Santa Clara University

Office of the President

Convocation Address, 2013

Mission Church, SCU
17 September 2013


Thank you very much for the introduction. It is good to see so many of you here and welcome you to the start of a new academic year.

Before I continue my remarks, I believe it is important as a community to recall recent losses suffered. Luis Rivadeneyra in Information Services, retired Dean George Alexander of the Law School, Dolores LaGuardia of the English Department and the Writing Center, and third-year law student Luci Manriquez have died recently, so let us pause for a moment of silence in their memory to dedicate this convocation to them. I believe it is important to recall the goodness of our colleagues. 

As we remember them we also welcome the newest members of our faculty and staff who are joining us.  Mr. Jim Lyons, our newly hired Vice President for University Relations, will begin service in mid-October, though he will be visiting several times prior to his start date. This is an appropriate occasion to thank publically Mike Wallace for his capable and dedicated service as interim Vice President.  

Professor Lisa Kloppenberg is already off to an exciting start as the new dean of our Law School. We are delighted to welcome her from the University of Dayton in Ohio to our campus in the Valley of Heart’s Delight.

Kathryn Palmieri has joined the University as the Dean of Academic Support Services and Director of the Drahmann Advising and Learning Resources Center. Welcome!

Within the Provost’s Office, Ed Ryan has assumed the position of Vice Provost for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.  Aldo Billingslea will serve as Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. His Office of Diversity and Inclusion will assist with the recruitment, retention, and success of a diverse community of faculty, staff, and students, to help us live up to the ideals that we profess, which we put forward to our WASC accreditors.

Finally, let me also recognize publicly the new president of the Faculty Senate Council, Professor Juliana Chang of the English department, and the returning President of the Staff Senate, Julie Stone. Thank you both for your service.

Reflections on Immersion Trip to El Salvador

To set the context for my remarks I need to refer to recent travels.  In late August my staff and I undertook the annual immersion trip to El Salvador sponsored by the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. Led by Mick McCarthy and Lulu Santana, we visited and heard from speakers at the national government, the national hospital (Hospital Rosales), the University of Central America (the UCA), a local parish (Maria, Madre de los Pobres, Mary Mother of the Poor), survivors of the civil war, and our own staff and students at Casa de la Solidaridad. We returned not as experts, but as people who listened and learned, who questioned and reflected.

The survivors of the war included campesinos, lay Church leaders, former guerillas, and Jesuits. I had wondered what reception we would receive from people who had been terrorized by Salvadoran military forces funded by the United States. Every one of these people had lost spouses, parents, children, or friends during the war. Some had seen their homes and villages destroyed; others had been beaten, jailed. Each of these people welcomed us, shared their stories, and answered our questions – all without rancor or hatred. One explanation of their remarkable equanimity was that just as their government had not represented them in during the civil war, so they did not believe that our government represented what we, its citizens, felt toward El Salvador. I still see their faces and I hear their voices: Eva, Virginia, Pablo, Maria, Lolo, Efrain, Hector, and Guadalupe.

At the Jesuit university, known by all as the UCA, the president, Andreu Oliva, SJ and his staff carefully planned two days of talks and meals. I learned that the Jesuits and their colleagues had set a mission for the UCA to be a national force for justice. They have dedicated the university to be engaged in the “national reality” as a powerful voice for justice for the poor and the exploited in a corrupt government and stratified society. The university leaders believe in the power of research, publication, and education to promote an ongoing transformation in Salvadoran society. They are seriously involved in healing the wounds of war, wounds that still fester.

As we compared notes with colleagues, I recognized a determined emphasis at the UCA on a national impact for the common good. In that small country, the UCA is an independent institution that wields great national influence. I compared our situation at Santa Clara. Our focus has been on providing an excellent education to transform individual students’ lives, to invest in graduates who will transform society through their careers and social engagement. Our nation counts thousands of universities and colleges, and we distinguish Santa Clara through the excellence of the education that we provide, imbued with the Jesuit educational philosophy.

In our conversations we explored how we approach funding, student life, alumni relations, faculty research, distance learning, campus ministry, and boards of trustees. The president asked me what the UCA can do for Santa Clara, and we discussed, among other things, faculty and student exchanges, collaborative research projects, Latin American studies, and participation in the Global Social Benefit Incubator of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society. We are following up our conversations with a video conference in the coming weeks to advance these conversations and to build stronger ties.

