It’s a new strategic vision for Santa Clara University. And a road map for the years ahead.
How should the University build on the past while transforming itself to better serve the world as it is—and will be? A big question, to be sure—but one that’s been at the heart of a process that has percolated throughout the Santa Clara community over the past two years. The result: the Santa Clara University Strategic Plan 2011, which was passed by the Board of Trustees in February and sets the course for SCU starting now.
When Michael Engh, S.J., assumed the presidency of the University in January 2009, he put an emphasis on what he called “deep listening.” That’s meant conversations and questions, intense dialogue, and strategic thinking with faculty and staff, administrators, and boards. Ultimately the process is in pursuit of understanding what is best about Santa Clara and what has guided the University’s success over the past two decades. And it’s about articulating how best to steer by the constellations that define the mission of the institution—and steer through a world that is constantly changing: the sciences advancing, social circumstances shifting.
That’s a lofty description—but then, strategic plans are big-picture documents by nature. At the same time, there are pragmatic guidelines. And, of course, what’s here in the plan inspires goals for the University’s next comprehensive campaign.
Set the priorities
So what’s in the plan? Here’s a quick summary. There are five strategic priorities that, through their realization, will provide Santa Clara students with the best education possible: enabling them to succeed as citizens and leaders of the 21st century.
1. Excellence in Jesuit Education
Generations of Santa Clara grads have come to know the Three C’s. With the new plan, education continues to focus on formation of the whole person—one with “the knowledge and skills to act effectively (competence), the determination to reason morally (conscience), and the capacity to feel solidarity with the poor and powerless as well as the will to relieve suffering (compassion).”
A recent transformation on campus: the new Core Curriculum. But putting a curriculum on paper doesn’t make it so. To see it blossom requires: funding more tenure-stream faculty positions to teach the understaffed Core areas; reducing class sizes for the sequenced Foundations courses; and continuing to adopt more active teaching and learning methods.
With the Jesuit School of Theology now a part of the University, the plan also stakes out the goal to “establish Santa Clara as a national and international leader in theological study and scholarship.”
2. Engagement with Silicon Valley
More than a location, Silicon Valley is a state of mind—where innovation, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship are the watchwords. By strengthening ties with local communities and alumni, the University hopes to “learn from and contribute to both the leading institutions that make Silicon Valley attractive, and to the most marginalized groups in Silicon Valley that call out for help.” And it hopes to see programs that will leverage these creative energies toward social betterment.
Renewing its dedication to serving as a kind of conscience to the Valley, the University also commits to asking “the moral and ethical questions that inevitably arise with the creation and use of new technologies.” Look for increased internships with companies and service-learning opportunities locally, as well as expanded partnerships with Silicon Valley companies to enhance student learning.
3. Global Understanding
It goes without saying that a 21st-century education requires global understanding—matched with action and engagement if you actually are going to make the world a better place. Santa Clara will extend international ties to offer students a deeper understanding of the global context of their lives and work. Naturally, Silicon Valley-based corporations and organizations are valuable partners here as well. Look for increased emphasis on bringing more international students and visiting scholars to Santa Clara, and for SCU to build partnerships internationally—particularly through the unequaled global network of Jesuit universities.
4. Justice and sustainability
A commitment to social justice has profoundly shaped teaching, research, and community engagement at Santa Clara—and in that capacity the University has earned a reputation as a national leader. More recent, a commitment to sustainability has brought SCU further national attention—as readers of this magazine know well. The strategic plan stakes out sustainability as encompassing environmental protection, economic development, and social development. And it calls for increased internship, service, and research opportunities with corporations, institutions, and communities in the Valley and promoting Jesuit values in ways that enhance the common good. Look for increased collaboration when it comes to delivering course content through technology, too.
5. Academic Community
Strengthening the quality and diversity of the academic community is top priority—including faculty, staff, and students. One way of achieving that is through hiring more full-time faculty; another is providing the resources for faculty to pursue research, because active scholarship informs good teaching. Also, since the University is a physical place, it means adding and upgrading facilities to support learning, scholarship, and community.
This is just a taste. Expect to hear much more about the plan in the months ahead—not least of all as the university prepares for the next comprehensive campaign, seeking to pull together the support from alumni, friends, and others to continue to build Santa Clara into the best university it can be.
“We will have much important work to do over the next five years that is not mentioned in this plan,” President Engh wrote, “but the priorities identified here will make the greatest difference in strengthening Santa Clara at this time.”
Steven Boyd Saum