Santa Clara University

Office of the President

State of the University Address, 2011


State of the University Address
Mission Church, SCU
16 February 2011

Strategic Agility to Do Life-Changing Work

Thank you all for being here for this annual event. I realize how busy everyone is, so I appreciate the opportunity to pause and to reflect with you on what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are going about it. As I pondered where to begin, the gods of the email sent me an inspiration. Let me share with you a message I received this week from a recent alumnus. I have omitted the name of the professor he was referring to, as the person he is describing could fit any person from the staff, faculty and administration.

“At a time when I was filled with self-doubt, struggling to earn higher marks in difficult classes, and prepared to give up on my aspirations in medicine and science altogether, [the professor] was there both to encourage and guide me. He often extended his office hours beyond his regularly scheduled meetings, and even made the effort to meet with groups of students in Benson or other common areas throughout campus. He consistently went out of his way to bring his subject to his students, and on their terms.

“After a difficult first quarter, and over the years since then, [the professor] and I remained in close touch and I am proud to call him my friend. Though I felt blessed to have an educator in my life who cared so deeply about my success and well-being, I knew I was one of many students who shared his attention, support, and mentoring.” Please keep the description of this professor in mind as I go on.

Last week I was speaking to the WASC visiting team, and I acknowledged the significant personnel transitions since their visit 16 months ago. I explained that we have been searching to fill a number of positions, and had already welcomed several new faces to campus. I further explained that we have a succession planning document by which I constitute search committees after consultation with the president of the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate Council. In following this procedure, we are forming search committees as part of our shared governance model. I also acknowledged the generous people who serve in interim positions and have kept their divisions and units functioning smoothly.

When I spoke with the WASC visiting team, I explained the sense of anxiety that many people have felt in such a time of transition. When long serving and well respected individuals prepare to leave their posts, many wonder what life at Santa Clara will be like without them. Will the applying candidates meet our expectations? Will they understand the culture that imbues the Santa Clara community? I wish to assure you that we will remain steadfast in our commitment to the spirit and mission of this University. We are identifying and hiring people who embrace our ideals and our commitment to excellence in educating the whole person. Remember the professor I described at the beginning of my talk. We may change in personnel, but none of us will change in the mission we serve.

I want to go back to a more familiar century, the nineteenth, that speaks to this historian's heart. Let me draw upon a nineteenth-century scholar and theologian much in the news in recent months, John Henry Newman. Oxford educated, Newman was embroiled in the culture wars of his time in England, wars that raged around religion and science. To those who strenuously opposed advancing scholarship in theology and science, Newman wrote a book called An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845). Newman envisioned truth as a plant, one that grows when nurtured, watered, and tended carefully. Linking natural science and human intelligence, he wrote, “In a higher world it is otherwise; but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Some may reply that change in science and scholarship is well and good, but please guard and preserve the Santa Clara I know and love the way it is. Even with its foibles and imperfections, it is the institution with which I am familiar, comfortable, satisfied (well, mostly satisfied). Others, however, are eager for change at Santa Clara. They welcome it. Though they may not all be in agreement about what needs to be revised, improved or dropped, they welcome the change.

Whatever the feelings we have, our world does change, our economy is certainly dynamic, and our society evolves. Our students here also change in their expectations of us, in their attitudes and values, in the questions they ask of us. To be best equipped to engage their minds and entertain their inquiries, we at Santa Clara must be ever more prepared to understand and to be able to offer the best of our thinking, reading, research, and creative work.

And there is another dynamic at work in each of us. If I allow the questions of students and colleagues to enter my heart, something inside of me will shift, can shift. If the life experiences of students, whether from immersion trips in El Salvador, or coping with the divorce of parents, or wrestling with questions of meaning in life when a friend is injured or harmed – if these encounters somehow touch us through the students, then we change too. Then the needs and desires of another enter my life and place a claim on my concern, my reflections, my compassion, and my actions.

Jesuit Heritage

Let me draw from our Jesuit heritage for a moment. We seek to meet students and to conduct research and create art in the real world, as we encounter things in the totality of their existential circumstances. From the earliest days of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits and their colleagues have attempted to approach local situations – whether familiar or in other lands – as it was, as they found it, in the totality of its sometimes gritty, sometimes exhilarating existence. Knowing things as they exist, we then go the next step to respond. In this way of proceeding, we have striven to act according to the dictum: spiritu, corde, practice. A loose translation of this Latin phrase would be something like this: we seek to work in the Spirit of God, from the depths of our hearts (and not from the mind alone), and in practical ways, so that we can help people where they are, as they are, in the real world. In the Spirit of God, from the depths of our hearts, and in practical ways - it goes to the core of the Jesuit approach to work and ministry, taking things as they are.

