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  • Our History

The Environmental Justice and the Common Good Initiative is a faculty-led effort that emerged in response to calls for academia to advance environmental and social justice from Pope Francis, Santa Clara University (SCU) leadership, students, and community-based organizations. The Initiative has drawn financial support from SCU’s President and Provost, and multiple foundations, government agencies, and donors. We have earned recognition as a leader in fostering environmental justice education and research in Jesuit higher education.

Here are the major milestones in our development.


In 2015, SCU organized an interdisciplinary conference, Our Future on a Shared Planet, which engaged leaders in Silicon Valley and beyond in conversation with the teachings of Pope Francis in his landmark encyclical Laudato Si’. The encyclical galvanized SCU faculty and staff to respond to Pope Francis’ call to promote an integral ecology that links the global challenges of environmental sustainability and social justice in our teaching, research, and service.


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In 2016, SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education formed the interdisciplinary Faculty Collaborative for Environmental Justice and the Common Good. This group committed to build the Initiative and continue to lead it.


EJCGI Conference Logo

In 2019, the Initiative organized a Conference at SCU focused on deepening university-community partnerships for environmental justice and the common good, which convened over 250 students, faculty, staff, visiting academics, and representatives of community-based organizations and government agencies. The  conference identified shared commitments to: 

  • Help Jesuit, Catholic, and other universities to partner with regional and global networks for research and teaching about environmental justice and integral ecology. 
  • Draw on exemplary projects to share lessons about how university and community partners can work together well. 
  • Incubate new collaborative projects with community-based organizations and strengthen regional networking in Northern California.


In 2019, the Initiative embarked on collaborations and discussions with colleagues at other Jesuit institutions in the U.S. and abroad, especially with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Integral Ecology Affinity Group; Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., the Secretary General of Higher Education for the Society of Jesus; Fr. Pedro Walpole, S.J. of the global publication EcoJesuit and the Environmental and Economic Justice Working Group of the International Association of Jesuit Universities; and Nancy Tuchman, Founding Dean of the School of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago. These colleagues and others eventually formed the Initiative’s Advisory Board.


In 2019 and 2021, SCU’s President and Provost made multi-year funding commitments to launch the Initiative, which went on to raise additional external funds from foundations and donors.  This support has allowed the Initiative to develop a broad array of programs and networks and events that advance community-engaged research and learning for environmental and social justice, involve many students in this work, and provide research grants and professional development opportunities to SCU faculty and academic staff.


Laudato Si logo

In 2022 and 2023, we developed and offered workshops on how to incorporate integral ecology and environmental justice across the curriculum. Over 70 faculty and sustainability officers in higher education enrolled in the workshops in the first two years. Our workshops are offered in collaboration with SCU’s Center for Sustainability and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).



In 2023, the Initiative organized its second major conference to advance the work of organizing community-university alliances and partnerships for climate and environmental justice in Northern California, across Latin America, and throughout Jesuit higher education. Over 420 faculty and students, community organizers and advocates, policymakers, social ministry leaders, and funders joined us at SCU and online. The conference included  50 presenters, 30 posters, 12 workshops and networking sessions, a Youth Summit, an interfaith dinner, and Ballet Folklórico. In his keynote address, Fr. Michael Garanzini, President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) recognized SCU’s leadership in community-engaged research and learning for environmental justice, and urged us to expand our collaborations with the global network of 200 Jesuit Universities around the world.