The Journey (So Far!) of a Global Storyteller
Alumnus Jose Acain ’06, MSME ’11 shares where life has taken him after SCU – from a trip around the world, to the stage, and beyond!
By Laney Robbins ’20, Sarah Stoddard ’23, and Taylor Pavicich ’21
If you were to ask Santa Clara University alumnus Jose Acain ’06, MSME ’11 to predict where his journey after graduation would take him, his answer likely would not have involved travelling the world, becoming an actor, or doing work globally. But due to his passion for helping others and desire to seek out incredible stories, this is how Acain’s life has played out.
As a Math major with a love for robotics, Acain began his career in a way many might predict. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he completed a master’s degree in Mechatronics, both at SCU, where he met his future wife, Erin, then moved to LA where they both worked for SpaceX. But soon, Acain began to wonder if there was something bigger he could experience. Along with Erin, he quit his job and decided to travel the world.
Acain credits his travel bug to Ed Schaefer, a Mathematics and Computer Science professor he had been doing research with as an undergraduate student. At the time, Schaefer had applied for a Fulbright scholarship in Malawi, Africa, and when Acain “half-jokingly, but half-seriously” expressed interest in tagging along, Schaefer worked with the University to allow him to join. While Acain may have traveled far, the Jesuit value of Cura Personalis, or “care for the whole person”, appeared to remain close to him. Rooted in the promotion of human dignity and care for the mind, body, and spirit of each individual, Acain recalls how these values began to shift his priorities after his trip to Africa.
“It was a life-changing experience, for sure. That experience kind of defines me as a person, and changed my lens and point of view on pretty much everything.”
That new lens is what allowed Acain to see beyond the scope of his day-to-day job in engineering and decide to travel the world. Soon, he and Erin were off exploring Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Acain’s values of care and compassion allowed him to understand people from all over the world, and his experiences motivated him to later share the stories and lessons he learned while traveling.
Inspired by their travels, Acain and Erin decided to “turn all of this energy into something we’ve always wanted to do, to help people experience the things we’ve experienced.” His time at SCU instilled in him the value of working towards social justice. This, combined with his inspiration, manifested in the implementation of satellite art spaces all over the world in places with no access to the arts. Acain’s desire to support vulnerable members of society was displayed through his efforts to give others a space to express themselves and tell their own unique stories.
Currently, Acain is back in an engineering position working for Bird. He also discovered a new passion for improv and acting. “What I love about acting is being able to explore all facets of human emotion and human interactions,” he says. Similarly to his experiences while traveling, acting gave him another opportunity to tell stories and understand others more deeply.
About his journey so far, Acain says it’s never set in stone. You have to have a starting point, but when you are enjoying your work, “you’re always open to new opportunities that come your way… you’re seeing things, you’re interacting with people, you keep your ears open and hear things that pique your interest.” This attitude has given Acain countless unique opportunities and experiences that have permanently influenced his worldview and his passions in life.
“Next, what I think would be fun is to bring people together, to hear their stories, and to enable them to share their stories with other people in their community—even those outside of their community. That’s exciting to me; my compass is now pointing in that direction.”