Santa Clara University

Office of the President

 

President's Convocation

September 15, 2009

 

Welcome

This year we begin with something new, a joint convocation with faculty and staff. We also commence with a new school added to the University, about which I shall speak in a moment. We gather as the nation’s economy struggles, and neighboring universities cut faculty and staff positions, while also turning away students. Sobering times, and yet I am hopeful and energized. At Santa Clara we have avoided terminating positions, hired new faculty and staff, and retained a full enrollment, thanks to the efforts—and sacrifices—of many. There is much to hearten us, and I would like to address several topics that concern our progress and strengths.
  1. Jesuit School of Theology

More than two years ago, the president of the Jesuit School of Theology approached USF and Santa Clara to explore a possible affiliation with one of these universities. Both universities accepted the invitation and made presentations; the faculty of JST recommended affiliation with Santa Clara. The administrators and trustees of the two schools worked for over a year to craft documents to combine two separate institutions. I want to recognize John Ottoboni’s tact, insight, and persistence in finalizing the six documents, one of which was approved by the Vatican Congregation for Seminaries.
The Jesuit School of Theology is celebrating its 75th anniversary of training seminarians and lay students for ministry in the Catholic Church. Forty years ago it moved from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Berkeley to join in the consortium of seminaries known as the Graduate Theological Union. These nine seminaries combined their libraries to form the largest theological collection in the West, and cross-listed their courses to offer a rich academic program.
JST is one of only two Jesuit theological centers in the United States operated by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Drawing on the diversity of people and cultures in Northern California, JST is an international center for the culturally contextualized study of theology and ministry. It currently enrolls students from nearly 40 countries.
As of July 1, JST became a school of Santa Clara, the first regional campus of the University. We are now working on plans to coordinate operations, and an integration committee made up of staff and administrators from both campuses is working under the direction of Sonny Manuel, and Fr. Rob McChesney in Berkeley. That committee met today after weeks of e-mail and telephone conversations. Also, I have asked the Board of Regents to create two task forces to examine needs in the areas of communications between the two campuses, and in assessing and prioritizing the needs of the physical facilities in Berkeley. This information will help us create next year’s budget for the University.
We began this endeavor because the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Santa Clara University both shared a rich tradition of fostering a strong and growing environment for theological study. By bringing those traditions together, this partnership will ensure a strong future for the education of tomorrow’s Jesuits and Catholic lay ministers. This school also greatly enhances Santa Clara’s range of offerings for theological education and training for pastoral ministry. Lectures, programming, and educational opportunities will benefit both campuses of the University. Dean Burke and colleagues, please stand so that we might welcome you to the Santa Clara family!
  1. Strategic Planning  
As you recall, for more than a year and one-half, the Planning Action Council has labored to revise the University’s Strategic Plan. We presented a draft to you in the spring and requested feedback, which many of you provided generously and extensively. I considered carefully your constructive criticism, and—listening to your concerns—sent the draft back for further work. Don Dodson identified a group of faculty to work on the Strategic Plan over the summer. Robert Senkiewicz, Meir Statman, Leslie Gray, Ken Manaster, Paul Crowley, and Chad Rafael responded to Don’s invitation.
I want you to know that the Task Force recommended to substantial revisions. We discussed these changes at the summer retreat of the president’s staff. Recognizing again the insights of the faculty, we accepted their suggestions for a thorough rewrite. While the faculty committee commenced its work, Bob Warren and his staff began outlining next steps in conducting a comprehensive capacity study. This study needs to align with our WASC accreditation capacity and preparatory review, the initiation of a consolidated operating budget, and the updating of the campus facilities master plan. Appropriate committees will soon be appointed to begin these reviews and to gather information from faculty and staff. I shall keep you informed.
By September 3, the Task Force delivered a revised draft of the Strategic Plan. The Planning Action Council reviewed this document this morning and approved this text, subject to minor editing. In the next few weeks I shall share this revision with you and ask for a final round of commentary. Once further suggestions are considered by the Planning Action Council, the document goes to the Board of Trustees for approval in February, followed by the report on the comprehensive capacity review. These documents will form the basis for developing the next capital campaign for the University.
