A Pathway to Diversity and Excellence in Engineering

The A. James Clark Scholars Program at the University of Virginia provides unique educational and financial opportunities to exceptional students from populations traditionally underserved in STEM fields, such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, first-generation college students and students from rural or densely urban areas.


Overview

The A. James Clark Scholars Program at the University of Virginia is distinguished by a world-class education rooted in a commitment to service, business acumen, technology innovation and leadership. Through support from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation and the Bicentennial Scholars Fund from the University of Virginia, the Clark Scholars Program was established in 2017 within UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. The Clark Scholars program offers a robust community of scholarship and support. The initial cohort of 16 scholars started in the summer of 2018, and over the next seven years, as the Clark Scholars endowment grows, the program will expand to a target enrollment of 60-75 scholars at its peak.

Students who are selected as Clark Scholars join a proud and important tradition. A. James Clark believed in the power of hard work. This conviction enabled him to grow a local construction company into a national success. And it guides the philanthropic giving the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation continues in his name today. The Foundation helps hard workers with a drive to achieve, investing in grantees who build practical, immediate and concrete connections between effort and opportunity from scholarships for engineering students to better schools for Washington, D.C. children.

Our vision for these student scholars includes learning in shared spaces, like the Link Lab, to address the 21st century’s most pressing global challenges, having meaningful engagement with University and business leaders, participating in an international experience and serving as peer mentors to incoming cohorts. Our Clark Scholars develop as leaders and gain unique insights into engineering design, business and real-world technology applications. Clark Scholars join a dynamic University community that is steeped in intellectual curiosity, diversity and a quest for excellence. Faculty advisors shepherd the students’ academic success and workforce readiness, with support from the Center for Diversity in Engineering, through high-touch counseling and tutorial support. Clark Scholars leave UVA with a legacy of success and go out into the world as leaders in the engineering and business community.

UVA Engineering's Clark Scholars Program Goals include:

  • 3.4+ GPA upon graduation
  • 100 percent graduation rate
  • 100 percent post-graduate placement in job or graduate school
  • Low or no debt upon graduation
  • Participation in a global experience
  • Completion of four business courses
  • Engagement in industry work or academic research experience
  • Participation in service and leadership development
  • Clark Scholars Selection

    Scholarships are designated for promising students from underserved communities admitted to the School of Engineering with demonstrated financial need, a track record of leadership and a commitment to community service. The University defines “underserved” to include a broad spectrum of students from backgrounds that currently lag behind in access to higher education in STEM fields, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, first-generation college students, students from rural or densely urban areas, and other groups that are currently underserved. The Office of Admissions, in collaboration with Student Financial Services and the School of Engineering, will identify high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds with demonstrated financial need to be awarded scholarships as part of their recruitment and matriculation as Clark Scholars.

  • Academics for Clark Scholars

    In July 2018, UVA welcomed the inaugural cohort of Clark Scholars. Each cohort will participate in a designed seven-week summer “bridge” intensive program preceding their formal matriculation. The students will first participate in a weeklong Clark Scholars Retreat at the University’s Morven Farm that will focus on transitioning to college, self-efficacy, resiliency, mindfulness and team building. The retreat will include academic advisors and peer mentors. Clark Scholars will spend the following six weeks engaged in small section academic study, including their first math course (Engineering Math I) and Principles of Chemical Structure. These courses will help all students build a strong foundation for academic success ahead of the traditional Fall semester.

    Within the academic programing, the first-year curriculum is developed to prepare students with the broad knowledge and fundamental skills they will need for success throughout their academic career. Highlighted below is an overview of the expected course content for incoming Clark Scholars. Engineering students typically select their major midway through their second semester; therefore, each scholar is expected to have major specific course requirements that will be integrated into this sequence.

    Year 1

    First Semester

    • Second Math (Engineering Math II)
    • Chemistry I Lab
    • Physics I & Lab
    • Introduction to Engineering
    • Engineering, Technology & Society
    • Science Elective

     

    January Term (J-Term)

    • Communication Skills for Engineers in the Business World
    • Service Learning

     

    Second Semester

    • Introduction to Programming
    • Additional Engineering Math (if required)
    • Fundamentals of Business for Engineers
    • Humanities Elective
    • First Course(s) in Prospective Major

     

    Years 2-4
    After the first year, the UVA Engineering curriculum is largely dependent on the major students select. Within this framework students are able to choose from a group of electives within their majors, the humanities and business. Clark Scholars will be empowered to pursue courses and experiences throughout the University, including business courses, research experiences, study abroad and internships.

  • Advising

    In support of the Clark Scholars program, UVA Engineering has organized a dedicated team of faculty advisors to ensure academic success for Clark Scholars. These faculty members will engage with Clark Scholars at three critical developmental points in their UVA career: transition into the University; selection and focus in major; career development and post-graduation placement.

  • Global Experience

    Clark Scholars have the option to spend a semester studying abroad. We view this opportunity as vital to developing engineers equipped to tackle the 21st Century’s most pressing global challenges. Accompanied by UVA Engineering faculty and staff, students live and study on university campuses in such countries as Ghana, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, Germany and the UK. For their capstone projects, the students design engineering solutions for issues affecting the host countries. They present their capstones upon returning to UVA.

  • Business Acumen

    The Clark Scholars Program curriculum is designed to include four courses (Fundamentals of Business for Engineers, Cost Accounting, Marketing and an elective) taught by a combination of faculty from UVA’s Darden School of Business and McIntire School of Commerce. This provides Clark Scholars with a skill set that enhances their post-graduation opportunities and prepares them for leadership roles.

  • Internships and Research Experiences

    Clark Scholars will spend their last two summers in either research or internship experiences, depending on their post-graduation trajectories. Core faculty members within UVA Engineering will work closely with the students during this period to explore their ambitions, guide their choices and put them on course for securing their first jobs or graduate school admissions.

  • Leadership and Service Development

    Leadership is a hallmark of a UVA Engineering education. Clark Scholars will be exposed to an array of academic and industry leaders within and beyond UVA through monthly Clark Scholars Seminars. Moreover, Clark Scholars will meet with the dean of engineering each semester and will be given opportunities to meet with other senior University leaders, including the president, provost, vice presidents and vice provosts, deans of other UVA schools and Board of Visitors members.

    Clark Scholars hone their service mindset through monthly community service and engagement with student-governed organizations and local communities. In addition to local initiatives, such as Jefferson Public Citizens and Madison House, students may also engage with a service-learning project while studying abroad.

    Among the most important factors to the success of underserved students is a consistent affirmation of their cultural heritage and sense of belonging. To this end, Clark Scholars will participate in such activities as the popular UVA Engineering Excellence through Diversity Distinguished Learning Series, where they will be exposed to some of the most significant thought leaders, performers and activists of our time. The students will have private roundtable discussions with speakers. Prior and future speakers include:

    • Dr. Mae Jemison: first African American woman astronaut to enter space
    • Dr. Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University and professor emeritus at Princeton University. West has written 20 books, including Race Matters and Democracy Matters.
    • Ronald Sullivan, social justice attorney
    • Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
    • Shankar Vedantam, host of NPR's "The Hidden Brain."
    • Ana Navarro, political strategist, national Hispanic campaign manager for multiple Republican presidential campaigns and CNN commentator
    • Saul Williams, poet, performer and international recording artist who has performed in more than 30 countries and read in more than 300 universities
    • Michelle Alexander, civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
    • Angela Davis, activist, scholar and writer who advocates for the oppressed.
    • Michael Sam, former NFL player and LGBTQ activist.

UVA's Clark Scholars Team