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Speeches and Writings 2019-20

Kevin O'Brien speaking at Convocation

Kevin O'Brien speaking at Convocation

Annual Faculty and Staff Convocation 2019-20

In his first Convocation serving as president, Kevin O'Brien, S.J., welcomed faculty and staff to Mayer Theater to provide an update on the University. Interim Provost Lisa Kloppenberg then moderated a town-hall style Q&A with questions from our community.

In his first Convocation serving as president, Kevin O'Brien, S.J., welcomed faculty and staff to Mayer Theater to provide an update on the University. Interim Provost Lisa Kloppenberg then moderated a town-hall style Q&A with questions from our community.

The following topics were submitted during Convocation, but not addressed in the presentation or question/answer session due to time constraints. 

How will things be different under your administration?

During my administration, I will focus on open and inviting communication using multiple formats and platforms. This is one of my priorities for my first year, and I am encouraged by the reception so far to some of my new approaches including the Q&A at Convocation, my social media coverage and recent messages to the University community. This will help with furthering my commitment to principled, timely, and thoughtful decision-making as well as more communication, which I believe builds transparency, and with transparency comes trust.

Will there be a plan to create relationships with the Jesuits in formation at JST?

Through the Dean of JST, Alison Benders, and Chair of Religious Studies, David Gray, we have explored ways to connect our theology faculties. Main campus faculty have taught courses and served as thesis advisors for JST students. JST faculty have participated in Ignatian Center and Markkula Center projects and engaged in shared research projects with Religious Studies faculty. We are exploring curricular connections between JST and the School of Education and Counseling Psychology and JST and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. JST students, including Jesuit scholastics, have been involved in Campus Ministry and Miller Center activities. We are open to new forms of connection.

Can you commit to working with the Board of Trustees to change the University bylaws in order to allow a non-Jesuit to be your successor?

Prior to my appointment as president, the issue of a non-Jesuit serving as president was put forward to the Board of Trustees. After considering the matter, the board decided not to change the bylaws. The decision remains in place. Any future change to the bylaws would be in the hands of the Trustees.

What is the status of the “Sustainable Santa Clara” programs started two years ago? This program was to be sure the University is financially viable over the short and longer run.

Please visit the Sustaining Excellence Website.

We continue to explore options suggested, both to reduce costs and generate revenue.

For example:

  • Centralizing event planning is ongoing. University Relations is working on a plan to get Ad Astra scheduling up and launched.
  • We have implemented the HR component of Workday, as a replacement for PeopleSoft, and the Finance component will follow.
  • Centralized purchasing procedures have been drafted and are under review.
  • We have expanded the use of facilities over the summer for some programs; more opportunities are under consideration.
  • Implementation of a revised orientation model is expected for 2021.

What are your intentions to advance multidisciplinary education? For example, teaching engineering, business, and law students to collaborate.

We are very interested in fostering collaborations across disciplines. There is wonderful work going on among Business, Engineering and Law to train the students from these areas how to work with each other. In STEM we are also fostering interdisciplinary work. We need to make collaborations across units less burdensome for the students, faculty and staff members involved. The Deans and Center Directors will work together this year to analyze the support and incentives needed to foster more such work.

What are some of the qualifications the university is looking for in the diversity chief?

As mentioned at the Convocation, we are currently in the process of developing the job description for this Cabinet level position. In doing so we will engage the Planning Action Council and others to assist with identifying the strategic priorities essential to diversity and inclusion to inform the position description. We are seeking someone who will collaborate with many people in our community to inspire and challenge us to become more welcoming, inclusive and respectful as we live out our mission.

My staff have reflected to me that there is a growing tension between the focus on a campaign, what we are aspiring to become, and the way (or lack) of significant investment in the people, the staff of this institution. What might your guidance be to staff who are grappling with this experience at SCU?

Our campus community members make it possible for us to be the premier institution we are and help us improve continually. I recognize our responsibility to invest in our staff, regardless of whether we are in a campaign or not. That investment may take the shape of compensation and benefits, professional development and training, or opportunities for building community that help improve communication, morale and trust. Expanding housing assistance for staff via the Landed program, implementation of a market study to make salaries more competitive in the bay area, and a generous benefit package, including the 10% retirement contribution for benefits eligible employees, are some of the ways we invest in our staff. Michael Crowley and John Ottoboni are steadily managing our financial resources and seeking creative ways to benefit the staff and faculty further. As I begin my term as president, I am focusing attention on creating more opportunities for community-building and improved communications as a way to invest more deeply in our community.

What are the most important qualities and skills that our next provost should have?

Please see the leadership profile.

How can we expand the eating spaces for students?

In order to accommodate an increase in resident student and other diners on campus, several renovations and expansions have occurred over the last two years. The first floor dining space in Benson Memorial Center was renovated to include increased seating capacity of 200+ and created several new venues for food production and delivery. In addition, Charney Hall of Law opened with a new cafe (Side Bar Cafe) which increased beverage and grab-and-go capacity to accommodate approximately 90 law school students on meal plans and the faculty, staff and students in the building. Both of these projects were completed and opened in fall of 2018.

In fall of 2019, the new Cellar Market opened after a project to expand and renovate the space. This project increased store size by 1,400 square feet and increased shelf space by 400 linear feet. This allows for the addition of ethnic food options as well as fresh produce and meats for self-prepared meals in student housing that includes a kitchen.

When the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation opens in fall of 2021, it will include a new restaurant with a grill line for a cook-to-order menu as well as a grab-and-go program. This venue will attract resident diners to the north side of campus and provide dining and seating for up to 300 plus at peak times (lunch).

Do you believe there is a shortage of classrooms for use by undergraduates?

With the removal of three undergraduate focused buildings (Bannon Engineering, Bannon Labs and Mechanical Engineering) we lost some classroom space last year. We knew that during the period between the demolition and the opening of the Sobrato Campus, we would need to find some temporary classroom space. We mitigated some of the loss by redeveloping Alameda Hall's seven classrooms. In addition, we built out 6 new classrooms and 15 teaching labs inside of Heafey-Bergin, and secured generous contributions from other organizations on campus to put space into use as classrooms. Student Life, Campus Ministry, and Auxiliary Services have been generous contributors of temporary classroom space. We have also looked at putting our existing classrooms to more productive and better use. By stretching the day to include more 8am classes, we can also increase the efficiency of our existing classroom space as well as other measures to garner better utilization from our physical plant. In short, I understand that everyone has contributed to the University by sharing the load during this short period of time between demolition and opening day. The opening of the Sobrato Campus combined with these other measures allows us continue to be effective educators.

What specific plans do you have to improve the campus climate in terms of race and gender?

Communication regarding campus climate will be forthcoming from Lisa Kloppenberg and me during the week of October 7th.