Santa Clara University

Office of the President

State of the University Address, 2012

State of the University Address
Michael E. Engh, S.J., President
Santa Clara University
Mission Church
15 February 2012

Who We Are, Who We Are Becoming, and Are We Happy

Dennis, I appreciate the generous introduction.  I am so glad that you are our Provost and Academic Vice President. The beauty of the music by our student chorus under the direction of Ryan Brandau also warrants my gratitude.  I am impressed, Courtney, with your presentation and your leadership of the Associated Student Government.  And I thank Fr. Manh Tran for the opening prayer, and all of you who have gathered here for this annual State of the University address.  Your presence is gratifying and encouraging.

This past Friday Father Mick McCarthy presented to the Board of Trustees a talk entitled, “Education as Spiritual Exercises.”  He included video clips of recent Santa Clara alumni reflecting on questions that included: why we are here, who is my neighbor, what is commitment, and how do we imagine the life of the world to come?  One speaker, Quentin Orem, graduated last year as a philosophy major and Catholic Studies minor.  I would like to quote from a portion of his response to the question, “Why are we here?”  In his observation he reflects on the people he encountered during his four years at this university:

“[There were] these adult figures on campus, all throughout campus – staff and professors and administrators – who took an interest in me just because of me; not because of my major or anything I was doing academically, or what I wanted to do with my life, or where I came from.  Although all these things are incredibly important, and were tended to really well, too, all of these people just cared about me and my well being.  And that made me feel like what was important wasn’t just how I was doing in school (although that was really important and encouraged), but who I was, and who I was becoming, and was I happy?”

Notice the consequences of Quentin’s Santa Clara education.  Experiencing the care that people at SCU had for him, as an individual, Quentin discovered what was truly important in life: Who he was, who he was becoming, and was he happy. He has articulated in succinct phrases what we do at Santa Clara and the basic reasons why we do what we do.  I felt myself moved by his observations, by his recognition of the wide-spread commitment of people here to the kind of education we provide. What he articulated speaks to our gathering today. I would like to reflect with you about Santa Clara University; about who we are, who we are becoming, and are we happy. These three topics offer a broad overview of Santa Clara at this moment in time, and our aspirations for the future.

Who We Are

Just outside this Mission Church, construction is progressing on the Patricia A. and Stephen C. Schott Admission and Enrollment Services building.  This structure will serve as the new front door of the university to welcome visitors and future students to campus.  The interior design has been a matter of great interest and concerted effort.  Displays, videos, touch screens, and posted images will share with visitors the visual representation of Santa Clara’s heritage and spirit.

Focus groups of staff and faculty have been meeting to assist with this design to express our story of who we are at this institution.  The great American writer, Flannery O’Connor, emphasized how important such a narrative is for a people, and, I would suggest, how significant it is for an institution: “There is a certain embarrassment about being a storyteller in these times when stories are considered not quite as satisfying as statements and statements not quite as satisfying as statistics, but in the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells.”1

The story we tell about Santa Clara unfolds in many different forms.  I turn again to Fr. McCarthy’s interviews of our recent graduates.  There I heard YaYa Morales share her account of how a Santa Clara educational experience changed her life.  YaYa is a 2011 graduate, a double major in English and in Spanish.  She led an immersion trip for students in downtown San Jose, for a simulation of homelessness. As she said,

“We walk[ed] the streets of San Jose dressed in clothes as homeless individuals.  We had to pick cans from trash, we had to go eat at the same center where they ate, we had to go and mingle with them to try to get a free ride, try to apply for jobs, and [the] whole experience. …I got to feel ostracized in a sense. …And the hardest part was leaving the experience, because that’s when the privilege comes, that’s when I knew: I’m able to leave that world, but a lot of people aren’t. …And that’s why I teach at Sacred Heart [Nativity School, San Jose].  That’s why I’m with those kids: because it’s their reality.  A lot of them face those challenges, and…I can’t have kids facing that.”

