Common Ground’s aim is to grow a new generation of community and environmental leaders — and that leadership takes many forms. This week, Common Ground received fun news about one of our recent graduates, Ariel Vaughan — in the form of a press release from Clark University, where Ariel is a Junior. Read on to check out how Ariel is up to! We’ve highlighted some of sections that stand out for us.    

Clark University student, from West Haven, researches professional development through farming

WORCESTER, Mass.—Clark University junior Ariel Vaughan, of West Haven, recently presented

Two high school students work with plants on a farm.

Ariel, left, in the fields during her work with YouthGrow.

“Cultivating Urban Youth: Professional Development through Farming,” a research project funded through Clark’s Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) initiative.

Vaughan shared her experience working for the Regional Environmental Council as a youth mentor in the YouthGROWprogram, an urban agriculture-focused youth development and employment program for low-income teens. Vaughan wrote:

I witnessed how youth work programs strengthen urban communities, and how food systems programs impact food security and perceptions of healthy food and accessibility

Jody Emel, acting director of the Graduate School of Geography, served as her faculty adviser.

A diverse group of high school students from the Regional Environmental Council pose smiling.

Ariel (second from left) poses with other students during her work with the Regional Environmental Council.

Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) is Clark’s bold effort to advance liberal education, linking a deep and integrated curriculum with opportunities to put knowledge into practice in order to prepare students for remarkable careers and purposeful, accomplished lives.

Now in its fourth year, LEEP projects have helped Clark University students pursue funded and directed problem-based summer projects. The projects—several of which are hosted by Clark alumni—offer real-world application of course material and provide an opportunity to engage with professionals outside of the University.  LEEP Projects also enable students to develop marketable skills, and focus on characteristics the University refers to as LEEP Learning Outcomes.

This year, 122 undergraduates received funding through Clark’s LEEP initiative to pursue projects ranging from international social action initiatives to internships with leading corporations.  LEEP Fellows are expected to devote approximately 150 hours to their LEEP Project and participate in workshops on professionalism and project management.  LEEP Fellows complete a written reflection upon completion of their experience and share results with the Clark community in one of the University’s annual undergraduate student research showcases.

Vaughan is a member of Clark’s Class of 2017; she majors in geography and international development and social change.  She is a member of the women’s varsity swim team and of the student group Food Truth.  

Vaughan is a 2013 graduate of Common Ground High School.

“LEEP Projects provide a tremendous opportunity for our students to connect their academic learning with professional development,” said Vickie Cox-Lanyon, assistant director of the LEEP Center at Clark.  “LEEP Fellows are able to explore, in depth, topics about which they are passionate, to integrate their skills and knowledge, and to solve complex problems through creative thinking, collaboration and persistence. Advisors from Clark’s LEEP Center, faculty mentors, Clark alumni and organizational partners work to ensure that each student maximizes his or her opportunity.”

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as atransformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology,geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.