I returned from the trip with thoughts and questions about the nature of our mission at Santa Clara. How clear are we about the important role that each of us plays in fulfilling the mission of the university? How well do we fulfill our role as a Jesuit university in one of the greatest wealth producing areas of the world? What does it mean for us to graduate students who have completed their courses in education for social justice? Do our graduates promote public and economic policies that benefit the world? How effective are we in influencing our broader society through our graduates?

Such are my thoughts as we begin a new year. As I have said on other occasions, our work at Santa Clara possesses a deep significance. We provide education and training that is meant to improve our world, promote justice, and advance the economic well-being of society. After visiting El Salvador for the third time, I asked myself, are we fulfilling the Jesuit principle of the magis, literally, the “more” or the “greater.” Magis does not mean doing more, but acting more generously, acting smarter, and working with great creativity and impact. Are we being as effective as we can in what we do in advancing a humane, just, and sustainable world?

Recent Accomplishments

Such thoughts have occupied me in recent weeks. Amid such ruminations, a visitor recently commented how pleasant it must be to have a nice, quiet summer after graduation. I had to laugh. This campus has been anything BUT quiet, so let me review what we have accomplished since June 16th.

  • The Leavey School of Business and its Executive Development Center trained almost 450 entry-level employees for the Oracle corporation in a seven-week program. Many offices across campus cooperated to handle such a large residential population for such a lengthy period of time. Congratulations and thank you!
  • Our Department of Education launched its Blended Learning Academy to train over 100 grammar school teachers from seven schools in the Diocese of San Jose. Dean Nick Ladany, Steve Johnson, and other faculty commenced this year-long program which should be a model for teacher training in the United States. It has already attracted strong foundation interest.
  • Dozens of engineering students have built and shipped that 1,000-square-foot solar energy house for the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. With only twenty universities world-wide invited to compete, Santa Clara returns for the third time, this year with its Radiant House. No longer held in Washington D.C., this year the competition will be in Orange County in October.
  • Our Department of Art and Art History secured a three-year, $200,000 Hearst Foundations grant to inaugurate Community Initiatives in the Visual Arts (CIVA). Led by department chair Blake De Maria, this project will build deeper relationships between our students and faculty and the Silicon Valley arts community. Funds will support summer student internships and fellowships at Silicon Valley museums, galleries, and arts organizations. It will enable projects with community-based partners and the de Saisset Museum. The grant will also support the development of new curricula in arts management. Congratulations
  • In July, the Jesuit School of Theology celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its Instituto Hispano. Over sixty students enrolled for this program to train Latino ministers for service in the Church.
  • Facilities. This summer has kept our Facilities department quite busy. As you entered the Mission Church, you have had the opportunity to see the completion of the pedestrian mall from Palm Drive. Alumni John A. and John M. Sobrato have donated this beautiful entry in memory of alumna Abby Sobrato, class of 1983. Other projects included renovation in O’Connor Hall, re-construction of the Benson Kitchen, erection of a 400-car parking structure on Alviso street (to be opened in November), and remodeling of the second-floor of Walsh administration building. I extend my thanks and appreciation to our hard working Facilities staff for their vast list of summer projects.

A quiet summer? No way! And there is more!

Our great staff in University Relations has reported important news in Annual Giving to the University and in meeting the Leavey Foundation Challenge. Contributions this past year continued an impressive rise and topped $46 million. Of that amount, I should note that 379 faculty, staff, and administrators donated $394,650.82. The Leavey Challenge energized young alumni in particular, so we sailed past the goal of 9,000 donors and topped off at 9,745. Congratulations! Thank you again, Mike Wallace, for your leadership.

Campus Ministry. Our Campus Ministry staff sponsored a delegation of students and faculty to World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero. When you see that aerial photo of three million young people on Copacabana Beach greeting Pope Francis, I hope you spotted faculty members Paul Mariani and Sam Conedara with our Broncos.

Athletics Task Force. With so much publicity in the past two years about NCAA and college athletics, in June I convened a twelve-member blue-ribbon task force. Alumni and community leaders include members of the Trustees, Regents, and the President of the Oakland A’s. The question I have posed to them: What is the appropriate role for intercollegiate athletics at Santa Clara, for the students, for the university community, and for our alumni and friends? They commenced their fact finding to gather comparative statistics on how other private universities are approaching the integration of athletics into their mission and goals. They will have a report to me by December.