YaYa was answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  Her response articulates more of that story of who we are as an institution: neighbors, those who accompany people on campus and off, those who feel a kinship with the students they may not know…yet.  The concept of kinship that lies beneath neighbor can make us feel uncomfortable in an institution of higher education.  Kinship requires an immediacy of access, a closeness that somehow breaks through boundaries of professionalism.  A Jesuit friend of mine, Father Greg Boyle, works in Los Angeles with youth at risk. He understands well the need in our society for inclusion, acceptance, and, kinship.

“Often we strike the high moral distance that separates ‘us’ from ‘them,’ and yet it is God’s dream come true when we recognize that there is no daylight between us.[ 188]…No daylight to separate us.  Only kinship.  Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it.  Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion.  Then we imagine no one standing outside that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased.  We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied.  We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless.  At the edges we join the easily despised and the readily left out We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop.  We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, ‘The vision still has its time, presses on for fulfillment and it will not disappoint…and if it delays, wait for it.’”2

“The vision still has its time, presses on for fulfillment.” The vision of the prophet is the vision of Santa Clara, a healing vision, an inclusive vision, a dedication to ideals of a community that welcomes all, engages all in the pursuit of truth, knowledge and beauty.  To achieve the vision requires extraordinary dedication and careful planning.  Such analytical, reflective work goes on daily on this campus.  We wrestle with questions that are not easy. How do we negotiate contracts with employees that are fair and realistic?  How do we structure an integrative curriculum to educate with breadth and depth?  How do we manage finances and shepherd investments so that financial aid reaches the most deserving students?  How do we cope with cutbacks in state funding that supports our most economically vulnerable students?  How do we best prepare students for life beyond this campus?

Our focused day-in, day-out work engages every one of us.  I find the greatest hope and inspiration not in the avalanche of journals that flow into the office, but in discussing reports from the Vice Presidents.  Most recently I studied the Provost’s 15-page report to the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.  Dr. Jacobs has chronicled the enormous achievements you have accomplished in the last four months.  I wish to highlight selected topics in his report because they demonstrate the dedicated service of so many people.  Keep in mind: If you are not explicitly mentioned, the President still loves you!

Dr. Jacobs reported on the Governance Task Force. I am committed to finalizing the recommendations received from the Governance Task Force last year.  Extensive consultation has brought refinement and clarification, and I am confident that our model of shared governance will now be enhanced and strengthened.  Further, I am encouraged by the deliberations that have gone into three other task forces. The study on Classroom Utilization advances the prudent stewardship of classroom resources and time. The task force on the Evaluation of Teaching aims to help us best recognize and reward effective teaching.  The Task Force on Communication and Collaboration is working to promote better communication across campus.  To all who have been and are involved, I extend my hearty thanks for your dedication to these major projects.

I should also cite the celebrations underway and those planned for this year.  On April 28th and at graduation the university will commemorate the 50th anniversary of undergraduate co-education.  Please check the new Alumni Association website for more immediate information. In the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Atom Yee has been hosting The Year of the Arts, which included an exhibition of faculty art in the Triton Museum in the City of Santa Clara.  

During the Centennial Year of the School of Engineering, Dean Godfrey Mungal was invited one week ago to the White House.  President Obama lauded a select group of engineering deans for "excellence and commitment to educate and graduate more engineers”. President Obama also announced the creation of a unique partnership to measure, evaluate, and celebrate excellence in retention, graduation and diversity in engineering education.  No doubt Godfrey whispered in the President’s ear that SCU’s Engineering faculty counts the largest percentage of women engineers in the nation.  He probably also told the President that Santa Clara has again been invited to compete in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, to be held next year in Irvine, California.

As our engineers and art majors prepare to graduate, our revived Career Center is helping in innovative ways. Under the leadership of the new director, Elspeth Rossetti, the On-Campus Career Fairs have featured approximately twice as many employers as last year. Elspeth and her staff are also working with and promoting LinkedIn accounts for students.  80% of employers consult this site when hiring, so we are adapting to this new social media site.

