Core Curriculum

Student Experiences

Connor Schwab

At a Glance:

Mechanical engineer discovers a vocation through his Pathways courses and reflection essay.

In Connor Schwab's experience, the most rewarding aspect of Pathways became evident after he took his final Pathways course and began reflecting on his learning within his chosen theme, Design Thinking. In looking back on his coursework, he discovered what he describes as his vocation, and credits the Pathways system for helping him define a postgraduate path.

Bringing Ideas to Life

For his Senior Design project, Connor and his team conceived the idea of, designed, and created a waterproof pocket. His Pathway courses not only provided knowledge and skills for the project; they also introduced a way of thinking and inspiration for the direction they took in first conceptualizing it and then bringing it to life. "I chose Design Thinking because it really gave purpose to my major and spoke to my entrepreneurial mindset," he explains. "The three classes that were part of my Pathway taught me how to first model and draw something, then identify solutions, and finally how to take a project from start to finish. The three classes gave me all the tools I needed to make my ideas come to life." 

It was not just the classes that helped Connor and his team succeed with their senior design project. The Pathways reflection essay, which asks senior students to consider how the themed and interdisciplinary courses at Santa Clara enhance  their education, also provided him with a context in which to better understand goals both as a student and graduate of the university. Focusing on the ways the essay helped him both in his academics and in defining postgraduate career goals, he broadened the lessons of his courses to extracurricular and work endeavors. 

A Spark for Postgraduate Life

Most importantly, the Pathways courses and reflection essay have helped set Connor on a career path that he's excited and passionate about. So excited, in fact, that he even incorporated a fourth additional course into his Pathways reflection essay, even though he was only required to consider three as an engineering major. He describes the fourth course, Product Opportunity Assessment, as " my favorite class that I have ever taken" and the course that "really sparked my interest for engineering entrepreneurship. That class is what may have led me to my future career!" 

Following graduation in June 2014, Connor now plans to pursue product development work, using the passion he developed as a student to see his career goals brought to life. He advises incoming students to choose Pathways that can similarly spark a passion. "Being able to reflect and put emphasis on a direction for your scholastics really gives more purpose to your classes, if you're thinking about it holistically and how it can apply to your life or career choice. And you can put it on a  resume and talk about it in interviews! It's great."