Discovery. Delight. Gratitude.

Introducing the President’s 2018 Convocation Address

Discovery. Delight. Gratitude.

Take this as the epigraph for the convocation address delivered by Santa Clara President Michael E. Engh, S.J. in September:

“The adult world underappreciates delight … In defense of delight I argue that it goes hand-in-hand with discovery, and I observe it often folds appreciation and gratitude into the discovery process.”

The author of that quote is John Siebert Farnsworth, recently retired after many years as a senior lecturer in English and Environmental Studies, and now Emeritus. His new book is Coves of Departure: Field Notes from the Sea of Cortez. For many years he took students to that sea to learn from it and to look with new eyes.

“Like John’s students, I invite you to join me in learning beyond preconceived notions by patiently paying attention to whom and what we encounter,” President Engh offered. “Looking with new eyes will enable us suddenly to recognize what we might otherwise be unprepared to comprehend and cherish.”

With that thoughtful frame, Fr. Engh spoke of what he had discovered in the past year. Those discoveries ranged from the most recent pressures that the economy in the Bay Area puts on housing—to how the experiences of adjunct faculty and lecturers might be enriched as part of the Santa Clara community. The discoveries included the findings of a comprehensive Campus Climate Study to provide good data on the ways we can continue to build an inclusive and supportive environment for students, faculty, and staff—and the discoveries included new initiatives Santa Clara has undertaken to provide the best support possible to students grappling with depression and anxiety, as many college students do across the country.

And then delight: at student awards (Fulbrights and a Rhodes scholar, and more!), and at the support SCU donors had provided during the leadership phase of the University’s capital campaign—thanks in no small part to the work of the team lead by Vice President for University Relations Jim Lyons. And, too, delight at academic achievements, growing enrollment at the School of Law and undergraduate admissions that draws ever more—and ever more diverse and talented—students. There’s he creation of a Global Theology Initiative by the Jesuit School of Theology and the founding of the Center for Latinx Education at SCU’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology. There’s the new online MBA at the Leavey School of Business, the global endeavors of students from the School of Engineering (Nicaragua, Tanzania, Uganda, and more), and the launch of the REAL program at the College of Arts and Sciences to fund research, internships, and summer projects for students. And delight with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics joining the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society, plus Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship launching a new program called Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins to support social enterprises serving or led by refugees, migrants, and survivors of human trafficking. And delight at the new digs for the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education—a beautifully renovated former bank building at Benton and Lafayette Streets. And, speaking of construction: yes, delight at the “STEM surge,” as we call it—renovating Heafey and Bergin halls and others and preparing the way for the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation.

What of gratitude?

As Fr. Engh looks toward completing his tenure as President, he noted: “Yes, I have played my role in this ongoing, university-wide effort to educate young women and men, but only one role. Reflecting on all that you contribute, day in and day out, year after year, I find myself deeply, deeply grateful.”

The metrics used in college rankings sometimes recognize what is good and essential about the University—individualized care for students that results in a high first-year retention rate and graduate rate, for example—which were factors in U.S. News now esteeming Santa Clara the best regional university in the West. But, Fr. Engh noted, “We have always known Santa Clara is distinguished by an excellent education we offer in the humanistic model of Jesuit, Catholic values … We each have our role to play that contributes to the amazing education offered at this institution.”


President Engh’s 2018 convocation address in full.

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