Santa Clara University


Educating the Whole Engineer

CampusMinistry_smallThe School of Engineering boasts a 100-year history of “educating the whole person” in keeping with our Jesuit tradition. One way this happens is through student involvement with Campus Ministry (CM). Though Santa Clara is a Catholic, Jesuit institution, SCU students come from a variety of religious and philosophical backgrounds; the programs Campus Ministry offers foster the spiritual lives of students and are open to all.

“I’ve seen numerous engineering students pass through here as interns, leaders of retreats, volunteers at Mass, participants in Interfaith and ecumenical events, etcetera,” said Matt Smith, campus minister and director of outreach and engagement. Students also access Campus Ministry for individual spiritual direction. “Not too many seek out this focused type of reflection, which involves an ongoing commitment on the part of the student to actively reflect on their experience of God in their everyday life. Yet, currently, two engineering students have made it a priority—one for two years now, and the other a bit more than one year, according to Lulu Santana, campus minister for faith formation. “To me, this says that they place a high value on their spiritual life, reflecting an integration and deepening of their spirituality that is very personal, yet very much connected to their studies, career path, and relationships.”

CampusMinistry2_smallIn fact, “relationship” and “career” are two words that pop up often when talking with engineering students about their involvement with Campus Ministry. Claire Kunkle ’14 (mechanical engineering), is a music ministry intern. Each week she chooses and prepares music for Mass and sings in the Mission Choir. “I have met so many new and amazing people through Campus Ministry! I feel like so much of the college experience is expanding your horizons and being involved in many different facets of university life,” she said. “Campus Ministry, I feel, is one of my most rewarding facets. I get personal fulfillment through my relationships there and I get to grow as a person as well. This allows me to really get the full experience out of Santa Clara.”

Felipe Yerkes Medina ’12 (civil engineering), who has served as a retreat leader and is now in his second year as a CM intern, agrees: “I have experienced a lot of the heart and the community that Santa Clara has to offer here. CM has really shown me a group of people who care about what you study, but also really put a heavy emphasis on the whole person, cura personalis; they really want to make you into a well-rounded person. But they also want to make an inviting and comfortable place for anyone who wishes to take part. I have led many retreats, but each time it gets more rewarding—seeing how much of a community we are creating, and noticing the impact that we can have on the lives of others despite religious traditions, major, or even year in school. This, for me is a great time and a relaxing time, though the work leading up to it is tough, and I use it to its full extent to grow spiritually, personally, and in my community.”

Campus ministers appreciate the strong creativity and excellent problem-solving and time management skills of engineering students. “In my experience they seem to organize their time really well,” said Smith, continuing,“I've also seen that the students seem quite connected to how their gifts and talents as future engineers can contribute to the greater good.” That is certainly the case for Ashley Ciglar ’12 (civil engineering), who serves as president of the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. “During my sophomore year I was a CM intern under Social Justice Ministry. I was able to increase my knowledge about current and past social justice issues, plan events relating to social justice for students, and reflect on my vocation through retreats and one-on-one dialogues. Campus Ministry attends to all facets of the human that can easily get lost in a larger school. It has been a great outlet for filling needs outside engineering.”

Mike Sizemore ’12 (mechanical engineering) serves as a Eucharistic minister and lector at weekly Masses and drops by the CM office “just to talk with the ministers during lunch. They are very welcoming and I can discuss many spiritual and real-life issues on a day-to-day, conversational basis. It’s a place where many people of different backgrounds can come together, share experiences, and socialize. This has helped orient my social life and life goals to a place that I am proud of,” he said.

Graduate engineering students make good use of all that CM has to offer, as well. “Ifiok Umoh (M.S. ’04, Ph.D. ’11) has been a mainstay in Campus Ministry since he arrived from Nigeria as an electrical engineering graduate student many years ago,” said Santana, “and a couple of us even attended his dissertation presentation, which was followed by a little celebration in our office.” In addition to providing this type of personal involvement with students, CM is expanding its outreach to graduate engineers through a small faith-sharing group facilitated by Jesuits Fr. Manh Tran, director of the Christian life community, and Fr. Jim Reites, associate professor of engineering by courtesy.

With the help of Campus Ministry, the School of Engineering will continue its tradition of educating the whole engineer well into its next century.