Some people have asked: Are you planning to advance athletics at the expense of academics? Our sports programs have a long and proud history at Santa Clara, athletics has and will continue to support the academic enterprise. We shall be enhancing athletics without diverting funds from academics; we shall promote both, in their appropriate roles.

Assessment of the President’s Performance. As you recall, I am completing the fifth year of my six-year contract, and the Trustees are evaluating my performance for possible renewal of my services. In May I asked that all faculty and select staff participate in this assessment process so that as many as possible in the Santa Clara community could offer their feedback. Others who participated were trustees, and select alumni, donors, and students. Over 250 people responded, and the survey results and interviews produced a final report that is one-inch thick.

I am grateful for the time so many of you took and the seriousness with which you offered feedback. In reading the report, I learned a great deal, recognized that there are important areas for improvement, and also appreciated your supportive comments. Certain suggestions may prove impossible to reconcile: The Trustees desire that I be more active in the Silicon Valley; faculty and staff say that I do not spend enough time on campus! And so it goes. Thank you for assisting the Trustees in their deliberations next month at their meeting. They will announce their decision in mid-October.

From this long list you can tell how quiet summers are at Santa Clara!

Looking Ahead

And now we launch a new academic year. 

On this coming weekend we shall welcome the 1,299 members of the new first-year class, as well as 150 transfer students. I thank Vice President Mike Sexton and his staff in Enrollment Management for the recruiting these talented and diverse cohorts. As you know, universities fiercely compete for such highly qualified students, and Mike and his team succeed each year in recruiting impressive young women and men.

Strategic Plan Development. This past year 60 faculty and staff worked for 9 months in 6 groups to review flesh out the details of our Strategic Plan. They reviewed all input from departments, deans, and Center and division directors and synthesized this vast array of input. A draft document was prepared, which I reviewed this past May. Provost Dennis Jacobs and staff in the Provost Office then analyzed, valorized, and metric-ized 75 initiatives in a compelling visionary plan. Once opportunities in programming, staffing, and construction were identified, the deans reviewed the draft document, as did select members of the Trustees. When completed, Dennis and I shall present the final draft at the October Board of Trustees’ meeting. With their approval, we shall commence intensive planning for the upcoming comprehensive Campaign in spring 2014.

As you recall, this collaborative project began four years ago with: wide campus consultation, active review by the deans, input from the President’s staff, and deep interest by the trustees. Leadership transitions have delayed progress, and now we have achieved a momentum that has elicited significant enthusiasm among our Trustee focus groups. I am grateful to our faculty and staff who participated on the six committees, to the staff in the Provost’s office, and to our Provost, Dennis Jacobs. I believe we shall have a terrific and exciting plan to share with you in the coming months.

Also looking ahead this year, I am looking forward to the work of the Task Force on Child Care Models for the campus. The Bright Horizons consultants group is returning to campus to assist us in terms of how can we best provide child care that we need for faculty and staff? How to weigh in the various constituent elements that go into this? How can we make this somehow affordable for faculty and staff as well as the university? A big challenge but a very important one for a campus community that is committed to the ethics of life.

Concluding Reflection

Let me close with a comment on a movie. On my summer vacation I watched the DVD of the movie, “42.” You may have seen this story of Jackie Robinson and the desegregation of professional baseball. Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, took the step that no one had made up to 1946. He hired an African American athlete, a graduate of UCLA, who was the first African American to sign with a National League team in the United States. The true hero of the story, though, was Robinson, who endured fierce prejudice from teammates, fans, and umpires. Branch Rickey supported Robinson, and Robinson faced down bigots through patience, determination, and outstanding performances on the field.

These two people suggested to me the power of the individual to make ethical decisions and to bring about positive change, even in the face of bitter opposition. The movie reminded me that though our situations differ, what each of us does on campus possesses deep significance in this nation. We teach and train individuals to make courageous decisions, ethical choices which can have broad and influential consequences. We live and model such action each day.

Our work – in the classroom, in our research and creative endeavors, in our offices, on the playing fields and courts – our labors are focused on transforming lives. We raise questions, we pose challenges, we hold up the real world and ask: what will you do to make this world a better place, a more positive social reality? This is the challenge of the Magis for us – to make our University better, stronger, and thus impact our world.

Such is the importance of our labors. Such are the goals we set for the coming year. Let me close with an expression of my deep gratitude. You make this a wonderful place to work, to dream, to promote a better world. Thank you for your dedication and generosity. May God bless us all as we commence another year at Santa Clara.

Michael E. Engh, S.J.

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