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Welcome to the 2023-24 Academic Year

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

It is my great pleasure to welcome everyone to the start of a new academic year. I especially want to greet our new students who begin their undergraduate, graduate, professional, or continuing education programs of study today. I am sure I speak for everyone already at Clark when I say how happy we are to have you join us. I wish all our students an intellectually engaging and academically successful year ahead.

In meeting our new students at events throughout last week, I could not help but think about my own arrival at Clark as an undergraduate, now 40 years ago. So much has changed at the University in that time, and, yet, some things — some of the best things — feel the same to me. Foremost among those best things are faculty and staff who genuinely care about students and are eager to see them thrive. Then and now, sometimes that means pushing students to do better, sometimes leaving them to figure things out for themselves, but always seeing and believing in the potential that lies in every one of them. This is a hallmark of a Clark education for generations of students who have come before you; I know it will be a memorable and instrumental part of our current students’ experience here as well.

The chance to welcome new students — as well as faculty and staff — to campus each year is one of the truly wonderful things about working in higher education and at Clark. Every year, our campus community is joined by new members who bring with them fresh ideas, talents, interests, and experiences. This enriches us not only as a community but also as an institution by bringing to the fore the opportunities as well as the obligations of regular renewal.

Many such opportunities and obligations have already shaped our collective thinking about the future — expressed in our strategic framework, Clark Inspired — and they prompt us to achieve, with both urgency and pride, what is needed and possible now and in the years ahead for Clark to reach its own fullest potential as a university.

We have done a great deal recently to renew our curriculum and academic offerings, introducing new majors, minors, and degree programs in each of the last three years. This year, we will do more, including, among other initiatives, working with our students to design a new honors program for undergraduates; collaborating with faculty from across the University to see what a more concerted effort will allow in teaching, research, and direct impact related to the urgent problem of global climate change; and developing a new doctoral program in education.

We have done much recently to renew and improve our physical plant. Today, we are opening a new building — the Center for Media Arts, Computing, and Design — that offers the entire campus community new spaces and capabilities that raise our programming in these areas to new heights. Work on an extensive exterior restoration of Goddard Library, an architecturally significant gem, continues and is on track to be completed next summer. The need to address Clark’s aging buildings on Main Street, between Hawthorne and Woodland streets, will bring our campus and neighborhood communities into close engagement and partnership as those plans continue to take shape. This project will provide much-needed modern housing for Clark students along with much-improved retail space for local new and returning businesses.

I hope you share my excitement and enthusiasm for all that we are accomplishing together to renew Clark for the benefit of our students — today’s and tomorrow’s.

Again, welcome to this new year and thank you for all your contributions to the life of our distinctive and distinguished university.


David Fithian ’87