Employers and peers in all disciplines look to Santa Clara’s standing in the eyes of their respective accrediting agencies.  Many of you have been involved in the laborious exercises of continually improving curriculum, programs, and facilities -  as well as measuring student learning outcomes - to meet the ever increasing standards of excellence.  Let me offer a summary of these demanding yet often hidden efforts, undertakings that demonstrate progress on all fronts.

  • The WASC Interim Report is progressing to meet a March 1, 2013 deadline to address four areas: Program Review and Assessment, Inclusive Excellence, Shared Governance, and Integrating the JST into the University.

  • In the Leavey School of Business, the AACSB affirmed the accreditation of the School, and also received a follow-up report on matters of strategic management, student learning and assessment, and the evaluation of academic qualifications by faculty members.

  • In Engineering, all departments completed the ABET review process and received accreditation for periods of two-to-six years.  Civil Engineering will submit an additional report.
  • Our Jesuit School of Theology reports that the ATS commission reaffirmed JST's accreditation for a period of ten years for the M.TS., M.Div., and Th.M. degrees. The commission also requested three interim reports.
  • In the School of Education and Counseling Psychology, the Department of Education received full accreditation from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing with approval for the Clear Credential program.  The Department of Counseling Psychology received approval from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) for recent curricular changes.
  • In the world of Athletics, the University expects to receive any day notification of NCAA re-certification.
  • Also waiting is Dean Don Polden in the School of Law.  The Dean and his faculty and staff look with excited anticipation to the American Bar Association accreditation visit in 2014-15.

I have not counted up the number of people involved in all these accreditation processes, nor have I tabulated the hours invested in these undertakings.  What I want to affirm is the University’s deep gratitude to each of you involved in such behind-the-scenes service to this institution. You have done well, and peers and colleagues in your respective disciplines and fields recognize the high quality of your achievements.  I am proud of and thankful for your labors.

We can also take great inspiration in our Centers of Distinction.  The Markkula Center of Applied Ethics offers highly respected lectures, programs, blog sites, and web-based discussions of applied ethics in the professions.  Its website receives 2 million hits annually.  Our Center for Science, Technology, and Society approaches its 10th Anniversary.  Amazingly, its Global Social Benefit Incubator has positively impacted the lives of over 70 million people around the globe.  Our Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education has drafted a new strategic plan.  The staff is exploring a San Jose neighborhood where SCU already partners with local social agencies.  The Center wants to leverage our presence through an expanded partnership that will benefit the residents, who in turn will educate our students in the harsh realities of urban life.

These examples provide chapters in the story of who we are at Santa Clara at this time.  Though limited by time today I wanted to capture portions of the inspiring mega-narrative of who we are.  Talking about these works recognizes and affirms our many vibrant activities of the University.  In the telling of the tale we can better focus on pursuing our vision of a university educating for the transformation of our students and of our world.

Who We Are Becoming

Which leads to the second question: Who Are We Becoming?  Every week I meet with each of the Vice Presidents, and we review the past seven days and look ahead to what is coming.  From these sessions I can gauge progress on the micro-level, and there is much good news I wish to share with you.

In Enrollment Management, we once again broke records for the number of applications, both for regular and for Early Action admission.  Looking over 3 years, undergraduate applications to Santa Clara have increased 41%.  We have done this while balancing goals of ethnic, racial, economic, geographic, religious, and gender diversity.  I want to salute Mike Sexton and his entire team for their continued fine tuning of our recruiting and admitting processes.  They have promoted this 41% increase in applications with a flat operational budget and the strategic re-deployment of staff and resources.

In the Financial Aid office, the same number of people handles the increased volume of financial aid packages sent out to accepted students.  The work in that office is crucial to our enrollment success.  I should point out that this year we face a critical challenge.  Governor Brown’s proposed budget would cut 44% of the Cal Grant program for the neediest students from California who attend private colleges and universities.  We are facing a projected loss of $2.4 million dollars annually from the aid that supports 580 of our students.  These students, by the way, we retain at a rate of 96%, a figure higher than that of our general population.  These students value their education and they strive to succeed.  We are working with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities to advocate on behalf of our students. Look to see how you can help.

