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A Letter from Sister Joanne

By Clarke News  |  December 14, 2018

Dear Clarke alumni and friends,

Many have expressed dismay and disappointment in response to the recent announcement that Clarke University is discontinuing six academic majors. These decisions were made with careful consideration of significant amount of information and a great deal of soul searching.

I wish to address the claim that Clarke University is ending all visual and performing arts programs. That is not the case. Students will be able to pursue a bachelor of arts in studio art, graphic design, and art education as well as a bachelor of arts in music and music education. Minors in art and music will continue to be available. Students additionally will have the opportunity to engage in theatrical productions through an expanded extracurricular drama experience. Further, the assertions that these decisions were made to support expansions in athletic programming are inaccurate. We cannot keep setting academics and athletics up as rivals. Both are essential elements of the robust holistic experience Clarke provides to students today.

Like any other college or university, Clarke routinely evaluates, refocuses, and alters the array of academic programs it offers in response to the changing needs of students and society. As president, I have worked hard to ensure Clarke’s agility in a rapidly changing marketplace and have both started and discontinued a number of programs as a result. The current modifications are strategic and intentional steps to poise the university for the future and position Clarke’s next president to continue to advance the university forward.

The majors affected are art history, drama and musical theatre, environmental studies, religious studies, and Spanish. We will continue to offer minors in environmental studies, religious studies, and Spanish. Seventeen students currently are majoring in the six programs. These seventeen students will be able to complete their degrees in their intended major at Clarke University. The loss of faculty positions resulting from these decisions is limited.

Clarke University has a long history of drama excellence. Declining student demand regionally, and nationally, coupled with our location far from larger cities with thriving theatre sectors has interfered with our ability to attract sufficient enrollment to maintain the two drama majors. In recent years, participation by students outside the majors has been limited due to the time demands associated with productions that serve the requirements of an academic program. Consistent with Clarke’s commitment to the value of performing arts experiences for students, we will initiate an extracurricular drama program that will increase opportunities for more students to engage in theatre activities and to facilitate possible collaborations with other collegiate and community groups in Dubuque. A resident director will be hired to oversee theatre activities for the general student population. Additionally, students will continue to have access to drama courses.

Clarke University remains committed to a comprehensive educational experience that integrates the breadth of the arts and sciences and the depth of a specialized field of study in an array of programs with the acquisition of essential academic and professional skills. All Clarke undergraduate students must fulfill learning outcomes in spirituality, communication, thinking, knowledge, and global awareness and social responsibility, as well as professional preparedness. The Clarke Compass (i.e., general education curriculum) requires students to take courses and engage in experiences from across the arts, humanities, social sciences, math and sciences, and religious studies that support these outcomes.

Change and loss of things we cherish can be difficult and painful but necessary for growth, relevance, and sustainability. The current changes are strategic and intentional steps to poise the university for the future so that Clarke University celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2043.