Santa Clara University

Office of the President

Convocation Address, 2010


Mission Church, SCU
14 September 2010


Thank you, Don, for the introduction, and for your willingness to serve this year as our Interim Provost. Your experience and leadership have been a great aid to me already, and we are fortunate for your long view of the Santa Clara tradition in education.

Welcome to all of you gathered here on the cusp of launching a new year. The energy level on campus has been amping up in recent days, and I am pleased to be able to join you in launching a new academic year, the 160th here at Santa Clara.

I want to repeat Don’s welcome to Dr. Rob Gunsalus, our new Vice President for University Relations. He comes with impressive experience and credentials, and I look forward to working with him. I also look forward to continuing work with Jim Purcell in his new capacities.

Soon to arrive are the new students, some 1300 strong in the first-year class, from 40 states and 20 countries. We shall also welcome 222 transfer students. Thanks to the hard work of the admissions and financial aid staff, we have met our first-year enrollment target. We shall soon receive a class with the highest SAT scores in the history of the University, along with impressive records of activities, immersion experiences, sports played, and volunteer service offered. Graduate enrollments are equally strong, and the deans and their respective staff members are to be congratulated.

Workers around campus are putting the final touches on renovations in residence halls, Benson, the Mission Church, and numerous other projects –thanks to the hard work of Joe Sugg, Jane Barrantes, and their staffs. WASC re-accreditation work is progressing under the watchful eye of Diane Jonte-Pace, with reports to be filed this quarter. There is also re-accreditation of our athletics program. NCAA comes once every ten years – and they’re on their way. I thank Gary Neustadter from the Law School for heading up the NCAA re-accreditation committee.

I also want to thank all those involved with the Strategic Plan. Extensive input and numerous drafts later, we have a document to present to the trustees for their consideration next month. Drafting and revising this text has involved the Planning Action Council, the Provost’s Office, the President’s Staff, a faculty committee, and many of you who commented and offered feedback. The dialogue and the input have produced a strong and aspirational document, about which I have comments to make in a few moments.

Given all this activity – which does not even begin to address integration of JST and implementation of the new Core Curriculum - Don Dodson offered me some advice for this address. Don suggested that we – faculty, staff, administrators - needed to pause at the beginning of the new year and recall why we are doing so much. He suggested it would be helpful for us to remember that all this labor helps us fulfill the mission of the University. To focus on the big picture today, I invite you to reflect with me in what we might call a “Dodson Moment.” Let us step back, focus on our shared mission, and then link these values to our ongoing endeavors.


My reflections over the summer went back to my time in Mexico City this April. As you recall, Paul Locatelli, S.J. organizaed an international conference, “Shaping the Future,” which brought together 180 leaders of Jesuit colleges and universities. Our keynote speaker was Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. When he addressed us, he observed the difficulties we educators face when instructing students immersed in a world of blogs, text messaging, pagers, virtual friends, iPods, and viral videos. He named the exchange of a great deal of ill-informed and poorly thought-out opinion as the “globalization of superficiality.” Such intellectual mediocrity feeds fundamentalism, fanaticism, ideology, and “all those other escapes from thinking that cause suffering for so many.”

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás challenged his audience “to study the emerging cultural world of our students more deeply and find creative ways of promoting depth of thought and imagination, a depth that is transformative of the person.” Using the new means of communication, he urged “Jesuit universities to work towards operational international networks that will address important issues touching faith, justice, and ecology that challenge us across countries and continents.” He suggested we use information technology to link our universities in very concrete, practical ways. He concluded with a plea for us “to counter the inequality of knowledge distribution,” urging that we search for “creative ways of sharing the fruits of research with the excluded.” Finally, he asked for “a renewed commitment to the Jesuit tradition [of learned ministry] which mediates between faith and culture.” In other words, he asked Jesuit institutions to take the richness of university life and bring it into dialogue with all the challenges that come out of a life of faith.

Fr. Nicolás' address affected me deeply. He offered the view of the Big Picture. In re-reading his remarks, I have pondered how best to adapt our Santa Clara education to this ever evolving world. Again and again, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás reminded us that the Jesuit approach to education has always required the teaching of imagination, creativity, and critical analysis. These enable us to develop human potential and advance knowledge and the arts, for the good of the individual and for the benefit of the common good of others.

Justice and Sustainability

My reflections led me to wonder: How can we at Santa Clara go further? In a rapidly changing culture, how do we engage in new ways with these pressing issues? I returned to my inaugural address in which I spoke of justice and sustainability. As you recall, I envisioned that Santa Clara could become a leader for such research, programming, and activity about these pressing social needs. I stated that, “I believe we can lead in the development and promotion of practices, businesses, and technologies that will ensure a viable and just future for all.”

In my enthusiasm, however, I underestimated a few matters. First, a number of people – important people –mistook my message as that of a radical, progress-hating, tree-hugging, spotted-owl-loving, stop-all-development-of-the-land eco-nut. Others worried that I was chasing a passing fad and had given up on Santa Clara’s long tradition of promoting social justice. Sustainability looked too trendy, too elitist, too first-world, and too unconcerned with the poor. Certain people wondered, “how does MY discipline have anything to do with sustainability and justice?” Finally, the initiative I wished to promote felt the immediate pinch of restricted resources during our economic recession.

