Santa Clara University


Sustainability and the School of Engineering

The following is excerpted from Dean Godfrey Mungal's remarks at the Solar Celebration held at SCU February 20, 2009:

I want to share with you Santa Clara University’s and the School of Engineering’s role in fashioning a more sustainable world. Five years ago, SCU adopted its Sustainability Policy that “devotes the University to sustainability through stewardship, education, and outreach.” These were not mere words or sentiments; since that time, among other things, the university has:

  •  hired a sustainability coordinator and established the Office of Sustainability
  •  purchased renewable wind energy from Silicon Valley Power that totals more than 1/3 of the University’s energy use, and
  • installed a 50-kW solar array that produces over 80,000 kWh annually

Currently 19 academic departments offer a sustainability-related or focused course, and a new sustainability pathway in our undergraduate core curriculum will enable students in Arts & Sciences, Business, and Engineering to integrate sustainability into their studies. The University also reaches out to the community through a number of means. These efforts, and others, have led to SCU being named one of the Top 25 Environmentally Responsible Colleges by Kaplan College Guide.

Here in the School of Engineering we focus our sustainability efforts in four areas: academics, outreach, partnerships, and action. From teaching the fundamentals of thermodynamics, electric circuits, and water management to our undergraduates to providing short courses on photovoltaics to graduate students and area professionals, the School of Engineering has a lively curriculum of courses pertaining to sustainability. In the last four years we have introduced five graduate classes in the solar/sustainability field and three undergraduate classes with emphasis in Photovoltaics. This year alone we have three short courses on PV taught by Peter Borden of Applied Materials with more than forty attendees just three weeks ago.

We reach out to the community, through our participation in IISME (Industrial Initiatives for Science and Math Education), and through programs designed for high school students such as our Spring Engineering Education Days, Summer Engineering Seminar, and the Sustainability Decathlon that partners SCU students as mentors to local high school students as they explore sustainability and “green” their campuses. We are developing solar powered systems for the Walden West science program. We believe in injecting sustainability/solar ideas at an early age.

Key to our sustainability efforts are partnerships with other academic institutions such as the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Alaska, research institutes such as NOAA (national oceanic and atmospheric administration), and government and industry partners such as California Energy Commission, SolarTech, and all of our generous solar decathlon sponsors.

At the very core of a Jesuit education is the desire to instill in students a sense of compassion and societal responsibility. In the School of Engineering, it is our goal to educate engineers of excellence in both technical ability and ethical behavior. We strive to inspire the head and the heart to guide the hands toward action that directly improves the lives of many, and we take the “action” component of our sustainability effort very seriously, after all engineering is not a spectator sport.

Project-based learning is central to our mission and our students are taking their knowledge, their skills, and their compassion out into the world through their work on engineering projects such as a sustainable water system for Nicaragua, green building for Ghana, and their outstanding contribution to energy research and consumer awareness via our two Solar Decathlon entries. The trend is up - as part of this “action” plan in 2004, 2005, and 2006 we had one senior design project with a sustainability focus, we had two last year and we have six this year. You can see them on May 7th at our Senior Design Conference.

I invite you all to be active partners in our sustainability mission. Our SCU-CCA Solar Decathlon team is still very actively seeking both financial and in-kind donations (especially in this tough economy) and your participation goes a long way toward achieving a sustainable future.