I wish to thank Chad Rafael and his committee for the document they produced. which I shall be sharing with you later this quarter. Members of the Task Force, I ask that you please stand and be recognized
Let me add a comment about a specific need many of you saw in the Strategic Plan draft that you reviewed. You asked for a clearer focus and definition of remarks I made in my inauguration address about sustainability and environmental justice. I took that to heart. In consultation with the Task Force, and drawing on my own research, “sustainability” as an integrated theme within Santa Clara’s strategic planning process is rooted in four major sources:  
(1) contemporary widespread concerns about the environment and the future of the earth;  
(2) in the very nature of a Jesuit humanistic education;  
(3) in the theological and philosophical traditions that inform both Jesuit and Catholic teaching on sustainability; and
(4) in Ignatian spirituality that sees God at work in all things and that calls human beings to a reverence for creation.
Let me comment on the second and third points. Jesuit education itself is informed by the same values that established liberal education in Catholic universities centuries ago. A concern for the “humane” within university curricula originally included a concern for “nature” in a unified view of the liberal arts and sciences. Standing in this tradition, contemporary Jesuit liberal education inherently includes the integration of concern for the environment and for sustainability in the work and life of the University. This integration is further rooted in the commitment of Jesuit institutions, and particularly Santa Clara, to an education that is informed by a comprehensive understanding of social justice. A concern for sustainability is thus seen as a natural outgrowth and specification of a commitment to justice. Solidarity with the marginalized calls forth a solidarity with the earth; a solidarity with the earth necessarily entails a solidarity with the marginalized.
As a Catholic university, Santa Clara also draws from and builds upon a substantial and growing body of social and theological teaching by popes from Paul VI through Benedict XVI and from the Catholic bishops of the United States. These documents understand sustainability in relation to a complex of environmental, economic, agricultural, political, social, and religious issues, especially justice. Congruent with the humanistic roots of the Jesuit and Catholic university, these teachings describe a concern for the environment that inherently entails a concern for human beings, in an unbroken relationship between the two. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “the way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.”
Santa Clara thus offers a distinctive academic approach to sustainability. We understand sustainability as an issue related to long-standing Jesuit and Catholic commitments to social justice, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable. We further understand these commitments to be rooted in the aims of a comprehensive humanistic education designed to produce citizens and leaders who can address the world’s problems with competence, conscience, and compassion.    
  1. Budget and Enrollment
Planning for the future presumes that we shall sufficient students and financial resources to operate the University. In my message to you on the third of September, I shared with you the facts on our undergraduate enrollment for this year, the status of the endowment, and the results in fundraising. This past year our provost, Lucia Albino Gilbert, and the vice provost for administration and planning, Charlie Erekson, oversaw the offices of Admissions and Financial Aid— and conducted a search for a new vice president for enrollment management.
The challenges of the recession and other factors prevented us from securing the size of the freshman class we wanted. I decided to make up the difference in enrollment with qualified transfer students. I did not wish to compromise our academic standards, and I was pleased when this strategy successfully enabled us to meet the budgeted enrollment target for undergraduates. Our graduate enrollments have remained steady, and happily the search for a vice president of enrollment management proved successful. Michael Sexton has joined the University, and I am happy to have him at the helm.
Not quite so felicitous, the national economy is making hesitant recovery. Our budget reductions helped us to avoid involuntary layoffs, though we could not renew every lecturer. Such a painful reality is one I hope to see rectified as the economy recovers. As I noted in my message to you two weeks ago, however, it may be many months before our endowment recovers fully. We shall have to be vigilant about our budgets. Also, we shall continue to raise funds for emergency financial aid for students whose families have suffered reverses. Between last Thanksgiving and  September 1 of this year, we have secured—and allocated—over $857,000. I appreciate the dedicated work of Jim Purcell and his staff in University Relations in this fundraising.