In terms of who we are becoming as a university, the handwriting is on the wall.  Both federal and state governments are investing less and less in higher education at a time when the nation and the state increasingly need an educated work force for international economic competition.  When I reported on these cutbacks to the Board of Trustees last Friday, their response was immediate, and positive.  They spoke of their desire to raise endowment funds to replace lost governmental funding. They want Santa Clara to build its financial resources to retain all threatened students and to preserve its diversity and academic quality.

That being said, let us turn our attention to fundraising and development.  In my most recent meeting with Rob Gunsalus, Vice President for University Relations, he provided me with figures that document the impressive progress that he and his staff have made in recent months.  Cash gifts, pledges, and commitments in estate planning all show notable improvements over last year.  In the last fiscal year, $23.6 million was raised, while as of January 31 they have already recorded $23 million.  Rob’s reorganization, careful planning, and increased contacts with donors have combined to produce these impressive results.  The percentage of Alumni who are contributing to their alma mater has also increased, so that all indicators are positive.  Further, Rob and his team are presently engaged in a campaign feasibility study to discern the areas in which donors are interested and the amounts we can reasonably expect to raise.  Student scholarships and endowed support of faculty are centerpieces of the Strategic Plan and are featured in the campaign prospectus.

The campaign will include attention to our commitment to Global Engagement.  Preparing the way for what we can become in that area, I salute the Provost’s Office for launching the campus-wide conversation on how to enhance Global Engagement.  The input and ideas from this extended dialogue will help us to craft plans to help fulfill our commitment to that part of the Strategic Plan.

Back to finances for a moment. Across the nation many universities and colleges are struggling financially.  At Santa Clara we have continued to build and hire, and we have avoided layoffs.  Searches for faculty positions have continued, and next year’s budget provides two new tenure-track lines and continued resourcing for renewable-term lecturers.  

We are also conducting searches for deans of the Jesuit School of Theology and for the School of Education and Counseling Psychology; for a new university librarian; for a new director of Human Resources; and for a number of positions in University Relations.

The budget includes a salary merit pool, which, though modest at 2%, is, nonetheless, an increase.  We shall create a new position and hire an Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion to continue our momentum for inclusive excellence.  Further, we are increasing financial aid that targets African American students.  We shall prepare all our students better for the diverse world around us by becoming evermore inclusive in the education we offer.

We are also working to become better resourced in our facilities.  Last fall we opened the University Villas, with housing for 400 juniors and seniors.  This summer we shall complete the new Graham residence hall, with housing for 350 students, modern conveniences, and two classrooms.  We are planning further buildings on campus that include a new art and art history building, a parking garage on the north side of campus, a new building for the law school (and a facelift and renovation of Bannan Hall).  We are ambitious, ambitious because we believe that the alumni and friends of Santa Clara share the belief of the faculty and staff that Santa Clara faces a brilliant future.

Fundraising, student applications, a vigorous new core curriculum, the advent of electronic student work portfolios, and the continued recognition of faculty scholarship and creative work all point to the Santa Clara that is realizing more of its potential as a force for transforming students into leaders.

Are We Happy?

There remains the third question I posed earlier, “Are We Happy?” Last week at the monthly meeting of the Faculty Senate Council, Sociology professor Chuck Powers asked a question of me and of the Provost.  He did not say if this was for a scholarly study he was conducting, though he listened attentively to our responses.  Chuck smiled when he posed this two-part query:  “What makes for a good week and what makes for a bad week for you?”  I have reflected on that inquiry a number of times since then.  For a bad week, you would not be surprised that I worry about our economic challenges, how we treat our labor force on campus, the increased competition in higher education, the flat operating budgets, the NCAA’s oppressive regime in athletics, and the Governor’s proposal to cut by 44% state scholarships for our neediest students.  The discovery of an intrusion into our grade records was a low point for the year.  The FBI has not concluded its investigation, which also dampens spirits. Such matters make for a tough week.  But you would probably say to me, yes, that is why they pay you the big bucks.  With a Vow of Poverty, however, there have to be other reasons to love this work.