When St. Ignatius founded the Jesuit Order, he administered the Order by these principles. He sought new opportunities for the Order to serve the Church of his time. But he was a restless leader; he was never content with things the way they were. He was possessed of a drive to always improve, to try new ways of working, to locate new opportunities to serve God and serve God's people better. Recently I was reading a blog for London’s Financial Times. In it, Don Sull explained that this approach of Ignatius “is best characterized as ‘strategic agility,’ or an organization’s ability to seize opportunities to achieve long-term goals as they arise and build the resources – including people, cash, and brand – to exploit unforeseeable opportunities.” [Don Sull’s Blog, January 25, 2010; accessed 14 February 2011]

It is not surprising that when the trustees held their working retreat this past October, they recognized in Ignatius the traits of an entrepreneur. They admired his creativity, his responsiveness to new opportunities, his willingness to take risks and even to fail. I might paraphrase or summarize their discussion that they respected him as a “spiritual venture capitalist.”  This was a whole new way of looking at St. Ignatius. Not every investment succeeds, but one must make educated risks, one must learn, and then move forward in order to succeed. Ignatius achieved a great deal. He failed in a number of instances, but examined what had happened, looked at the circumstances as they were, and sought new opportunities to serve others and to improve.

This Jesuit heritage informs and animates our collective work at Santa Clara. We want to help shape the future by educating students and engaging in our various disciplines of discovery and creative arts and the professions. We want to impact the world in positive ways. It is my desire that each of us feels that same restlessness of St. Ignatius, a desire for the better, an eye open for the next opportunity.

As a historian, I am pretty skeptical to claims of greatness and self-congratulation (particularly Jesuit self-congratulation). I feel more comfortable with data, the testing of hypotheses, and the hard-headed assessment of evidence. When I hear students recount their life changing experiences at Santa Clara, when I read of faculty securing external grants and staff receiving prestigious awards, then I have some data, needed proof that we at this university are doing well, serving well, and we are progressing. When alumni write to complain or to compliment, then I can gauge better how much this institution has impacted their lives.

When I listen in coffee sessions with staff and faculty, share a meal with student leaders, and read the dreams of our deans for their college and the schools, then I have a better sense of that restlessness, that shared desire to be an ever better, ever stronger, evermore humane Santa Clara.

Just over a century ago, one of my predecessors was Father James P. Morrissey, S.J. He assumed the presidency at age 38. He was a restless leader, ambitious for Santa Clara. When he was inaugurated, it was Santa Clara College. There was no St. Joseph's Hall, no O'Connor Hall. There were a lot of things he changed. He raised money; built buildings; revised the curriculum; introduced the classification of students as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors; created schools of law, architecture, and engineering; and moved Santa Clara from a simple college to university status. He did not succeed in all endeavors; we no longer offer architecture, for example. Father Morrissey also faced enormous opposition, some from faculty and staff, some from alumni, and most especially from fellow Jesuits. They charged that Morrissey was changing the essential mission of Santa Clara, the Santa Clara that they knew and loved. But others agreed that change was necessary. They agreed with Morrissey that adding programs, expanding the faculty, building new facilities, and securing external funding enabled Santa Clara to be a better Santa Clara, to achieve its fuller potential.

Strategic Plan, 2011

Morrissey’s dynamism, his restlessness, came to mind as I reflected on our Strategic Plan for Santa Clara which was approved by the Board of Trustees last week. This plan enables Santa Clara to remain solidly committed to the mission and to unleash energies to realize our higher ambitions. Think about that restlessness of St. Ignatius, that ability to respond to new opportunities and needs. I believe we can do this. We can do this in part, because of extensive dialogue with so many of you in the drafting process of this plan. We are now better prepared for thoughtful, productive advancement.

Drawing upon our strengths, we articulated five priorities we shall implement and achieve. I want to go over them briefly and give you a few examples:

Excellence in Jesuit Education
We shall make Santa Clara an exemplar of excellence in the Jesuit tradition in all of our schools by building on other areas of academic strength. In particular, we shall enhance the Jesuit School of Theology as an internationally recognized center for contextualized theology that trains leaders for the Church around the world.

