduct a little research.

“The stakes were so much higher in technical communication,” he said. “I could go to work for $20,000 a year at Wal-Mart or earn $40,000 – and this was some time ago – with a master’s in technical communication.”

Lanier then asked himself, “How does one get to work for IBM?” and went online for the answers. He found that one requirement was proficiency in a programming language such as C, C++ or Java.

“I took all three,” said Lanier, whose previous computer knowledge was minimal. He also began teaching himself new technologies to supplement his formal studies.

“It was something I fell into, and it was very gratifying,” he said.

After receiving his master’s degree, Lanier was hired as a technical writer for his target, IBM, first in California and later in Tucson, Ariz., before joining the Army Research Laboratory on White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) as a technical editor.

His years in industry were well spent. “They’ve given me credibility in the classroom,” he said. “Students are interested in your experience, and you’re then able to talk about issues that arise in technical communication, and provide real-world examples.”

Lanier said he also is able to help prepare students for careers in their chosen field because he has experience in the job search, and can articulate the highs and lows of working for corporate America. There is a difference, he added, between training and education.

“I try to educate my students,” said Lanier, explaining that technical communication is defined as applied communication in a technical context.

“(Students) will be shaping information for mass audiences, and they need to understand the importance of ethics, of sending the right message,” he said.

An issue as seemingly simple as a warning label has the potential for vast consequences in today’s litigious world, said Lanier, from how the label is written, why it exists and where it should be placed on the product.

“It’s important that students be prepared for that kind of an environment, and for making these decisions,” he said.

“I’ve been trying to get to Tech for some time,” said Lanier. “The Technical Communication program offers tremendous opportunities that often aren’t seen because of the school’s emphasis on science and engineering.

“The TC program at Tech is the only one of its kind in the entire state at the bachelor’s level,” Lanier continued, adding that the Bachelor of Science program in technical communication here is equivalent to a master’s level at other universities.

“It’s a very valuable program that should be exploited, that should be further developed and grown, something I’ve wanted to do for some time,” Lanier said.

He spent a year and a half as an assistant professor at the University of Memphis before accepting a position with New Mexico Tech.

The Laniers live in Los Lunas, halfway between his job in Socorro and hers as a trauma nurse at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. The couple has a 14-month-old daughter, Ainsley, and a pointer-lab mix, Cutter, “our first son,” Lanier quipped.

Commuting to work and rearing a toddler keep the couple busy; but when he can squeeze in the training, Clint enjoys running, particularly marathons, and plans to enter the 26.2-mile Bataan Death March Run on WSMR in March.

“I’ve run through Albuquerque – now I’d like to do Tucson, maybe in December,” he said.

Lanier also is a techno-buff who still has the Atari system he was given as a child. He also writes and conducts research – “I very much enjoy that.”

Meanwhile, the new faculty member is settling into his new routine and surroundings.

“The Mexican food here is excellent,” he said. “I love the school and its architecture and the students are just great. I like the program, and Socorro has a lot to offer.”

-- NMT --