Clemente Course

What is it?

For too many adults in Massachusetts, aspirations for higher education and engagement with the humanities are thwarted by socioeconomic circumstances. The Clemente Course provides opportunities to learn about literature, art history, moral philosophy, American history, and writing. Clemente participants earn college credit through tuition-free, college level instruction and develop the skills and confidence needed to express themselves. The Course is based on the premise that the insights and skills offered by studying traditional humanities disciplines can provide people with crucial tools for gaining control over their lives and becoming engaged in their communities. The students are provided free books, transportation, and childcare to remove barriers to completing the Course’s 110 hours of instruction. Classes meet twice a week for eight months at a community site.

Who participates?

Students 17 and older from disadvantaged backgrounds and a dedicated faculty. If you are interested in becoming a Clemente student, here are the contacts for our Clemente Courses in Massachusetts.

What does this program do?

For the more than 400 graduates of the Clemente Courses that Mass Humanities has offered, the study of literature, art history, moral philosophy, and American history has provided an inspired gateway from one reality to another. To use the students’ words: from “detached to aware,” “neglected to engaged,” “dormant to energized.” These adults have not only transcended the barriers of their beginnings, they have come to epitomize the transformative power of the humanities.

Bard College grants a certificate of achievement to all students who finish the course and six transferable college credits to those who complete it at a high level of academic performance.

Clemente statistics

Where in Massachusetts is the program running?

In Massachusetts, the Clemente Course is currently offered in Dorchester, New Bedford, Brockton, Worcester, and Springfield in partnership with local social service agencies in those communities. If you are interested in starting a Clemente Course in your town take a look at this Clemente Course Startup Information (pdf).

What’s the history of the Clemente Course?

The writer Earl Shorris, who conceived and developed the Clemente course in 1995, explained its core concept in an interview in Mass Humanities: “The humanities provide the most practical education. The humanities teach us to think reflectively, to begin, to deal with the new as it occurs to us, to dare. If the multi-generational poor are to make the leap out of poverty, it will require a new kind of thinking—reflection.

Who funds it?

Costs are shared by Mass Humanities and the local social service agency hosting the program.   A sample budget for a Clemente Course is available.  For more information about the program, contact Brian Boyles, Executive Director, (413) 584-8440 x105.

To make a donation to support this program, you may give online or contact John Sieracki for more information.

Contributions from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Boston Private Bank & Trust, Citizens Bank, The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, Harvard Pilgram Health Care Foundation, King`s Chapel House, UMass Dartmouth, and numerous generous individuals make it possible for Mass Humanities to offer the Clemente Course in Holyoke, Dorchester and New Bedford.

Take a look at the Clemente Course in the Humanities, Inc. website, a nonprofit organization.

Bard College