Santa Clara University

Office of the President

Convocation Address, 2011


Mission Church, SCU
13 September 2011


Thank you, Provost Jacobs, for that introduction.  Thank you all for being here today. I particularly appreciate the inspiring remarks of Dr. Davis-Sowers. The image of Joshua going forth is one that is very helpful as we face the new academic year. Dennis was very good about welcoming so many new people here. We do welcome you, Dennis, as well. We are very pleased to have you on board as our new provost, and happy that your wife Thea could be here as well. 

I planned to introduce Father William Rewak, S.J., our new Chancellor, except I sent him on a mission to Scranton, PA to represent me at the inauguration of Fr. Kevin Quinn who was on our staff here as head of the Ignatian Center. Kevin will be inaugurated as president of Scranton University this Friday.

Lastly, I would like to make mention of our new executive director of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Father Mick McCarthy, S.J., the Edmund Campion, S.J. University Professor from the departments of Classics and Religious Studies.

Today I would like to share some information with you on certain things about the new class; about campus construction; and about plans for this new year.  Then I shall turn to three reflections, questions on the larger picture of what we do at Santa Clara.


Incoming Class

First let me begin with an update before the reflections. Our incoming class will be 1,290 students, arriving on Saturday. As they move in, it will be a scene of organized chaos and great excitement. We are very happy to have so many coming from 39 states and from 17 countries beyond the U.S. 40% come from out-of-state. They will be joined by 220 transfer students.  The gender balance has been maintained at a 50/50 split. We have 36.3% students of color - a slight decrease from last year and something we are working on the coming year to make sure there is no repeat. The average GPA of the class is 3.6 and their average SAT and ACT scores are in the top 15% of their classes from high school. We are very pleased with the quality and number of students coming in.  Thanks to the hard work of the Admissions and Financial Aid staffs for making this happen.


Also on campus you may have noticed there are new buildings going up. The enrollment services building is underway to modernize the outdated facilities for Admissions, Financial Aid, the Registrar, and the Bursar. This will be not only a welcome center but also a one-stop shop for when students who wish to enroll here. That means Varsi and Walsh will have vacant space. The provost and I are in conversation about how best to reallocate those spaces. We know how universities abhor a vacuum when it comes to office space.

Secondly, last week there were tours of the new University Villas on Campbell Avenue. These are townhouses we are leasing for 384 students. We have 96% occupancy according to Jane Barrantes. So if you would like to live with 384 students, we have a few extra rooms available.

Last of all, on graduation day we started knocking down the old Graham Apartment complex and a new complex is going up on the same footprint. It will be four storeys high in most places and will accommodate 100 more students, in more modern facilities. I want to thank Joe Sugg, Jeff Charles and all the crews for making these things happen, as well as all the other campus improvements that go on to make us look good at the beginning of the school year.

University Highlights

In terms of university achievements and updates, we have read about Forbes Magazine ranking our undergraduate education in the top 70 schools. We don’t make too much of that, but it is nice to be ranked ahead of UC Berkeley. Today they are releasing figures from U.S. News and World Report, and you will hear more about that soon. We have maintained our rankings there as regional universities in the West.

In the world of sports the NCAA reaccreditation process takes place every ten years. This massive undertaking began last year under the chairmanship of Gary Neustadter from the Law School, and a steering committee. As we nearly finished the program, the NCAA decided to change the whole process. They have assured us they will not need to do an on-site visit. Only three small areas concerned them, and we will address them. We should have reaccreditation secured by February. That’s true progress, and I salute all the members of the committee and Dan Coonan and all his staff in Athletics.

You have heard the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences has been established, with a new major. Congratulations to all those who were involved in this, which helps our sustainability initiative move forward.

In terms of celebrations, the Law School is wrapping up its Centennial celebration. Don Polden throws a great party, getting great publicity in the newspapers. The Law School has done many things to note their 100 years and launch the next 100 years.

And as you leave the Mission Church today, you will receive flyers announcing the Centennial for the School of Engineering. Look for Dean Godfrey Mungal and his team and the celebrations coming this year as we recognize the good work in engineering this past century and what is coming up.

Speaking of deans, this year we will search for two deans: one in the School of Education & Counseling Psychology, and the other in the Jesuit School of Theology. We will be announcing search committees in the coming months.

Another anniversary - it was brought to my attention this summer by Kathy Kale, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, that a significant milestone occurs this year. It will be the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to undergraduate education at Santa Clara. Kathy and a group of alumni and faculty have been meeting about this. You will hear announcements about appropriate celebrations as we mark this milestone in the history of Santa Clara. Kathy and her staff are recovering from Vintage on Sunday, when they hosted over 2000 people on the Mission grounds.