Engagement with Silicon Valley
We shall engage more strategically with Silicon Valley by providing on-campus facilities and off-campus opportunities for research, teaching, and internships to take advantage of our very unique location. Think of the facilities. Here we are in the center of Silicon Valley, in the center of innovation and creativity. Our Engineering buildings date from 1961. When built, our total undergraduate population was 864. They were renovated in 1987 but our enrollment has increased nearly six-fold. The Daly Science Center dates from 1966, which means many of our labs, though refurbished, are 45 years old. A university in the heart of the Silicon Valley deserves better. I could continue to talk about the Law School with the 1930 Bergin Hall.

Global Understanding and Engagement
This priority focuses not only on opportunities for study abroad, but in all the ways we have that bring the world to our campus and for us to immerse ourselves in the world. Here we have a great network of Jesuit schools around the world. There are about 150 Jesuit institutions of higher learning around the world. How do we take advantage of that? How do we make this a part of the experience for our faculty and staff?

Justice and Sustainability
We have a long tradition of commitment to social justice. It has prepared us well to probe more deeply into the ethical questions that surround sustainability. By sustainability, I go back to the U.N. Brundtland Statement of 1987 (Our Common Future, 1987), which defines three principles of sustainable development: environmental protection, economic growth, and social equity. When we think about these three principles, they touch on many areas across campus. We are already advanced in this area, and we will continue to make Santa Clara outstanding in its concern for justice and sustainability.

Academic Community
Finally, the most important priority in one way is the academic community, the foundation of so much. Our efforts require that we attract and retain excellent and diverse faculty and staff, as well as attract, enroll, and graduate fine and diverse students. This means a renewed investment in faculty; this means attracting students prepared and motivated for the Santa Clara educational experience; and this means retaining experienced and effective staff and faculty.

We have charted our course, and we have laid out how we will share this plan: communicating the plan to our various constituencies, determining more precisely the costs of the Five Strategic Initiatives, completing an institutional capacity review, creating a new ten-year Facilities Master Plan, and formulating a new comprehensive fund raising campaign. You can see that writing the document was the easy part. Yes, the work continues, and I shall need all your collective wisdom, constructive advice, and energetic assistance to move forward.


We have done all this so we can coordinate budget planning, alignment of mission and our dreams. The WASC visiting team clearly recognized the progress we have made towards that linkage of mission, money, and management. The exit report delivered by the team leader, President Steven Sundborg, S.J. of Seattle University, lauded us for our efforts and our achievable aspirations.

I am well aware that across campus last Wednesday at noon, as the WASC team left campus, there was a collective sigh of relief. Nowhere was it more audible than in the office of Diane Jonte-Pace, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. I ask Diane and all of you who served on a committee, chaired a committee, or participated in any of the work groups to please stand so that we may recognize and applaud all of you. Your colleagues and friends congratulate you for the daunting task undertaken and successfully accomplished.

The WASC team applauded us five times over, and they made five recommendations so that we can grow even stronger. They affirmed our progress as we continue to realize our potential. They also did us the favor of drawing to our attention, just as St. Ignatius would have done, those areas in which we have opportunities for ongoing growth and improvement. In my mind, the greatest of those is in diversity, in our efforts for diverse faculty, staff and students.

I believe we are well poised for such ongoing improvement. Our ever rising applications for undergraduate admission is up 30% over two years; our economic recovery and financial strength is based on a 13% return on investments last year; the number of tenure-track faculty searches underway stands at 17; and improved alumni giving has risen from 15% two years ago towards 20% now  – all are heartening developments in the area of admissions, finance and university relations. I am very grateful for all who worked on these improvements. The combination of these positive steps strengthens our applications for corporate and foundation support. Further, these developments bolster our bond rating by Moody’s Investment Services.

Faculty and staff have garnered significant grants, as well as the recognition of outside agencies. Two professors in the Law School in particular warrant our recognition. Cathy Sandoval has been appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission, and Angelo Ancheta is named to the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, the voter-created body that is re-drawing legislative, congressional and other voting district lines in California. And faculty member Terry Shoup, professor in Mechanical Engineering, was recently named to the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame.

In the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, associate director Laurie Laird received the highest award of California Campus Compact. The award was given for promoting civic engagement, public service and student involvement in campus-community partnerships. California Campus Compact selected Laurie for the Richard E. Cone Award for Excellence & Leadership in Cultivating Community Partnerships in Higher Education.

