High-Impact Educational Practices
Santa Clara students take advantage of many opportunities to extend their education through high-impact experiences (HIPs). HIPs take students beyond the classroom into learning that takes place over a period of time, often involving a great deal of interaction with and feedback from diverse others. HIPs engage students in active learning, allowing students to build deep connections with faculty and peers, and to apply their knowledge to real-world questions and problems. The outcomes and benefits of participating in HIPs are far-reaching and benefit students' lifelong learning and personal development. That's why SCU is dedicated to ensuring that all of our students experience multiple HIPs before they graduate.
All SCU students complete at least one Experiential Learning for Social Justice (ELSJ) course that links their academic learning with a community-based learning experience. In ELSJ courses, students bring knowledge from their disciplines into dialogue with knowledge from the community, and there are ELSJ courses in virtually every discipline: communication, psychology, religious studies, business, and engineering -- just to name a few. Experiential learning is at the heart of Jesuit education. As Kevin Quinn, S.J. writes, "students are encouraged to enter worlds beyond campus, to gain an education that no classroom alone can offer, to learn with and from people in marginalized communities and so to become global citizens for a new century." Community-based learning is linked to several university learning goals--among them, diversity, social justice, and civic engagement.
Internships constitute a form of experiential learning in which students enrich their classroom learning with hands-on work experience. By graduation, 75% of SCU students have participated in an internship (HERI College Senior Survey, 2019). Internships help students discern their vocational paths; foster integrative learning; develop soft skills (interpersonal/ people skills), and position students to be more competitive in the workplace. According to Gallup (2017), "Recent graduates ...who had a relevant job or internship while in school were more than twice as likely to acquire a good job immediately after graduation." In the College of Arts and Sciences' REAL Program, students can apply for up to $5,000 to offset living, transportation or other expenses associated with participating in meaningful career exploration, including internships.
At SCU, 86% of students complete a capstone or culminating senior experience, integrating and extending their knowledge and skills from their major and their undergraduate education more broadly (College Senior Survey 2019). Capstone experiences vary within and across majors. Students may participate in a problem-based, project oriented course which allows them to apply their skills by helping an outside organization with an environmental issue facing a certain region (Environmental Studies and Sciences) or they may undertake an organizational analysis, grant seeking, and write a policy brief among other applied research skills in an applied capstone (Sociology). All Engineering students complete a year-long project taking an engineering idea from concept to design to prototype (Engineering Senior Design). Whatever the project, students emerge from these experiences with a strong sense of accomplishment and examples of their best work, suitable for including in applications for jobs and graduate school.
Many faculty at SCU are engaged in ongoing, cutting-edge research programs, and are committed to providing undergraduate students with opportunities to gain first-hand research experiences. Almost one-third of undergraduates (31%) of SCU students participate in research with faculty members (NSSE, 2018). Students work on projects in all fields--digital humanities, communication, physics, and more. They often go on to present the results of research at regional or national conferences or co-author research articles with faculty and other student researchers. For example, in 2019, the Neuroscience Program sponsored six students majoring in Biology, Neuroscience, and Psychology to attend the 2019 Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago, and Professor Paul Abbyad (Chemistry & Biochemistry), along with a team of SCU student co-authors (pictured above), published a peer-reviewed research paper on label-free enzyme sorting in Analytica Chimica Acta.
One-quarter of all SCU students study abroad during summer, fall, winter or spring terms. Santa Clara ranks 8th nationally for the total number of students who study abroad during quarter or semester-long academic programs (IIE: Open Doors 2018). Students may live and study in over thirty-five countries, from Argentina to Vietnam--and programs exist for students of all majors. SCU's study abroad program is guided by a number of learning goals that include: Being informed about current international and global issues; studying another language and culture; seeking opportunities out of your comfort zone; understanding how actions affect global communities; preparing for life and work in an increasingly globalized era; and encouraging a sense of global responsibility. Read more about SCU students' study abroad experiences here.
Immersion trips provide an opportunity to connect with people in communities that experience marginalization, be it economic, political, social, or cultural. Each year, about 165 students take part in domestic or international immersions offered by one of SCU's Centers of Distinction, or a program in Engineering, Leavey School of Business, College of Arts and Sciences, or Student Life. Immersion experiences are transformative--they shape students' values, their abilities to interact meaningfully across cultural contexts, and their commitment to social justice. Approximately 70 students per year participate in The Ignatian Center immersion trip during winter and spring breaks, and summer. In this short video, several students share the impact of their Ignatian Center immersion trip to Nicaragua.
SCU students learn to work, solve problems, and enhance their understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Students participate in study groups, team-based assignments, peer review writing, cooperative projects, and group research in their courses. Through student clubs and organizations, peer education, tutoring, leadership development programs, and other student leadership roles, students have many co-curricular opportunities to work closely with groups of their peers. Collaborative learning and teamwork is a critical 21st century skill. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement data (NSSE 2018), SCU seniors work collaboratively with other students more often than their peers at other universities--and this sets them up for success in the workplace.
All first-year students take a Core course linked to a Residential Learning Community (RLC), bridging the classroom with students' living community. In their RLCs, students can explore a common topic and shared readings through the lenses of different disciplines. RLCs encourage the integration of learning across courses, with some deliberately linking thematic programs, service learning activities, and additional opportunities to gather informally in their living environment with live-in faculty, staff, spiritual facilitators, and student leader peers. At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, SCU opened Finn Residence Hall. Its RLC, Cura, promotes well-being and the development of a deep awareness of self and the lifelong habits enabling students to thrive in college and beyond.