Finally, a major accomplishment was the Task Force on Governance. The Task Force filed its report, submitted its recommendations, and completed its task. The truly collaborative effort involving representatives of staff, faculty, and administration who worked all of last year examining what works and what could be improved in the shared governance model we have here at Santa Clara. I congratulate them for the report. I have entrusted the report to the University Coordinating Council, chaired by Mike Myers, which in turn will be posting the report and sharing results with the campus community to get your feedback.With the completion of the task force, I wish to recognize all the members of the Task Force: from the staff – Jacqueline Wender, Jim Rowan, and Gail Gradowski; from the faculty - the chair, Jane Curry, Andre Delbeqc, and Leilani Miller; and from the Administration - Jeanne Rosenberger, Don Polden, and Bob Warren.


On vacation this summer I enjoyed time to read a bit more broadly than the academic year usually allows. Lying in my hammock, at a cabin high in the Sierras, in a beautiful forest, I worked my way through piles of books and articles: accumulated history journals (including Barbara Maloney’s presidential address for the West Coast Branch of the American Historical Association); works of fiction and poetry, and studies on education and spirituality. If you have a chance, I would recommend Louis Menand’s essays in the New Yorker, titled “Why We Have College.”

When I left my mountain-top hammock, I returned to the completion of stage one of our Strategic Plan and the launch of stage two. With your help we drafted that Strategic Plan, and in February the Trustees approved it. I then turned it over to the Deans, Directors of the Centers of Distinction, and various unit heads to envision concretely how we will implement the Strategic Plan. They took their charge seriously. They responded with183 individual proposals for new initiatives. And it only amounts to $653 million! And then there were requests to expand and develop existing programs. Then when I asked how they would repurpose funds or what we would delete,that was a shorter section of the replies.

The President’s Staff, with the help of Jim Briggs whom I brought back on this, assessed each proposal for its potential to:

  • advance one or more of the 5 strategic priorities,
  • impact the breadth and depth of student learning,
  • develop institutional capacity, and
  • impact institutional reputation.

It was an interesting spreadsheet we had at the end with all the rankings.

The Provost will now meet on retreat with the Deans, and then with the Directors of the Centers of Distinction, to review the findings, seek clarification, and check for omissions. These deliberations will be shared with the President’s Staff, and then I will work in turn with the Planning Action Council for broader consultation. The Development Office then will take these findings and will test our potential for raising funds for the final priorities. Then we will begin the quiet phase of the next fund raising campaign. As you know some of these studies began last year, in terms of size and composition of the faculty, and now we are talking about space. A lot of work is going on to make sure it is all coordinated. I will continue to keep you informed as this moves forward.

This type of work, down in the weeds, is where I spent much of my day.  I would suspect that many of you find yourselves in similar circumstances of that nose-to-the-grindstone daily labor to meet deadlines, goals, budgets, and other demands placed on you by reasonable administrators. Today I invite you to reflect with me on our day-in, day-out routines and how they contribute to the broader mission. I want to focus with you on this more comprehensive view of Santa Clara and ask three questions about why we do what we do.

  • First of all, individually and collectively, what do we expect of this university in educating and modeling for students how to live in a diverse world? In other words, how do we promote inclusive excellence?
  • Secondly, what do we contribute that is unique among the educational institutions in the Bay Area? Do we do something special to educate for ethics and integrity?
  • Thirdly, what does it mean to be a faculty or staff member at a mission-driven institution?

My goal today is to look at three topics holistically, topics that often get segmented and compartmentalized. In other words, I wish to “connect the dots” in terms of inclusion, integrity, and university mission.

First, when I arrived, we were deep in the process of preparing for our WASC reaccreditation. I am delighted that through the work of so many of you and under the guidance of Diane Jonte-Pace, we have received the maximum renewal of ten years. That news gladdens all of us. The Chair of the Visiting Team was so impressed that he nominated Diane Jonte-Pace for canonization! Amidst the warm commendations we received there were also areas where we have not met as fully as we could the goals we set for ourselves. One of these was “Promoting a Community of Inclusive Excellence.”

The WASC visiting Team and the WASC Commissioners made various suggestions for continued efforts, and I wish to focus on “promoting inclusive excellence.”