Santa Clara continues to receive accolades for promoting sustainability and reducing our campus carbon footprint. The latest award was for scoring high marks for the STARS program. This is the nation’s first comprehensive sustainability rating system for colleges and universities. Developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, STARS stands for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System. SCU is one of 242 higher education institutions in the STARS program, and we received a silver rating, the second highest ranking, for our work in (1) education and research; (2) operations; and (3) planning, administration, and engagement. I am proud of the work of Lindsay Cromwell, Joe Sugg, and all who collaborated with them in our Office of Sustainability. This is raising our national profile in this area.

Amy Shachter, Associate Provost for Research and Faculty Affairs, recently announced the first round of the Sustainability Research Grant Program. The University is annually making available $90,000 in faculty research grants for 3 years to promote, investigate and study in the area of sustainability. I look forward to hearing about the applications and see what they will do with the faculty research retreat.

Out of concern for work-life issues, we have engaged a consultant, Bright Horizons, to review and assess our needs and make recommendations for child and elder care. This initiative is part of our Alfred P. Sloan Award for Faculty Career Flexibility. We all can be proud of the many initiatives, services, and policy changes that occurred as a result of this award. The grant comes from the American Council of Education.

The nation’s gradual economic recovery has benefited our operating and capital budgets. We will be able to provide merit raises, as well as to utilize reserved funds for capital improvements that we deferred two years ago. With the stronger economy and commitment from the trustees, we can pledge pay raises for faculty and staff next year.

If you look across campus a number of building projects are underway to improve student housing. Swig was renovated last summer.  Next, the University is leasing the Campbell Avenue residence, a complex of 138 townhouses adjacent to the baseball stadium to house up to 453 juniors and seniors. A new Graham Residence is underway to build a four-storey building where there was a two-storey building. All are economic indicators that we are going in the right direction. The recovery of the endowment means that the endowed scholarship and endowed chairs are being more fully funded.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize our student-athletes, such as the league-champion Men’s Soccer Team, the hard driving Women’s Soccer Team, all our student athletes and coaches, and the administration of Athletics and Recreation who play an important role in the life of the University.

We have much to celebrate, accomplishments that are due to your effort and determination. Working together, we have weathered the economic downturn without losing students or ordering involuntary layoffs. But we have done more than survive; Santa Clara has thrived and continues to thrive as a place of learning, creativity, scholarship, and athletics. As we look to the future, every one of us plays an important role as we help Santa Clara grow in the Spirit, from the heart, in practical ways.

I want to give an example of this. At this time I wish to invite EMTs and CSOs forward up the steps of the sanctuary. I conclude today with a story and an expression of appreciation to students and staff who have excelled in agile service. At the end of the men’s basketball game against Gonzaga, one of our students collapsed when leaving Leavey Center. Two off-duty Emergency Medical Technicians and the on-duty public safety officer observed and started CPR and rescue breathing. EMTs Mohit Kochar and Morgan Stinson worked first with Campus Safety Officer Evan Evans, and then with Officers Amanda Wilson and Kim Payne.

Officers called 9-1-1, and Officers Phil Livak handled dispatches to and from the Santa Clara Fire Department, and Mike Brady ran the response to the Center. A call went out to the on-duty EMTs across campus. EMT Allison Yue applied a defibulator (AED) and shocked the patient, while Michelle Davidson and Maija Swanson assisted. Captain Phil Beltran, Director of Campus Safety, was working the game with his staff that evening and he later wrote, “In the midst of absolute chaos at the game’s end, the professional teamwork displayed was simply awesome.”

That teamwork continued with Athletic Director Dan Coonan and Fr. Paul Mariani following the ambulance to O’Connor Hospital. Fr. Jack Treacy and the Campus Ministry team began regular visitations to the patient and to his parents, while Jeanne Rosenberger’s staff in Student Life handled notifications and campus logistics.

The Santa Clara senior is alive today, thanks to the quick response, close cooperation, and professional training of our EMTs and our Public Safety Officers. In saluting these individuals, I wish to recognize in particular Michelle Helms, moderator of the EMT program, who unfortunately cannot be here today. Nonetheless, in spirit Michelle stands with all our EMTs and Campus Safety Officers. Please join me in saluting these persons who serve daily, often unnoticed, but always essential to our health and safety.

Thank you EMT's and officers. I also want to thank everyone present who works as they do, though less dramatically, with the Spirit, from the heart, and in practical ways.  Together we shall continue to live our mission to achieve an ever-better, ever stronger, ever more humane Santa Clara. 

Thank you very much.

Michael E. Engh, S.J.


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