I have since read more widely and focused more clearly on sustainability. Thank you, Keith Warner, Leslie Gray, Lindsey Cromwell and others for reading materials and long discussions. Now I have defined my terms more precisely and linked more closely the importance of sustainability with appropriate development and wealth generation for the poor. I have reaffirmed Santa Clara’s institutional concern for the poor in my own personal involvement through

  • my trips to our Casa de la Solidaridad program in El Salvador;
  • support of the creative Justice and the Arts program;
  • support of the faculty-staff delegation to El Salvador and funding another delegation to Nogales, Arizona;
  • endorsing the Hunger Index program of Drew Starbird in the Leavey School of Business; and
  • the exploration of a possible new Casa-style foreign-study program with USF and the Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines.

Several other programs and initiatives express my vision. Let me cite several that fulfill the University’s mission by advancing sustainability and justice.

Joe Sugg, Assistant Vice President for University Operations, proposed and pursued the development of an energy SmartGrid project here on campus. Working with an outside energy firm, Joe and his team are investigating the feasibility for 1.0 megawatt capacity fuel cell generation on campus to reduce our dependence on outside energy. They are also working on the feasibility for 400 kilowatt capacity fuel cell generation to heat our pool in the Kennedy Aquatic center. There are a myriad of details to work out for the SmartGrid – like funding – but we have already been approached by major Silicon Valley companies interested in following and supporting the smart eco-grid effort.

I have also been happy to endorse the partnership of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, the Environmental Studies Institute, and the Office of Sustainability in planning The Sustainability Initiativeat Santa Clara, a year-long program of lectures, workshops on sustainability across the curriculum, and a Sustainability Teach-In in the spring. Further, the Ignatian Center will host this year’s session of Western Conversations in Jesuit Education here at Santa Clara on the theme of Sustainability and Justice on Jesuit Campuses. I am pleased to support this meeting and the Initiative that enable us to advance the mission of the University.

I have found impressive work this past year in our Center for Science, Technology, and Society. Co-directors Radha Basu and Jeff Miller sponsored $30,000 in faculty and student research projects to promote global social benefit. Presentations last spring included Senior Capstone Projects of engineering students funded by these research grants. Once again, I could see impressive synthesis of student learning, concern for the poor, and sustainability.

One example: Ryan Clark, Molly Dunphy, and Mindy Yoneshiga developed a water filtration and distribution system for the village of Parajillos, Honduras. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 devastated most rural water systems in Honduras and left rural communities without safe drinking water. Our students designed a system for filtration, storage, and distribution of water. It utilizes local construction materials and the community’s capabilities for maintaining the system. The system should meet the projected needs for the next 20 years.

Other communities can replicate this system to provide clean water in an economical and sustainable manner. One NGO, the Global Water Brigades, will be able to utilize this design as part of its goal of providing clean water in Central America. Here we see an instance of our mission being fulfilled: students educated in their discipline who applied their knowledge to solving problems – “creating a more just, humane, and sustainable world.”

To educate students best, we need always to invest in our faculty. After my inaugural address, I convened a faculty meeting for brainstorming about how best to move my initiative forward. Excellent ideas emerged that unhappily collided with the realities of the economic recession. Undaunted, a number of faculty continued further discussion and produced a proposal for a five-year Sustainability Research Initiative.

Led by Amy Shachter, the Initiative is designed to develop substantial research focused on justice and sustainability by increasing funds for faculty research and enhancing research collaboration in these areas across disclipines on campus. It includes a research retreat, competitive research grants, and professional development grants. I would anticipate that it will also enable the hiring of student research assistants. After five years, the goal is for Santa Clara to be recognized more broadly as a leader in research and creative activity focused on sustainability and justice.

To demonstrate the Administration’s commitment, I have secured support for the first three years of the Initiative at $115,000 per year. I intend to continue to seek funding for two more years. I want to congratulate Amy Shachter and her colleagues for their perseverance with this proposal. This Initiative helps to implement my vision for Santa Clara’s leadership in our commitment to justice and contributes to fulfilling the mission of the University.

These four examples bring us back to our reflective “Dodson Moment:” why do we do all this? These creative and imaginative undertakings all derive their inspiration from our mission at Santa Clara, a mission to educate citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion. Here we cultivate knowledge and faith in order to build a more just, humane, and sustainable world. This vision has a vibrant confidence in human potential blessed by God, and it draws on our deepest shared belief in the power of knowledge to change the world for the better. We educate the whole person and we impact society, one life at a time, because of our great care for each individual.

I know you believe in this mission. I have heard you voice your concern for the University that manifested to me your commitment to the ideals of the educational mission we all share. You have continued to contribute generously back to the University: one-third of a million dollars in gifts to the University from 325 individual faculty and staff, along with two-thirds of a million dollars from the salaries of the Jesuits. What president would not be heartened in the time of a recession by such dedication, loyalty, and generosity?