Promoting Inclusive Excellence

We have made progress in this area over the years. The visiting team found “a thoughtful and thorough integration of the concept of inclusive excellence in the academic life of the University.” 1 They offered a balanced assessment and applauded inclusion of diversity in the core curriculum, in our programs for student recruitment, and in the graduation rate of most under-represented minority students. Our peers on the WASC commission, however, expected more from an institution of our standing. We, too, hold ourselves to higher standards, and, as such, we have potential for growth and improvement. The area they pointed out was in the hiring and retention of African-America faculty and in the recruitment, admission and graduation rates of African-American students.

Let me approach inclusive excellence from the context of our mission. In the Jesuit tradition of education, the study of diverse cultures is a centuries-old practice. Foreign languages, geography, Greek and Latin literature, and the history of other peoples have been integral in the curricula of Jesuit institutions since the sixteenth century.

More recently, educators in Jesuit schools have focused on developing inter-religious dialogue beyond traditional Catholic-Protestant or Christian-Jewish dialogue. In Jesuit thinking other peoples, countries, and cultures help us to see more fully the humanity that we possess, humanity created by God, humanity created in God’s own image. In our studies of and interactions with other peoples and cultures, we encounter the infinities of the divine presence in our world. We come closer to the sacred when we immerse ourselves in a world of wonder at all we experience in humanity and in creation. When we ponder, reflect, and discuss the meaning of such pluralism, we learn more about the God who delights in such diversity. We also learn more about what it means for us to be more fully human.

This tradition sounds impressive in retrospect and in theory. It is much more challenging to continue and update that tradition in a Catholic, Jesuit university. Diverse peoples, pedagogies, lifestyles, races and ethnicities, languages, beliefs, political opinions, socio-economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations – all of this diversity can overwhelm or threaten how we pursue inclusive excellence. As Mark Ravizza, S.J. from the Philosophy Department has noted, the noun here at Santa Clara is “university,” and the adjectives are “Catholic” and “Jesuit.” We do all that universities do, and we do it with an all-embracing openness. We do what Catholic institutions do because of our grounding in a living tradition that continues to reflect on the new things that emerge in our world, and we look at it from the faith tradition that is so deeply rooted here. This is Catholic with a large C, as in Roman Catholic, and catholic with a small C as in universal, open to all things. In the Jesuit tradition, that means, “All learning, all intellectual disciplines shed light on the created world and point beyond to the Source of truth.” 2

At this institution, we welcome diversity in the context of the Jesuit and Catholic traditions of inclusion, social justice, and commitment to the common good. The presence of diverse voices lends credibility and new depth to fulfilling our mission. With these philosophical and pedagogical thoughts in mind, last year I asked the Council on Inclusive Excellence to examine this topic and make recommendations to me on what would most benefit Santa Clara. The penultimate draft of the report is prepared; the recommendations will soon be finalized at the Council’s coming meetings this year. I look forward to moving ahead in this area and committing resources to realize all we aspire to do in this area, so that we can better model to our students what we value in this world of diverse peoples and cultures.

Concern for Ethics

Then I got onto a second set of reflections. As a campus community, we hold certain shared beliefs. In a previous address to you I observed that we share a common faith in the power of education to transform lives. We are committed to the worth of every individual. We believe that interactions among people must be respectful and honest.  I would add that a rigorous, inclusive education of the whole person requires shared values and a shared concern for ethics.  At Santa Clara we are committed to ethical behavior and to education in ethics and integrity. 

As parents, alumni, and friends of the University who look to us to promote positive individual and social conduct, they ask that we introduce students to the professional standards of our respective disciplines – how to be a good scientist, how to be a good historian, how to do accurate research and not cut corners.  They believe, with us, that educating for ethics and integrity is a fundamental element of the SCU mission.

As one prominent attorney mentioned to me: Santa Clara should be stirring the conscience of Silicon Valley. That means we ought to be asking the questions in our research, in our conferences and in our teaching, on how to live rightly, as individuals, as corporations, as a community, in government. We are uniquely positioned to graduate alumni equipped with values and ethics who are prepared to ask questions for the common good, about the rights of all, and about the needs of the most marginalized. And I would suggest that in asking these questions, this sets Santa Clara apart from other institutions.

