Academic Catalog

General Information

The History

An essential element of any introduction pertaining to Clark Atlanta University is its unique history. Atlanta University from its very start in boxcar housing, to the birth of Clark College in the basement of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Clark Atlanta’s roots offer a rich history lesson in the development of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Atlanta University, founded in 1865, by the American Missionary Association, with later assistance from the Freedman’s Bureau, was, before consolidation, the nation’s oldest graduate institution serving a predominantly African American student body. By the late 1870s, Atlanta University had begun granting bachelor degrees and supplying black teachers and librarians to the public schools of the South. In 1929-30, it began offering graduate education exclusively in various liberal arts areas and in the social and natural sciences. It gradually added professional programs in social work, library science, and business administration. At the same time, Atlanta University affiliated with Morehouse and Spelman Colleges in a university plan known as the Atlanta University System. The campus was moved to its present site, and the modern organization of the Atlanta University Center emerged, with Clark College, Morris Brown College, and the Interdenominational Theological Center joining the affiliation later. The story of Atlanta University over the next twenty years from 1930 includes many significant developments. The Schools of Library Science, Education, and Business Administration were established in 1941, 1944, and 1946 respectively. The Atlanta School of Social Work, long associated with the University, gave up its charter in 1947 to become an integral part of the University.

Clark College was founded in 1869 as Clark University by the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which later became the United Methodist Church. The University was named for Bishop Davis W. Clark, who was the first President of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, and became Bishop in 1864. A sparsely furnished room in Clark Chapel, a Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta’s Summer Hill section, housed the first Clark College Class. In 1871, the school relocated to a new site on the newly purchased Whitehall and McDaniel Street property. In 1877, the School was chartered as Clark University.

An early benefactor, Bishop Gilbert Haven, visualized Clark as the “University” of all the Methodist schools founded for the education of freedmen. Strategically located in the gateway to the South, Clark was founded to “give tone” to all the other educational institutions of the Methodist Episcopal Church providing education for Negro youth. After the school had changed locations several times, Bishop Haven, who succeeded Bishop Clark, was instrumental in acquiring 450 acres in South Atlanta, where in 1880 (the institution relocated in 1883) the school conferred its first degree. Also in 1883, Clark established a department, named for Dr. Elijah H. Gammon, known as the Gammon School of Theology, which in 1888 became an independent theological seminary and is now part of the Interdenominational Theological Center.

For purposes of economy and efficiency, during the 1930s it was decided that Clark would join the Atlanta University Complex. In the winter of 1939 work began across town on an entirely new physical plant adjoining Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College. In 1957, the controlling Boards of the six institutions (Atlanta University; Clark, Morehouse, Morris Brown and Spelman Colleges; and Gammon Theological Seminary) ratified new Articles of Affiliation creating the Atlanta University Center, the most prevalent consortium of African-American private institutions of higher education in the nation.

During the 1980s, some of the advantages of proximity, which had seemed promising earlier, again became evident. On July 1, 1988, Clark Atlanta University, through consolidation of Clark College and Atlanta University, “Charted a Bold New Future.” The new and historic University inherits the rich traditions of two independent institutions, connected over the years by a common heritage and commitment, by personal, corporate and consortia relationships, and by location. The University has preserved the best of the past and present by retaining Atlanta University’s motto, “I’ll Find a Way or Make One,” and Clark College’s motto, “Culture for Service” in its seal.

The first President of Clark Atlanta University was Dr. Thomas W. Cole, Jr., who served concurrently as the President of both Atlanta University and Clark College prior to consolidation. Dr. Walter D. Broadnax became the second President for Clark Atlanta University on August 1, 2002, and served until his retirement on July 31, 2008. The third President is Dr. Carlton E. Brown, assuming leadership on August 1, 2008.

Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University (CAU), formed in 1988 as a result of the consolidation of two independent historically black institutions — Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869), is a United Methodist Church-related, private, coeducational, residential, and comprehensive urban research university. The University offers undergraduate, graduate and professional, and non-degree certificate programs.


