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Alumni Corner: Alex Balsley

2 min read

Meet a talented Clarke alumnus excelling in his STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) career.

Engineer Cares for the Environment and his Community

Alex, center, with colleagues from the United States Coast Guard. 

Alex, who is profoundly deaf in both ears and wears digital hearing aids, attended Clarke’s preschool and elementary school programs in Northampton, Massachusetts, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Clarke has been a big influence in shaping my deaf experience as a youth, and it was a great place for me to take speech therapy,” he recalls. “I have fond memories of my time at the school and am grateful for all the speech therapists who made it a positive experience for me.”

At the age of 10, with the support of an oral interpreter (now called an oral transliterator), Alex transitioned to a local mainstream elementary school, continuing his mainstream academics through high school. After high school, Alex attended Northeastern University in Boston. With support from American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, he graduated with a BS in civil/environmental engineering and a minor in environmental science. In 2014, he completed his MS in environmental engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

As an adult, Alex uses a combination of ASL (mostly) and spoken English to communicate and underscores the importance of honoring the unique needs of each child who is deaf or hard of hearing and their family. “Every deaf child has their own journey in this world and will eventually find their own deaf identity,” he shares. “It takes time and effort to learn your options, including ASL, but they are well worth it.” 

Alex has enjoyed the past decade as a project manager with the Coast Guard Research and Development Center in New London, Connecticut.  “I’m mostly involved with oil spill response research, and work with other federal agencies as well as private organizations to improve our spill response technologies or strategies,” says Alex.

With much of his work travel on hold during the pandemic, Alex has been spending more time at home—hiking, running, enjoying extra time with his wife, Dru, and reading fantasy novels. He’s also thinking about racial equality and what he can do to make an impact in his community. 

“I’m definitely early on in my journey and am still learning about the resources that I can contribute to,” Alex says. “I’m learning about social injustices in New England, particularly in the Deaf community, and am looking for ways to get involved.” Understanding systemic inequality demands a recognition of the intersectionality of identities and disabilities—specifically, the increased discrimination against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and from marginalized communities.

Alex hopes to carry out this work as secretary of the Rhode Island Association of the Deaf, where he and his colleagues are early on in their efforts to explore ways to address racism and social injustice within their community. He is inspired by the work of the National Black Deaf Advocates and HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf communities), an advocacy group supporting the rights of people who are deaf/disabled in prison and throughout the legal system and encourages others to lend them their support. 

View Alumni Corner: STEM Edition as a PDF.

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