Last spring we had family weekend, and a whole group of parents came rushing up to me to talk about Kirk Hanson and what he had said.  Kirk, the Executive Director of our Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, had addressed parents on a workshop about the top ten ethical issues facing first-year college students. I was intrigued by this topic.  Not long after his talk came the article on the same subject that appeared on the Huffington Post. 3 Then I heard about Markkula Center’s weekly blog, “The Big Q,” that continues to post cases with ethical dilemmas.4

These are really interesting topics for all of us who work with young people.
Questions that students face: The proper role of parents in one’s college education; dealing with roommates; cheating; sex; when to call the EMTs when a friend has been drinking; and what about Facebook posting and cyberbullying. One topic concerns inclusive excellence. “How will I act with people who are different me?”This issue is worth quoting in full:

  • “Your decisions about how you will deal with diversity may start before you even get to campus, when you must decide whether to live in a racially or ethnically themed dorm. Or the questions may arise when you’re invited to a “Ghetto” or “Fresh off the Boat” or “South of the Border” theme party.  How will you answer? How will you treat people from other backgrounds? How much do you want to move outside your own group?” [See also David Brooks column in the New York Times, 13 September 2011] 5

Teaching ethics involves each and every one of us here at Santa Clara. At this university, we really promote integrity in the classrooms, in the residence halls, on sports teams, on research projects, in the offices where our students work. Each of us plays  valuable roles for modeling ethical behavior whether in our academic disciplines, at work, with our peers and with fellow workers.  We all contribute to this ethical ethos each time we consider what is right and wrong, and choose the right.

From our habits of the mind and heart that every one of us at Santa Clara can affect our students. Through our graduates we touch the Silicon Valley. We stir consciences of others about ethical behavior. We graduate people with a personal integrity that can serve them for life and serve our world.

Mission-driven University

My third musing today focuses on what it means to be a faculty or staff member at a mission-driven university. I have emphasized the vital role each of us plays in fulfilling Santa Clara’s commitment to inclusion and ethics. We are models and mentors, no matter if we are conscious of this fact every day. Students observe us, they watch us, they listen to us. At times we might wonder, "What good have I accomplished in this class, in this work project in the office? What really has been the benefit of this?" We might ask, "Why did I ever bother doing all this hard work. I don’t see the immediate results."

I don’t want to lose track of why we work so hard at this student-centered institution. I want to emphasize this by sharing a letter with you, which I read a to our 72 newly trained Community Facilitators, students who function as more than R.A.s in the residence halls. Part of their CF training occurred off campus, where they were observed. The letter was from one bystander who observed these students and was duly impressed with their behavior. I was deeply touched by what he wrote, “You should be rightly thankful for these young people; they are your best ambassadors…They are a tribute to a class institution.”

I refer to this letter because you are the ones who help make this possible. You are the ones who educate, model and mentor. It shows what we contribute to the development of our students and it goes beyond the classroom setting. We seldom see the greater results of our efforts, so it is very important to hear how your work has helped fulfill the mission of the school.


In conclusion, I want to offer with a tribute to two people who have embodied their respective careers at Santa Clara. Mary Emery graduated as one of the first women in our School of Law, returned as a member of the faculty, and served in administration. She championed the inclusion of women and other marginalized faculty, staff, and students just as she promoted rigorous standards of legal education. The mission of the university was no abstract ideal for her, but a charter of principles by which she lived her life on this campus. Wise, combative, intelligent, dedicated, Mary Emery reminds us how working for effective inclusive excellence and ethical behavior enables each of us to contribute to fulfilling the mission and the potential of Santa Clara.

Don Dodson, I am happy to report, is very much alive, though he has retired from the University after 34 years of service. We lauded him in the spring, and today I am grateful in particular for his guidance in the work of the Council on Inclusive Excellence and for his work this summer in his careful mentoring of our new provost, Dennis Jacobs.

I suggest that Don and Mary manifested how diversity, integrity, and the university mission are inextricably linked. I also suggest that we best honor the legacies of Mary and Don by our efforts to meet these and future challenges as we live out the ideals of this mission. They have set the bar very high for us. They knew, however, that we are capable of rising to challenges - Santa Clara has done it again and again. Now we can meet the latest challenges that face us as we aspire to provide the best education to the students of this university that we cherish.

Thank you very much.

Michael E. Engh, S.J.

  1. Ralph A. Wolff, Letter to Michael Engh, S.J., 5 July 2011.
  2. Robert V. Caro, SJ, “Ethnic Diversity and Religious Identity in U.S. Catholic Higher Education,” Current Issues in Catholic Higher Education, vol. 25 (2006): 212.
  3. HuffpostCollege (2011, May 3). Top 10 Ethical Questions For Incoming Students. Retrieved from
  4. The Big Q. Retrieved from
  5. Brooks, David (2011, September 12). If It Feels Right… New York Times. Retrieved from
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