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Advancing an Undergraduate Honors Program at Clark

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I am very pleased to announce that Clark University will receive a $1 million gift to support the work of designing, developing, and launching an undergraduate honors program. 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 broadly-sought-after experience for our undergraduate students that will enhance enrollment. 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.

A 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. This work has and will continue to be 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.

Already, 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. Based on what we learn through the pilot, a more detailed outline of the program would move to faculty governance committees and Faculty Assembly for further refinement and input.

Provost Sebastían Royo and I anticipate that a Clark honors program will foster academic excellence and community across disciplinary boundaries and provide rich, immersive, and collaborative learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. Further, we expect that the honors program will work in tandem with departmental-level honors programs currently offered. It also is likely that the honors program will include, along with honors-level coursework, a service-focused program and other cocurricular opportunities such as workshops, student-organized events, and support for summer programming.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you my vision for the future of our University, which is built upon our collaborative effort to create and realize a number of strategic initiatives that advance Clark with determination and speed. What I hope you see in this vision is a Clark University that not only is grounded in core aspects of what has distinguished us since our founding, but also prescribes the necessity of evolving — and quickly — into an ever more distinctive and relevant institution. I also hope you share my confidence that we can and will achieve the goals we have set for ourselves as long as we remain focused and determined, work together, and prioritize our efforts.

Provost Royo and I are very excited about what lies ahead, including the realization of this undergraduate honors program. We deeply appreciate the partnership with faculty and staff 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.

I am exceedingly grateful to our donor who so quickly recognized the importance and value of this initiative and its potential to significantly advance our University.


David Fithian ’87