While you watch your expenses, please also continue to refer students in dire need to the Financial Aid office. We shall do all we can to assist them, as we have the nearly 100 students last year. Thank you to all who have encouraged students to seek aid and to remain at SCU.
  1. Listening Sessions
Starting in February, I hosted “listening sessions” with faculty and staff. I met 37 times with groups of 8, sometimes as a mixed group, more often as faculty or staff groups. Two sessions were held in Spanish, and one in Portuguese, so that as many people as possible could participate. I asked one question and then listened: “What do you want the new president to know?” Jim Briggs or Simone Billings also took notes, and this summer we collated all comments and determined broad themes.
I heard many positive remarks about the sense of community or “family” at Santa Clara, about the warmth and welcome so many of you feel while working here. Many expressed their pride in the University and stated their appreciation of the University’s mission and its ideals as a Jesuit school. I heard of the creativity of the faculty in teaching and research, and the dedication of staff members in offices and divisions across campus. Staff in particular expressed profound appreciation that we have not cut jobs during the recession and found other ways to balance the budget.
Many concerns also emerged. Is the new Core Curriculum adequately funded? Is the course load that faculty carry realistic in the face of rising expectations for scholarship and creative work? Is the tenure and promotion process clear and well understood by faculty? What can be done about the status of annual and long-term lecturers? What did I mean in my inaugural address about “environmental justice”? Are we launching too many new initiatives when we have not fully funded and developed existing priorities? Other topics included fostering community and communication on campus, university service requirements, the identity of the University, adequacy of facilities and IT service, enrollment management, and the recruitment of student athletes.
All has been addressed and all problems have been solved. Seriously, I want you to know I learned much from you, I have investigated many of the issues, and I have thought often about means to address needs. I shall continue to attend to these matters by discussing these topics with the administration, with the Planning Action Council, and in other venues. I shall also be reviewing how best to respond.
Let me also note that Santa Clara thrives because of your deep concern and all the work that you do. We face challenges this year with the economy, and as we tackle finances I am greatly encouraged by the community here. I am energized by your enthusiasm and idealism, your desire to make Santa Clara the best Santa Clara it can be: Jesuit, Catholic, academically rigorous, concerned for the world, and compassionate toward the poorest on our planet.
  1. New Core Curriculum  
Given the concern about the new Core, and because we start classes next week for undergraduates, let me offer a few comments. Enormous progress has been made under the overall direction of Diane Jonte-Pace and more than 70 faculty who are serving on Faculty Core Committees. In the last two years, Faculty Core Committees have approved more than 350 courses, along with 19 Pathways. More than 30 faculty participated last year in piloting innovative themed and sequenced courses in “Critical Thinking and Writing” and in “Cultures and Ideas.”  Over the past two years, 10 summer workshops attracted more than 180 participants for Core Curriculum Development. From these workshops, faculty have developed new courses in new Core areas, such as Experiential Learning for Social Justice; Civic Engagement; Science, Technology, and Society; Diversity. And there are more. This is an impressive record.
So far 1,029 incoming first-year students have enrolled in Foundations courses for the new Core; 62 more first-year students will enroll during this week’s final orientation session.
Faculty Core Committees developed learning objectives for each core area, and these learning objectives are now included on all approved syllabi or on a related course website—all to enhance both teaching and learning. I am grateful to the faculty throughout the University who have participated in this impressive effort, along with all who have collaborated from other offices and divisions. You have made remarkable progress, progress envied by other institutions who see Santa Clara as a model for Core revision.
It is an impressive Core Curriculum, and you have made it possible. I want to thank and congratulate all of you for your engagement in the Core implementation process.
Conclusion

I am enthusiastic about the new academic year because it means working with you, engaging with our students, and welcoming the Jesuit School of Theology. I shall continue to communicate with you to share information, as well as to seek your input and comment on issues that arise. Presently we are short-staffed in the President’s office, but when we are at full strength, I look forward to scheduling further informal sessions with you, possibly at breakfast or over coffee.

Thank you for your support, which has made my transition to Santa Clara so smooth and so enjoyable. I am inspired by you and enthusiastic about working with and for you. God bless you all for this new academic year, and God bless Santa Clara.

 

Michael E.Engh, S.J.

Printer-friendly format