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Jesuit Education FAQs

Q. Who are the Jesuits?
A. Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, an international, Roman Catholic religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. Today, the best-known member of the Society of Jesus is Pope Francis. Since founding their first school in 1548, the Jesuits have always aimed to provide an education that forms students as whole persons who will change the world for the better.

It is this ideal that remains the core of Santa Clara University’s mission. Today, 47 priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus make up the Jesuit community at Santa Clara. Many of the University’s Jesuits are faculty members, but others serve in various parts of Santa Clara’s administration.

Q. What is the focus of Jesuit education?
A. An important principle of Jesuit education is care for the whole person. SCU is a place where faculty and staff members are aware that a student is not a sponge to soak up information. The Jesuit philosophy places a student’s humanity first, creating a personalized educational environment where thoughtful questions can be considered.

Care for the whole person also means allowing students to discover their talents through a curriculum that includes a variety of classes. Students are expected to gain mastery of their major subject, but are also required to explore the arts, humanities, and sciences. This creates a person whose talents go beyond specialization, and will include communication, leadership, and creativity.

Q. Is it important to be Catholic at a Jesuit university?
A. About half of Santa Clara University undergraduates are Catholic. However, Santa Clara welcomes all qualified and motivated students. The mix of Catholics and people from other or no faith traditions provides enriching perspectives and prepares our graduates for success in a pluralistic and global society.

Q. Do students have to attend religious services?
A. Santa Clara encourages all students to practice and deepen their faith, but religious participation is not mandated. However, events like the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass often are full houses in the historic Mission Church, and many regular attendees are not Catholic. They appreciate the sense of community with other students, and the quiet time set aside for meditation and prayer just before the busy school week begins.

Q. Is the University owned by the Catholic Church?
A. The University is chartered by the State of California as a public trust, and governed by a board of trustees. Neither the Catholic Church nor the Society of Jesus owns the University, but the inspiration for the University is its Catholic and Jesuit heritage.

Q. Is religion taught in the classroom?
A. All undergraduate students are required to take three religious studies courses. There are dozens of diverse classes to select from to meet this requirement. For example, a student might take Asian Religious Traditions, Environmental Justice in the Catholic Imagination, and Shia Islam in the Contemporary World to meet this requirement. Santa Clara’s approach to Jesuit education means your professor may challenge you to consider how ethics, social justice, or a faith commitment may affect issues in history, economics, or literature. But this does not mean that every faculty, staff, and student activity has an explicitly religious dimension.