Where Are We Headed?

A conversation with incoming/outgoing board chairs of the SCU Board of Trustees: Paul Gentzkow, Robert J. Finocchio Jr. ’73.

Where Are We Headed?
Photo by Joanne Lee

That’s an interesting question to pose to the incoming and outgoing chair of the Board of Trustees, especially as SCU implements a strategic plan to transform the campus and the role Santa Clara plays in Silicon Valley and beyond. This summer Paul Gentzkow took the reins on the board from Robert J. Finocchio Jr. ’73. We sat down for a Q&A.

ON WHERE WE’RE GOING
Finocchio: It’s really centered around the strategic plan and our decision to go forward, to be bigger, to be better, to add more value to the world. We need to do it because we can and because we must. We have the potential to raise the resources. We have the vision, and we’re in the middle of Silicon Valley. Given that, we have a duty to build a stronger, more impactful institution. We have to go for it, Silicon Valley style.

Gentzkow: You’re starting to see some of that already with the new law school building, with the art and art history building, and the ambitious plans for the STEM program. We will provide a campus environment that will assist in the continued creation and enhancement of an academic community that reflects our mission and vision. Most important, the education is only going to get better as we improve the campus and build buildings that will provide a really great experience for the students. Fr. Engh announced that half a million dollars has been earmarked for sports out of the operating budget—that’s a real indication about our ambition to excel both in academics and athletics. The trustees want to see the sports program go to the next level, and they’re prepared to make that happen. On the whole, it’s an exciting time.

A LITTLE CONTEXT
Gentzkow: Santa Clara’s uniqueness starts with the history. You’ve got the Jesuit heritage and values. The education is rigorous. The location is key. So is the focus on being a person for others.

Finocchio: Many have described Santa Clara University as the first Silicon Valley startup—because it was a ragtag group of Jesuits who had been thrown out of Europe, more or less. We have a way to touch undergraduates that is unique in this geographic area. That makes us different from both big and local institutions—and from other fine Catholic institutions that can’t give the Silicon Valley experience. In our professional schools, undergraduates can be taught by scholarly faculty as well as practicing Silicon Valley business people, lawyers, and engineers.

WHAT’S AN OVERLOOKED SKILL IN THE VALLEY?
Gentzkow: There are so many technology companies and it’s so competitive here, and there’s so much emphasis on product development and engineering; the value of clear communication and working together as a team—versus against each other—can sometimes be lost.

BEST CAREER ADVICE I GOT
Finocchio: No. 1 is find the best boss you can. It doesn’t matter what company or industry. Find someone you can learn from, and stay on the steepest possible learning curve as long as you can. When you feel comfortable and the job is routine, it’s time to move on.

Continue the conversation with an extended Q&A: santaclaramagazine.com/trustees2015

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