Skip to main content

Core Curriculum

ELSJ Overview

When he inaugurated Santa Clara’s sesquicentennial year, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, noted that “Tomorrow’s ‘whole person’ cannot be whole without an educated awareness of society and culture with which to contribute socially, generously, in the real world.” Calling for a new Jesuit educational standard, “to educate the whole person of solidarity in the real world,” he explained: “Students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage in it constructively. They should learn to perceive, think, judge, choose, and act for the rights of others, especially the disadvantaged and the oppressed.”*

The Experiential Learning for Social Justice (ELSJ) component of Santa Clara’s Core curriculum cultivates social justice, civic life, perspective, and civic engagement. To echo the words of Fr. Kolvenbach, ELSJ provides Santa Clara students with opportunities for experiencing the gritty reality of the world, thinking critically about the world, responding to its suffering, and engaging it constructively.

* Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American, Jesuit Higher Education,” address at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California, October 6, 2000.

Completing the ELSJ Requirement

See the Core Curriculum Guide for courses approved for ELSJ. The ELSJ requirement can be fulfilled in two ways:

1.    One class, incorporating the key elements, in which all students receive ELSJ credit upon passing the course (units variable).

 2.    One non departmental independent study "ELSJ Milestone” class (one unit) in which the enrolled student participates in a pre-approved Ignatian Center immersion during the school break directly preceding the course. Alternately, a student may develop independent study curriculum and direct community engagement activities with a faculty supervisor/mentor that align with the ELSJ requirement. To fulfill the ELSJ requirement via the ELSJ Milestone class, the student must also submit a proposal (including syllabus and community engagement description) to the Assessment Manager for Undergraduate Studies (Andrea Brewster) for the ELSJ Milestone in advance of beginning the proposed experience. The Assessment Manager will confirm whether the student’s proposal qualifies for ELSJ. Students will submit work products to the Assessment Manager demonstrating the achievement of the ELSJ learning outcomes, following posted guidelines.


Two key elements are necessary for ELSJ courses: 

  1. Contact: ELSJ involves substantial contact with communities
    • Community-based learning experiences involve typically 16 contact hours over one quarter
    • Immersion trips involve at least 24 contact hours, normally over a five-day period (or longer)
    • Other forms of community engagement typically involve 16 contact hours over 2 to 10 weeks (or longer)
  2. Reflection, Learning Objectives, and Assignment Mapping:  Direct contact will be integrated through reflections and assignments. Assignments in ELSJ courses will be aligned with the following learning objectives. Students will be able to
    • recognize the benefits of life-long responsible citizenship and civic engagement in personal and professional activities (Civic Life);
    • interact appropriately, sensitively, and self-critically with people in the communities in which they work and appreciate the formal and informal knowledge, wisdom, and skills that individuals in these communities possess (Perspective);
    • recognize, analyze, and understand social reality and injustices in contemporary society, including recognizing the relative privilege or marginalization of their own and other groups (Social Justice);
    • be able to make vocational choices in light of both their greatest gifts and the world's greatest needs (Civic Engagement).

For more information, please visit the Course Development Resources

NOTE: Syllabus submissions must be made to: The ELSJ Faculty Core Committee is responsible for reviewing and approving syllabi.