President David Fithian announced today that Clark University has received a $1 million gift to support the work of designing, developing, and launching an undergraduate honors program that will be piloted this fall.
“The donor, a Clark alumnus who has asked to remain anonymous, saw the potential of an honors program —a set of courses and cocurricular offerings still to be determined — to amplify Clark’s reputation for academic excellence in an exceedingly competitive higher education landscape and offer a compelling experience for our undergraduate students,” Fithian said in his message to the Clark community.
“The donor was compelled by the research and data we shared that demonstrated how powerfully an honors program can move us forward toward the goals articulated in our strategic framework, Clark Inspired. The gift is a testament to the notion that aspirational ideas and bold plans pursued with determination will attract investment in our University.”
President Fithian noted that the proposal for an honors program at Clark emerged through the Liberal Arts and Undergraduate Education Strategic Framework Team “which identified it as essential to enhancing the Clark student academic experience and bolstering student recruitment.” The work is being led by Professor Mary-Ellen Boyle — who served as interim Dean of the College for the past academic year — and a faculty and staff working group. The Undergraduate Academic Board has approved a pilot honors program for the coming fall semester.
The pilot would invite “select academically energized and intellectually curious rising sophomores and, perhaps, some first-year students to participate in a ‘design year,’ in which our students, with faculty collaboration and guidance, will explore and refine the experiences and opportunities of an honors program,” he said. Students will be both program participants and partners, with faculty and staff, to design aspects of the curriculum and enrichment activities, assisting in the creation of intellectual programming while being encouraged to assume greater responsibility for their own learning. Based on what is learned through the pilot, a more detailed outline of the program would move to faculty governance committees and Faculty Assembly for further refinement and input.
Fithian said honors program is expected to “provide rich, immersive, and collaborative learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom,” that may include service work and co-curricular events and workshops.
The president thanked faculty and staff for their partnership “to create what will be a very compelling and attractive opportunity for our students.”
“This is precisely the kind of effort that will help secure Clark’s place as an institution of distinction,” he said.