Santa Clara University

Press Releases

Service a Graduation Requirement at Santa Clara University

Each year, at least 40 percent of Santa Clara University’s students engage in some sort of community service or social justice work, which is to be expected for a Jesuit university whose motto is to educate men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion.

But starting in the fall of 2009, that motto is getting a bit more teeth, because of the university’s new mandatory core curriculum. All incoming freshmen and beyond will be required to complete one service-related course or immersion experience. They must log no less than 16 hours over eight weeks during a community experience or at least 24 hours spread over five days during an immersion.

Their experience can take place at a soup kitchen or with Alzheimer’s patients. Students can teach environmentalism to low-income high schoolers, volunteer on a political campaign, or any number of other initiatives.

The goal is get students into socially, economically, and/or politically marginalized or oppressed communities. The logic, according to university officials: “The health of any democratic community depends largely on the ability of its members to participate in and contribute actively to community service, philanthropy, and the political system. …. Yet young people have been disengaging from public life in some troubling ways. Compared to their parents and grandparents, youth are less likely to vote, to trust others and their government, and to believe in the importance of following public affairs.”

While national and community service is a hot issue on the national stage thanks to President Barack Obama and Congressional and Senate hearings – at the Jesuit campus of Santa Clara, service has long been in its DNA.

SCU offers more than 60 programs and organizations that allow hundreds of students every year to reach out across the country and around the world.

  • El Salvador: Casa de la Solidaridad, a study abroad program is an opportunity for the students to immerse themselves in “la realidad” of that country. The mission is to promote justice and solidarity through the creation of a meaningful academic experience where they can integrate rigorous academic study with direct immersion.
  • Ecuador: The Kolvenback Solidarity Program offers students, faculty, staff, and alumni extended immersion experiences. It’s designed to help participants see the world with new eyes and to recognize the unjust suffering.
  • Nicaragua: Students from SCU’s school of engineering spend their spring break in Nicaragua, meeting people, and working on sustainable water systems for rural communities.
  • “We are just beginning to develop an appropriate model for engineering immersion, but the possibilities are very exciting,” said Edwin Maurer, civil engineering assistant professor.
  • Alicia Gonzales, a senior at SCU, recently traveled to Tres de Octubre in Mexico, an urban slum outside of Tijuana. She and more than 100 other SCU students helped build four homes for destitute families.“I want to join an intentional community that values simplicity and cohesion over extravagance and individualism,” said Gonzales. “Considering our country’s fixation with consumerism and upward mobility, I’m in no hurry to return to the States.”
  • “I decided to go to law school after graduation, because I’m interested in doing public service law or some type of international human rights law,” said Emma Nagengast, a senior at SCU.
Printer-friendly format