Janet Napolitano shares wisdom with Political Science department and SCU community
Janet Napolitano ‘79 returned to campus as the first speaker in the Eric Hanson Alumni Speaker Series (EHASS). Political Science students, faculty, and community members filled the seats in the de Saisset Museum, eagerly anticipating the conversation with one of SCU’s most notable alumni. EHASS honors the memory of beloved Political Science professor Dr. Eric Hanson, a man deeply committed to Santa Clara University and the value of a Jesuit education. Dr. Hanson anchored Santa Clara University's Political Science Department for more than four decades. Among his many distinguished service contributions to the department and University, Dr. Hanson was especially enthusiastic about celebrating the achievements of Political Science graduates and building a greater sense of community and connection between current students and alumni.
Avery James ‘20, a Political Science major, comments on this exclusive opportunity: “I feel like it brings people in the [Political Science] Department together—like the faculty and students and staff are all there for the same reason and are all in the same position, just trying to learn and understand more about the field.”
The Value of an SCU Education
As an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, Janet Napolitano was educated with the same Jesuit values that ground today’s scholars. “There is a community of learning at SCU,” she says fondly. “Students and faculty are living community with a strong ethos or strong sense of values.” For Napolitano, the Bronco spirit inspired acts of service that blossomed into a political career; her impressive resume speaks volumes about an impulse to do good that she puts into action so effectively.
Now serving as the President of the University of California, Napolitano often reflects on the traditional path of a four-year college or university in a world of shifting possibilities. She believes that it provides an invaluable “opportunity to explore different areas and recognize the value of education and how it educates the whole person.” This is especially true of a value-driven institution like SCU, where students aren't just picking up degrees but are growing into effective citizens.
“Be willing to take a chance. Be willing to explore. Be willing to realize your first job is not your last; it is just a start.” - Janet Napolitano ‘79
Life After Santa Clara University
When Napolitano graduated from SCU, she didn't know what path she wanted to pursue. She made a connection with Senator Pete Domenici (R, NM) through her father, and moved to D.C. to work as an analyst for the Senate Budget Committee, reporting to Sen. Domenici. "There's no better way to see government than through the eyes of the budget," she says of her first post-grad job.
Napolitano noticed that a huge number of the inspiring people she worked with in D.C. had law degrees. This developed her interest in pursuing law, and she went on to earn her J.D. from the University of Virginia. While Napolitano recognizes that her path is not for everyone, she emphasizes the importance of being open to new experiences and change in thought.
“I benefited from the Janet Napolitano talk because it gave me insight into the tough choices that a high-ranking politician has to make and the factors that go into each policy decision.” - Catherine Bick ‘20, Computer Science Major
Advice to Current Broncos
Napolitano urges parents to “encourage their students to sample broadly from the curriculum ... to embark on a process from which they find their passion.” By immersing themselves in the rigorous and exciting core curriculum of the College of Arts and Science, students have an exponentially greater chance of finding interests that develop into rewarding careers.
Janet Napolitano is a wonderful example of the SCU legacy of Broncos supporting Broncos. In the years to come, EHASS will continue to provide a platform for Political Science department graduates to share their experiences and give valuable perspective to students.