I pondered a number of times about what makes a good week.  I had to pause, not because there were few reasons for joy, but because I am so amazed by all the good you are accomplishing here at Santa Clara.  You build a vibrant community, and I see that bonds of kinship enfold this institution.  I thought back to Welcome Weekend in September, when students arrived with parents to move in, meet roommates, and start their collegiate careers.  We closed the activities of the weekend on Sunday morning with an outdoor Mass to bless the new students and to send off parents.

One mother later wrote me an email to describe the reactions of her family. They are Jewish.

“On the last morning of Welcome Weekend I forced my son and my husband to go to Mass.  My son:  ‘Mass? I am a Jew.  I don’t go to Mass.’ My Husband, ‘Really? Why do we have to go to Mass?’  I said it was because it was for everyone and that it was the last ‘organized’ activity as a community and that they had to go.  I pulled that very ‘Momish,’ do-it-for me card, and they both complied. …once there I pointed out all the similarities between the Catholic service and the Jewish service on Saturday…  But the ENTIRE experience changed at the very end when the priest asked parents to put their hands on the shoulders of their freshmen.  I knew what was coming and when Jews say the blessing over the children, we place our hands on their heads and/or faces.  The priest asked us to join him in English but we did it in Hebrew: The Lord Bless you and keep you (Yivarech che cha Adonai v’yishmarecha)…may His will be gracious to you (Ya’er Adonai panav eleicha)…[while] more than a thousand people said this together in English and we said it to our son in Hebrew, I saw…all the years [our son] LOVED receiving the blessing from us at countless Friday night Shabbat meals…I saw all of that as tears finally rolled down my cheeks knowing we were letting him go to his next chapter [of life] and I was so happy that we were providing the opportunity to send him off with a blessing that was familiar and that was something that meant so much to all of us.”

What is a good week?  A good week comes when kinship emerges clearly, when our actions are a blessing for others, when no one is excluded or marginalized.  A good week happens when athletes display sportsmanship, when student dancers excel on stage, when students tell me of amazing classes, and when parents write about helpful and courteous staff members who care for their sons and daughters. A week brightens when I learn of the hard work of so many across campus to manage and contain the intrusion into the grade records.  A wonderful week results when students find the support they need in Cowell Health Center, in the Rainbow Resource Room, in ROTC, the Career Center, in Campus Ministry, the Office of Multicultural Learning, in faculty offices, and at the desks of staff members.  

A good week makes me happy.  A good week confirms that I have committed my life to a noble enterprise, alongside colleagues who share my belief that what we do here helps to build a better, more just world.  I am happy – and I trust you are as well - when we extend the blessing of belonging, of inclusion, of exploration and searching in this living organism called a university.  Here we strive to extend our happiness.  We want our students to experience the joy of discovering more of their talents, their values, their true selves, and all that makes up their amazing, God-given individualism.  


Let me conclude.  Earlier I quoted Quentin Orem, the recent graduate Fr. McCarthy interviewed.  Quentin made one final comment I wish to share.  After describing the support he experienced from all of us while he was at Santa Clara, he stated “…When you are loved like that, just because of who you are, and [encounter] that freedom [to be yourself], it frees you to be whatever it is that you need to be for God’s people.”  And what do God’s people need?  They depend on us at SCU to provide the best education possible that inspires our students, that transforms our students, that equips our students with the passion and knowledge to change the world for the better.  God’s people need what you and I do to the best of our abilities.  And when we do all we can, when we hear from graduates and parents that we have made such a difference, when lives are changed, that makes for a good week.

Thank you very much.

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1. Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, quoted in James Keane, S.J., “Varieties of Religious Experience,” in The Jesuit Post, 25 January 2012. Retrieved from

2. Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (New York, 2010), p. 188, 190.