Moving the Needle
By Tatiana Sanchez
Two new funds help students from underrepresented backgrounds attend Santa Clara. Philanthropists Jim Hulburd ’82 and the Bagley Family hope their gifts, totaling $2.3 million, inspire others to chip in.
As the pandemic and revitalized racial justice movement laid bare inequities across the United States, philanthropist Jim Hulburd ’82 and his wife, Laura, reflected on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and how they can personally support a more just future.
Hulburd thought often about Santa Clara, where he sits on the board of directors for the Jesuit School of Theology. He wondered why so few students from underrepresented backgrounds—in particular Black students—enroll in the University. Why had the needle hardly moved since he graduated in the 80s?
Only 3 percent of SCU's undergraduate students are Black, the same percentage as in 1976.
Through conversations with University leaders and local educators, Hulburd, who is white, learned that students from underrepresented backgrounds are often unable to afford tuition at private universities, even with the help of scholarships and grants. His most recent gift to Santa Clara aims to address that.
The Hulburds have established a $680,000, 10-year fund through admissions to establish a needs-based scholarship for Black students. They plan to select two students to help each year, so that by the fourth year, the couple is assisting eight students throughout their time at SCU.
The program prioritizes students from the East Bay, where the Hulburds have focused much of their mentorship through the organization College is Real, a nonprofit that helps students at Richmond’s three public high schools become the first in their families to graduate from college.
“We hope that the opportunity to go to Santa Clara changes the trajectory of their life,” Jim Hulburd said.
The Hulburds are part of a group of parents and alumni focused on growing diversity at SCU—and they hope others will follow suit. Their efforts come as many institutions of higher education focus on making campuses more diverse and inclusive, and improving the experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students by ensuring they are welcomed in a supportive, understanding community.
Last year, Santa Clara rolled out a new Advancing Racial Justice dashboard that tracks progress on previously established initiatives, including how BIPOC students will be supported and represented on our campus. Recruitment efforts have seen success as well with Black students making up 6.2% of the current class of first-year students.
Donors who have stepped up to support the University’s goals are bolstering support for diverse student communities across campus and fashioning a new identity for SCU, said principal gifts officer Heather Pastorini ’93, who worked closely with the Hulburds to craft their gift to the University.
“Every day, I see a new SCU, one far different and so much better than when I was a student in the early 90s,” Pastorini said. “We have made strides to become more inclusive, but there is always room for improvement. The generosity of our alumni and parents to partner with us in this endeavor means we will only move farther and faster to demonstrate in tangible ways how SCU values diversity, equity, and inclusiveness more today than ever before.”
Like the Hulburds, the Bagley family added a new, critical element to their philanthropy by shifting their focus to helping BIPOC students at Santa Clara—a desire that had been growing for years, they said.
Through the JW Bagley Foundation, the Bagleys established a $1.64 million, need-based endowed scholarship benefitting first-generation BIPOC students, a move that doubled their contributions to SCU.
It was important to the Bagleys to establish a scholarship with longevity, said Sean Huurman ’93, a member of the Board of Regents, who helps run the family foundation with his wife, Susan Huurman Bagley ’93.
“Just as important was making sure that we focused the scholarship in an area that we felt tied to the mission of both the foundation and Santa Clara,” says Huurman. “We know Santa Clara has a lot of work to do to change the demographics of its students. We thought, what a better way to do so than to make the pledge meaningful and long-lasting to allow both parties to make a difference.”
Eva Blanco Masias M.A. ’11, vice president for enrollment management, says it’s not enough to simply understand the inequities. Universities must make sure that students who face challenges because of them not only attend schools like Santa Clara but are supported and appreciated while here.
“It all begins with understanding that these inequities exist and why they exist, and then having the will and desire to change them,” said Blanco Masias. “I'm deeply grateful that these families want to do this very intentionally. Hopefully, this also models the ways for others because it really is a generous gesture and one that will transform lives and trajectories, one student at a time.”
The Hulburds and Bagleys said they hope their contributions inspire others to support similar initiatives at SCU.
“A lot of times there’s talk and sometimes there’s meaningful change, but a lot of times there’s not, and it just recedes into the background until there’s another issue or tragedy that really exposes the same flaws,” said Tyler Bagley ’14, who helps run the foundation with his family. “George Floyd's murder, along with the COVID pandemic ripping open structural inequalities in this country, were reminders of what already exists and propels us to act and move forward. Hopefully this is a small step we can take to try to help as a foundation and hopefully others can see that and follow suit.”
The Hulburds’ work with College is Real has demonstrated to them that an education can truly change the trajectory of a person’s life and set their family on a new path. They hope to give that gift to many others by welcoming more Black and underserved students to the University.
“We can’t solve a huge problem,” Hulburd said. “But if we can help improve the path of one child at a time, it really is quite rewarding. I’d love to see 20 years from now that the needle got moved. It’s not going to be by our doing, but it might be by a whole bunch of people seeing this idea and saying, ‘Hey, that sounds like a good idea.’”