The stories we tell


Members of the Santa Clara community gathered in the Mission Church on Feb. 15 for the annual State of the University address by President Michael Engh, S.J. Here are edited excerpts.

Father Mick McCarthy, who directs Santa Clara’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, recently presented to the Board of Trustees a talk on “Education as Spiritual Exercises.” He included video clips of recent Santa Clara alumni reflecting on questions that included: Why are we here? Who is my neighbor? What is commitment? and, How do we imagine the life of the world to come?

Quentin Orem ’11, who graduated with a philosophy major and Catholic studies minor, responded. He says that staff, professors, and administrators “took an interest in me just because of me; not because of my major or anything I was doing academically. People just cared about me and my well-being. That made me feel like what was important wasn’t just how I was doing in school, but who I was becoming, and was I happy?”

Experiencing the care that people at Santa Clara had for him, Quentin discovered what was truly important in life. He has articulated in succinct phrases what we do at Santa Clara and the basic reasons why we do what we do.



Just outside the Mission Church, construction is progressing on the Patricia A. and Stephen C. Schott Admission and Enrollment Services Building. This structure will serve as the new front door of the University to welcome visitors and future students to campus. Inside, displays, videos, touch screens, and images will share with visitors the visual representation of Santa Clara’s heritage and spirit.

“That’s why I’m with those kids,
because it’s their reality.”
—YaYa Morales ’11

Writer Flannery O’Connor emphasized how important such a narrative is for a people, and, I would suggest, how significant it is for an institution: “There is a certain embarrassment about being a storyteller in these times when stories are considered not quite as satisfying as statements and statements not quite as satisfying as statistics, but in the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells.”

The story we tell about Santa Clara unfolds in many forms.

YaYa Morales ’11, a double major in English and in Spanish, led an immersion trip for students in downtown San Jose for a simulation of homelessness. Answering the question “Who is my neighbor?” she says, “Dressed as homeless individuals, we had to pick cans from trash, eat at the same center where they ate … try to apply for jobs … I got to feel ostracized in a sense … I’m able to leave that world, but a lot of people aren’t … That’s why I teach at Sacred Heart [Nativity School, San Jose]. That’s why I’m with those kids: because it’s their reality.”

The concept of kinship that lies beneath neighbor can make us feel uncomfortable in an institution of higher education. Kinship requires an immediacy of access, a closeness that breaks through boundaries of professionalism.

The vision of Santa Clara is a healing vision, an inclusive vision, a dedication to ideals of a community that welcomes all, engages all in the pursuit of truth and beauty. To achieve the vision requires extraordinary dedication and careful planning. Such analytical, reflective work goes on daily on this campus. How do we negotiate contracts with employees that are fair and realistic? How do we structure an integrative curriculum to educate with breadth and depth? How do we manage finances and shepherd investments so that financial aid reaches the most deserving students? How do we cope with cutbacks in state funding that supports our most economically vulnerable students? How do we best prepare students for life beyond this campus?



For the Class of 2016, we again broke records for the number of applications, both for regular and for early action admission. Looking over three years, undergraduate applications to Santa Clara have increased 41 percent. We are increasingly selective in our admissions while balancing goals of ethnic, racial, economic, geographic, religious, and gender diversity.

Financial aid:  This year we face a critical challenge. The budget proposed by California Gov. Jerry Brown ’59 would cut 44 percent into the Cal Grant program for the neediest students from California. We are facing a projected loss of $2.4 million, annually from the aid that supports 580 of our students. These students we retain at a rate of 96 percent, a figure higher than that of our general population. We are working with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities to advocate on behalf of our students to save as much of the Cal Grants program as possible. But both federal and state governments are investing less and less in higher education at a time when the nation and the state need an educated work force for international economic competition.

Fundraising and development: Cash gifts, pledges, and commitments in estate planning all show notable improvements over last year. The percentage of alumni contributing to their alma mater has increased. Student scholarships and endowed support of faculty are centerpieces of the Strategic Plan and are featured in the prospectus for the capital campaign for which we’re currently conducting a feasibility study. The campaign will also support our commitment to global engagement.

Facilities: Last fall we opened the University Villa Apartments, with housing for 400 juniors and seniors. This summer we shall complete the new Graham residence hall. We are planning further buildings on campus that include a new art and art history building, a parking garage on the north side of campus, a new building for the law school, and a renovation of Bannan Hall. We are ambitious—because we believe that the alumni and friends of Santa Clara share the belief of the faculty and staff that Santa Clara faces a brilliant future.



Sociology Professor Chuck Powers recently asked: “What makes for a good week and what makes for a bad week for you?” In a bad week, I worry about our economic challenges, campus labor relations, increased competition in higher education, flat operating budgets, the NCAA’s oppressive regime in athletics, and the governor’s proposed cuts. The discovery in August of an intrusion into our grade records was a low point for the year. The FBI has not concluded its investigation, which also dampens spirits. Such matters make for a tough week.

I pondered a number of times what makes a good work. I am so amazed by all the good you are accomplishing here at Santa Clara. A good week comes when kinship emerges clearly, when our actions are a blessing for others, when no one is excluded or marginalized, when athletes display sportsmanship, when student dancers excel on stage, when students tell me of amazing classes, and when parents write about helpful and courteous staff members who care for their sons and daughters. A wonderful week results when students find the support they need in Cowell Health Center, in the Rainbow Resource Room, the Career Center, in Campus Ministry, the Office of Multicultural Learning, in faculty offices, and at the desks of staff members.

“When you are loved like that, it frees you to be whoever you need to be for God’s people.” —Quentin Orem ’11

A good week confirms that I have committed my life to a noble enterprise, alongside colleagues who share my belief that what we do here helps to build a better, more just world. I am happy—and I trust you are as well—when we extend the blessing of belonging, of inclusion, of exploration and searching in this living organism called a university. Here we strive to extend our happiness. We want our students to experience the joy of discovering more of their talents, their values, their true selves, and all that makes up their amazing, God-given individualism.

Earlier I quoted Quentin Orem. After describing the support he experienced at Santa Clara, he says, “When you are loved like that, just because of who you are … it frees you to be whatever it is that you need to be for God’s people.” What do God’s people need? They depend on us at SCU to provide the best education possible that inspires our students, that transforms our students, that equips our students with the passion and knowledge to change the world for the better. God’s people need what you and I do to the best of our abilities. And when we do all we can, when we hear from graduates and parents that we have made such a difference, when lives are changed—that makes for a good week.

Drumroll, Please!

Santa Clara University’s renovated jazz studio gives music majors and non-majors more space to find their sound.

A Plan For Tomorrow

Santa Clara President Julie Sullivan unveils a new strategic plan, Impact 2030, with a focus on increasing access and opportunity, and, of course, SCU’s Jesuit values and Silicon Valley location.

Hoops of Hope

From pink socks to non-profit outreach, Santa Clara Women’s Basketball hosted their annual Pink Game to honor families impacted by cancer.

Flight and Food

Birds can be the key to understanding the environment and SCU students are taking a closer look.