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Chapter 1 - University Background

Handbook last updated February 9, 2024

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1.1  History

On January 12, 1777, six months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two Franciscan padres, Tomas de la Peña and Jose Antonio Murguia, founded the eighth of California's original 21 missions, calling it the Mission Santa Clara de Asís. The Franciscans ran it as a school and religious center for Indians and early settlers, teaching trades and farming to the men, music and reading to the boys, and weaving and sewing to the girls. Withstanding floods, earthquakes, and persecution, they maintained their settlement under three flags— Spanish, Mexican, and United States—until the Santa Clara Mission was transferred to the Jesuit order in 1851.

In that year, after laying the groundwork with fellow Jesuit Michael Accolti, Father John Nobili opened a college at the mission. Starting with 12 students, Santa Clara College offered courses in reading, writing, and foreign languages.

A decision made in 1854 by the Jesuit Province of Turin, Italy, to adopt California as a permanent mission field marked a turning point in Santa Clara's history. As a consequence, the Jesuits of Turin provided the college with the faculty and support that it needed to grow. The following year, Santa Clara College received a charter of incorporation from the State of California. In 1857, the College conferred its first collegiate degree, a Bachelor of Arts diploma, on Thomas I. Bergin. This was the first diploma granted by any institution of higher learning in the State of California. By 1858, new scientific apparatus arrived from Paris so that integrated courses in science as well as in the classics and in commercial subjects could be offered.

Slow and steady growth followed, and distinguished graduates became prominent members of California life. It was not until 1912, however, that Schools of Law and Engineering were founded. In that same year, courses in the humanities and the sciences were expanded, and the College became a University. Meeting the demands of urban growth in the San Francisco Bay Area, the University's School of Business and Administration was founded in 1926 and courses in commerce and finance were also expanded. In that same year, the old mission church was destroyed by fire. The present structure, an enlarged replica of the original, was completed in 1928.

From the 1930's through World War II, the University's enrollment was relatively stable. The return of many veterans resulted in an enlarged student body and new resources. In 1947, for the first time in the University's history, enrollment broke the one-thousand mark. From the postwar period to the present, the face of the campus has been changing and expanding. In 1957, the University permitted women studying at O'Connor Hospital's School of Nursing to take liberal arts courses at Santa Clara. Four years later, in 1961, the University announced a major change in policy and accepted women as undergraduate degree candidates for the first time in its 110–year history. Santa Clara became the first Catholic coeducational institution of higher learning in California.

In 2001, one hundred fifty years after its founding, the University enrolled approximately 4,500 undergraduates and 3,200 graduate students. In its sesquicentennial academic year, the University offered undergraduate degrees in more than forty fields and graduate degrees in Law, Business, Engineering, Counseling Psychology and Education, and Pastoral Ministries.

As an independent University supported by tuition, endowment, and gifts, Santa Clara has been able to accomplish change in ways that reflect its traditional concern for the individual student.

Today, Santa Clara University, the first institution to offer classes in higher learning in California, continues its mission heritage of service by helping its students equip themselves with advanced knowledge and humanistic values. Academic excellence in a well-balanced human being is the University's goal.

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1.2  Goals

The University's Statement of Purpose, approved by the Board of Trustees in 1975 and revised and reaffirmed on October 22, 1993, is as follows:

Inspired by the love of God to serve society through education, continuing the commitment of the Franciscans who founded Mission Santa Clara in 1777 and the Jesuits who opened the College in 1851, Santa Clara University declares its purpose to be the education of the whole person within the Catholic and Jesuit tradition.

The University is thus dedicated to:

  • the preparation of students to assume leadership roles in society through an education that stresses moral and spiritual as well as intellectual and aesthetic values, seeks to answer not only "what is" but "what should be," and encourages faith and the promotion of justice;
  • an uncompromising standard of academic excellence and an unwavering commitment to academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and freedom of expression in the search for truth;
  • rigorous and imaginative scholarship; excellent teaching in and out of the classroom; and educational programs designed to provide breadth and depth, to encourage the integration of different forms of knowledge, and to stimulate not only the acquisition but also the creative and humane use of knowledge;
  • affirmation of its Catholic identity, respect for other religious and philosophical traditions, promotion of dialogue between faith and contemporary culture, opposition to narrow indoctrination or proselytizing, and the opportunity for worship and the deepening of religious belief;
  • a community enriched by men and women of diverse backgrounds, respectful of difference and enlivened by open dialogue, caring and just toward others, and committed to broad participation in achieving the common good.

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1.3  Strategic Plan

The University is guided by a Strategic Plan approved by the Board of Trustees. The latest version of this plan is accessible via the University's Web site. The 2001 Strategic Plan, approved by the University Planning Council in Winter 2000 and the Board of Trustees in Spring 2001, includes three directional statements that appear below:

1.3.1  Strategic Vision

Santa Clara University will excel in educating men and women to be leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion. By combining teaching and scholarship of high quality, an integrated education in the Jesuit tradition, and a commitment to students as persons, we will prepare them for professional excellence, responsible citizenship, and service to society, especially on behalf of those in greatest need.

1.3.2  University Mission

Santa Clara University is a Catholic and Jesuit institution that makes student learning its central focus, promotes faculty and staff learning in its various forms, and exhibits organizational learning as it deals with the challenges facing it.

Student learning takes place at the undergraduate and graduate level in an educational environment that integrates rigorous inquiry and scholarship, creative imagination, reflective engagement with society, and a commitment to fashioning a more humane and just world.

As an academic community, we expand the boundaries of knowledge and insight through teaching, research, artistic expression, and other forms of scholarship. It is primarily through discovering, communicating, and applying knowledge that we exercise our institutional responsibility as a voice of reason and conscience in society.

We offer challenging academic programs and demonstrate a commitment to the development of:

  • Undergraduate students who seek an education with a strong humanistic orientation in a primarily residential setting.
  • Graduate students, many of them working professionals in Silicon Valley, who seek advanced degree programs that prepare them to make significant contributions to their fields.

In addition to these core programs, we also provide a variety of continuing education and professional development opportunities for non-matriculated students.

1.3.3  Fundamental Values

We hold ourselves responsible for living out these core values, which are critical for carrying out our mission in pursuit of our vision:

  • Academic Quality. We seek an uncompromising standard of excellence in teaching, learning, and scholarship. All three elements are essential to academic quality at Santa Clara. We prize original scholarship for its own sake and for the contribution it makes to teaching and to the betterment of society. Our commitment to academic freedom is unwavering.
  • Integrated Learning. While valuing the integrity of established disciplines, we endeavor to integrate different forms of knowledge, to educate the whole person, and to foster moral and spiritual development. By promoting learning in everything we do, we foster a lifelong passion for learning.
  • Commitment to Students. As teachers and scholars, mentors, and facilitators, we nurture and challenge students as we help them become independent learners and responsible leaders in society.
  • Service to Others. We promote throughout the University a culture of service—service not only to those who study and work at Santa Clara but also to society in general and to its most disadvantaged members.
  • Community and Diversity. We cherish our diverse community and the roots that must sustain it: shared values amidst diversity, close personal relationships, effective communication, respect for others, and an engaged concern for the common good of the campus, the local community, and the global society.
  • Jesuit Distinctiveness. We preserve and renew the Jesuit tradition, which incorporates all of these core values. Our tradition is an expression of Christian humanism in which faith and reason together animate the most fundamental human quest—the pursuit of truth and goodness. This pursuit challenges us to counter inhumanity with humanity, to act ethically, and to promote justice with faith. We also take part in the broader Catholic tradition to which Jesuits have made a major contribution.

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