Meet Mark Santow

Academic Director in New Bedford, MA

If you’re looking for Dr. Mark Santow, try a classroom. As founding director of the Clemente Course in New Bedford, MA, and Chair of History at UMass-Dartmouth, he’s got plenty. 

He added more in 2015 when he became a member of the Providence School Board, a position the city’s mayor has appointed him to for a second term. And now he’ll turn his attention to creating a new Clemente Veterans’ Initiative course in Providence, one of three funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For Mark, his involvement in these varying educational opportunities makes perfect sense. “In my scholarly work and my university classes, I focus on the sources of inequality in modern American life—housing and education, especially. So part of why I’ve gotten involved in Clemente and in the Providence public schools is out of a sense of moral obligation,” he said. “It is one thing to teach and write about something, and about how it should change, and quite another to get inside the thing and attempt to steer it.”

He also sees that whether it's a third grader, college student, or returning adult, there are few things more empowering than a humanities education. He loves witnessing how his Clemente students make links between Frederick Douglass’ rendering of the experience of slavery, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and recent texts by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Mark with students at the Shaw Memorial in Boston

It speaks to what the humanities always offer us: “To me, the study of the humanities—especially the way we do it in Clemente—pushes us to think through the connections between the personal and the universal, and between the individual and the political. In short, if explored in conversation with others, it enables us to cultivate practical wisdom, making us better people.”

Mark is excited to see this conversation continued among veterans in Providence. Thousands of veterans live in the area and struggle to access higher education and readjust to civilian life. In addition to serving the veterans themselves, he hopes that the course will become part of a broader discussion in the city about the costs and responsibilities we undertake as citizens when we send one another to war.

“After more than a decade of teaching in Clemente, I believe deeply in the power of the humanities to help us better understand ourselves, connect with one another, and explore the benefits and burdens of democratic citizenship,” he said. “The Clemente Veterans’ Initiative is needed here, and I can’t wait to see what blooms from this first seed.”

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