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Expanding the Margins of Possibility, an Exciting Step Forward

Dear Members of the Clark Community,

Over the past ten months, we have been engaging together in a strategic planning effort to chart a course for the strongest possible future for Clark. This work will continue throughout the current academic year and beyond, and I hope it will be influenced and informed by the participation of even more members of our community. As you recently heard from the chair of Clark’s Board of Trustees, Ross Gillman ’81, members of the Board have also been very engaged in this work.

The Strategic Framework we are developing is focused on investments in our academic and research programs, in the campus experience, in identity and culture (including equity and justice as well as diversity and inclusion), in outward engagement (including with our local community), and in developing new capacity in terms of human capital, financial resources, physical resources, and in catalyzing momentum to ensure our success. One of the things that has emerged clearly from our planning process to date is that investing in our campus experience, enhancing student services, creating much-needed space for student groups and organizations, and providing facilities for our faculty and staff to do their best work will require additional land.

I am writing today to announce that Clark has acquired 7.3 acres of land at the corner of Park Avenue and Maywood Street, just two blocks from the southwest corner of our campus. The addition of this currently vacant land to our campus opens the door to a host of new possibilities for renewal of Clark’s physical facilities. It also makes use of a parcel that has lain fallow in our neighboring community since 2010.

For Clark, this land represents an extraordinary opportunity to further imagine our institutional presence within Worcester, creates opportunities to work with community and city leaders, and affords us the potential of more green space on our campus. While we have not yet determined a specific plan for the property, we are considering a range of options that could include a new recreation and athletics facility, a modernized health services center (bringing together Counseling and Personal Growth and wellness programs), academic space, and student housing. Final decisions about the use of the site and the timeline for redeveloping it will come only after thorough dialogue, engagement, and visioning work across the Clark community. Our goal is to strongly align our use of the site with Clark’s strategic framework through input and partnership with our neighboring community. The purchase of this land will not diminish our focus on or investment in student needs today, but will clearly make so much more possible for our students, faculty, and staff in the future.

Aerial shot of Clark University campus with new Park Ave expansion

The prospective uses of the Park Avenue site also will be informed by the Campus Design Initiative (CDI) being conducted by Ayers Saint Gross, a highly respected firm with whom Clark has been working since early 2021. The CDI features a comprehensive assessment of Clark’s buildings and grounds and will culminate in recommendations — based on input from our students, faculty, and staff — for a campus that is more inviting, more accessible, and more attractive to the Clark community and visitors to the University, and a physical campus that will be student-centered while fostering collaboration and innovation.

Since Clark’s founding, our campus has provided an intimate setting for learning and work, and the University’s investment in the Park Avenue property does not change that. As with the Shaich Family Alumni and Student Engagement Center on Main Street, we will cross Park Avenue to establish a signature presence and we will do so with a typically Clark spirit of care and collaboration, consistent with our deeply held commitment to engage with our neighbors and other city partners. We fully anticipate that our eventual plans for the site will be an asset to the neighborhood, to the city, and to Clark, and will be a source of pride for us all.

I hope you share my excitement in the prospect of augmenting and amplifying the campus experience in a way that energizes our community and strengthens the University overall. Last December in my State of the University address, I described the forward approach to our shared future as starting with a culture of possibility. Today, the margins of those possibilities have widened; whatever our aspiration for our campus becomes we now have the ability to attain it. I’m thrilled with the tremendous potential captured in this singular transaction and the promise it holds for Clark University.

David Fithian ’87