Strategic Plan

And we continue. In the coming year there are further and immense possibilities for good here at Santa Clara, good that is transformative of values and lives, good that is expansive and global, good that results from the leadership that we offer in teaching, research, and service. The long-awaited and much discussed revision of the University’s Strategic Plan goes to the trustees next month. I believe this Plan is rooted in the strengths of the University and addresses areas where we need to enhance resources. Noting opportunities, the Plan aspires towards realistic goals.

Let me outline some of the highlights of the Plan.

1. Excellence in Jesuit Education. A Santa Clara education is distinguished by the formation of the whole person, who has the knowledge and skills to act effectively (competence), the determination to reason morally about personal and institutional decisions (conscience), and the capacity to feel solidarity with the poor and powerless as well as the will to relieve suffering (compassion). Cultivating the three C’s – competence, conscience and compassion – requires an ever more integrated approach to Jesuit education. Our major goals are

  • the full implementation of the new undergraduate Core Curriculum with a revision of resources needed for success, and
  • integration of the Jesuit School of Theology more thoroughly into the life of the University, so that we establish ourselves as a national and international leader in theological study, scholarship and interreligious dialogue.

2. Engagement with Silicon Valley. Our unique location as the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley affords us immense opportunities for internships, research, and service. By strengthening ties with our surrounding communities, the University can offer students, faculty, and staff singular opportunities to learn from and contribute to both the leading institutions and the most marginalized groups in Silicon Valley.

This means more formal partnerships with Silicon Valley companies and other organizations involved in local internships, community-based learning placements, and local research projects. This means identifying and strengthening distinctive academic niches, especially at the graduate level, that will allow us to educate future leaders of Silicon Valley and beyond.

3. Global Understanding. Santa Clara should extend its ties around the world to offer our students a deeper understanding of the global context of their lives and work. We can do this through our own faculty and their work in faculty exchange programs; in the courses we offer; and in our study abroad programs. We can attract more international students and visiting scholars to bring their international perspectives to enrich our academic community. We can also do it through new partnerships within the world-wide network of Jesuit universities.

I was very impressed by students at our Casa program in El Salvador. They said there is a challenge when you go to Casa, put forward by Jon Sobrino, one of the Jesuits at Universidad Centroamericana. That challenge is not to lose touch with reality, global reality. As one student phrased it, study at the Casa “bursts the bubble” of our reality at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.

4. Justice and Sustainability. I have addressed this goal, but I repeat: I believe that Santa Clara can distinguish itself further by advancing academic and public understanding of the ways in which social justice and sustainability intersect. As the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley, we are in an excellent position to explore the connections between a healthy environment, just societies, and a vibrant economy that can meet people’s fundamental needs, especially the needs of the global poor.

5. Our Academic Community. Santa Clara must continue to strengthen the quality and diversity of the academic community – our faculty, staff, and students – and provide the infrastructure they need to make the University’s vision a reality. We shall begin with renewed investment in the faculty, increasing the number of full-time faculty, and providing more time and resources for them to engage in scholarship and creative work. This is aspirational. This is what we are studying very carefully.

We shall recruit more strategically students who have the preparation and motivation to take full advantage of Santa Clara’s distinctive educational experience. Our vision depends upon retaining experienced and effective staff, many of whom contribute directly to learning and scholarship, and all of whom help create the financial, technological, and operational conditions for a successful university. Our outstanding staff rises to the occasion.

I am proposing these five goals to the trustees next month, along with data on needed financial resources to meet these aspirations. Don Dodson and Bob Warren, along with their respective staffs, will broaden the scope of the capacity studies begun last spring. Your helpful comments and suggestions will be included in these deliberations. As visionary and aspirational as we want to be, economic feasibility will be one criterion to help determine our priorities going forward. Prioritization of goals is essential because it is clear that financially we cannot simultaneously:

  • increase the proportion of full-time faculty;
  • increase the percentage of courses taught by tenure-stream faculty members; and
  • reduce the teaching load for research-active tenure-stream faculty.

We are now into the next stage of our planning. The Planning Action Council will address these findings and share information with you.


Let me conclude with some final observations. I see this academic year as a pivotal one for Santa Clara. We are setting the course for the future, facing the challenges that our aspirations present, and making important decisions to advance the mission of the University. I want to assure you that my regular communication with you will continue in the coffee sessions and monthly updates. Actually, I have more to say that concerns the WASC re-accreditation process; the Governance review to improve our existing shared governance structure; the Strategic Plan; and the hiring of a new Provost. But the goals are before us.

Before we depart, I wish to offer one final word of tribute. In reflecting on the University mission, no one person embodied it in quite the way that Paul Locatelli did in his 20 years as president. His drive for academic excellence, his passion for social justice, and his outreach across campus and beyond provide us with a vibrant legacy. There are few places on campus where I can walk and not see Paul’s hand. We honor him best when we carry on his labors and fulfill the mission of this University. I pray that we have that breadth of vision, that depth of heart, and that keenness of mind, so that – like Paul – we might keep the mission alive in ever changing times. This is the goal we have ahead of us this year. This is the goal we have as our great legacy. Thank you all very much.

Thank you all very much.

Michael E. Engh, S.J.

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