Building on its social justice history and heritage, Clark Atlanta University is a culturally diverse, research-intensive, liberal arts institution that prepares and transforms the lives of students. CAU is located in the heart of Atlanta which is the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement and modern center of emerging technologies and innovation. Ignited by its history, CAU is committed to delivering education that is accessible, relevant, and transformative. (Approved by the Board of Trustees, May 17, 2019)


Clark Atlanta University will be recognized internationally as a leading research institution of higher education and learning. The University will impact society through global innovation, transformative educational experiences, and high-value engagement. Approved by the Board of Trustees, May 17, 2019)

Core Values

Our University’s core values are like a compass, a tool that guides the campus community when trying to figure out how to navigate uncertainty while keeping the big picture in mind. These values serve as the foundation of the steps the University will take towards achieving its strategic vision.

“CAU P.R.I.D.E.S Itself on Being …”


Treat students, colleagues, and broad beneficiaries of our services with professionalism, respect, responsiveness, focused on effective solutions.

Research-Focused, Innovative and Creative

Ignite new possibilities in research and advance knowledge of humankind.

Inclusive and Accountable

Promote collaboration and unity among students, faculty, and staff to provide a significant contribution are added to the University’s body of knowledge.

Diverse and Global

Embrace and support all forms of human differences, ideas and perspectives, and our natural environment.


Commit to high-quality in all we do to achieve our noble cause.


Commit to leveraging our students’ experience through teaching, learning, and service.

(Approved by the Board of Trustees, May 17, 2019)

Campus Cultural Creed

Clark Atlanta University is committed to academic excellence, building character and service to others. The University will achieve its mission by cultivating an environment of honesty, kindness, mutual respect, self-discipline, school loyalty, trust, academic integrity and communal pride. “As a member of this scholarly community, I make the following pledge:

  • I will work to promote academic honesty and integrity;
  • I will work to cultivate a learning environment which opposes violence, vulgarity, lewdness and selfishness;
  • I will embrace the concept of mutual respect by treating others the way I want them to treat me;
  • I will support a campus culture of diversity by respecting the rights of those whose views and experiences differ from my own;
  • I will honor and care for the sanctity of my body as the temple of God;
  • I will commit myself to service so that I can make a difference in the world and a difference for more than just myself;
  • I will celebrate and contribute to the “spirit of greatness” left by those who preceded me and I will work to leave this a better place for those who follow me.

As a member of this community, I am committed to conducting myself in ways that contribute to a civil campus environment which encourages positive behavior in others. I accept the responsibility to uphold these noble ideals as a proud member of the Clark Atlanta University Family.”

Strategic Priorities and Goals

2018 - 2023

Clark Atlanta University’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan will guide the University for the next five years. The new plan is a blueprint for strengthening CAU’s long-term health and sustainability and will build upon areas where CAU’s comparative advantage can have far-reaching impacts. The University’s Strategic Plan was developed to identify the critical performance areas that decisively affect and influence the University's capacity to accomplish its mission and actualize its strategic vision.

Strategic Goal 1 Enrollment and Student Success

Provide programs and services to achieve strong undergraduate and graduate enrollments and high retention, graduation, and career placement rates and become the national model for student success among HBCUs.

Strategic Goal 2 Academic Planning

Maintain and develop excellent, innovative academic programs, strategic partnerships, and new modes of teaching and learning to produce graduates who are successful.

Strategic Goal 3 Research and Creative Activity

Expand research capabilities and infrastructure to enhance creative activity and strengthen CAU’s position as a private research-intensive institution, with national prominence that provides innovative solutions to the local and global communities.

Strategic Goal 4 Fundraising, Branding, and Marketing

Enhance the University’s comprehensive fundraising support while marketing CAU’s distinction and accomplishments to raise its public profile in the eyes of prospective students, potential, stakeholders, benefactors, the higher education community, and the public at large.

Strategic Goal 5 Institutional Effectiveness

Reflect CAU’s commitment to institutional effectiveness, continuous improvement, added value, and return on the investment to those it serves by streamlining administrative procedures and expanding the capacity of faculty and staff to serve the long-term health and sustainability of the University.

Strategic Goal 6 Facilities, Technology, and Real Estate

Provide facilities and technology to support recruitment, teaching, research and the enhancement of the student experience and to establish new avenues for long-term revenue-generation.