Santa Clara's 3 C's Matter...A Lot!
Thomas G. Plante
At Santa Clara University we often refer to the 3 C’s: competence, conscience, and compassion. Although living and working in Northern California it is easy to mistake the 3 C’s for coffee, chocolate, and chardonnay! Certainly all quality universities expect their students to become competent in their fields of study. So, if a college degree is earned at Santa Clara, or at any accredited university, you’d expect that the academic knowledge and rigor would be more similar than different. However, at Santa Clara, we believe that there is more to education than obtaining competence in an academic discipline. We offer and pride ourselves on value-added education.
A Santa Clara education should result in students and future leaders who have had a top, second-to-none, education that also focuses on ethical and compassionate development and formation.
Conscience refers to ethics while compassion refers to empathy and concern for others. Compassion development helps thwart the nurturing narcissism and self-centeredness that is so common today. A Santa Clara education should result in students and future leaders who have had a top, second-to-none, education that also focuses on ethical and compassionate development and formation.
But words are cheap. We must prove that we do what we say that we do with research data to support our claims.
My SCU psychology students and I have been conducting empirical research to determine which elements of a Santa Clara education support the development of compassion in our students¹. We have included a compassion inventory (developed, validated, and published with the help of an SCU student and a Jesuit) in the assessment of all freshmen and graduating seniors during the past seven years.
All incoming college students take a standard questionnaire used by most universities about their background. At Santa Clara we have embedded our compassion inventory as well as a few additional questions into this standard and often used instrument. Students take the questionnaire again when they graduate.
we have found empirical support that an SCU education is indeed associated with higher levels of compassion among our graduating students
Our results suggest that elements of an SCU education such as community based learning engagement through our Arrupe Partnerships, as well as other elements of our educational model, actually do predict compassion scores among graduating seniors. Additionally, we have found that immersion experiences during academic year breaks not only increase compassion, but also help students manage stress² ³. While ongoing data analysis continues, we have found empirical support that an SCU education is indeed associated with higher levels of compassion among our graduating students.
In our challenging times where polarization, narcissism, arrogance, and selfishness seems to be the new normal, it is refreshing that SCU’s focus on value-added and 3 C based education that underscores both ethical and compassion development is actually paying off with real dividends. And what employer doesn’t want its employees and representatives to be people of competence, conscience, and compassion anyway? So, we celebrate our 3 C approach to higher education and are starting to empirically see the fruits of our labors. And, by the way, the coffee, chocolate, and chardonnay here is pretty good too!
¹Plante, T. G. (Ed.). (2015). The Psychology of Compassion and Cruelty: Understanding the Emotional, Spiritual, and Religious Influences. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, in production.
²Plante, T. G., Lackey, K., & Hwang, J. (2009). The impact of immersion trips on development of compassion among college students, Journal of Experiential Education, 32, 28-43.
³Mills, B.A., Bersamina, R.B., & Plante, T.G. (2007). The impact of college student immersion service learning trips on coping with stress and vocational identity, The Journal for Civic Commitment, 9, 1-8.