Do something great

“If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough.”

The State of the University address with President Michael Engh, S.J. We are part of a region that drives change around the globe. And big things are afoot at SCU.

Describing a university on the cusp of major changes driven by a desire to tackle tremendous problems of our age, Santa Clara University President Michael Engh, S.J., delivered the 2015 State of the University address at the University’s Mayer Theatre on Feb. 19, before a packed audience of faculty, staff, students, and supporters.

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough,” President Engh said, quoting Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “At this strategic moment in the University’s history, we are poised to propel Santa Clara to grow more fully into its potential to build a more just, humane, and sustainable world,” he noted.


Fr. Engh highlighted many achievements in the past year. A couple numbers: A record-high undergraduate retention rate of 96.2 percent for first-year students returning as sophomores—and more than 15,000 students applying for the 1,250 openings in next fall’s class.

Fr. Engh noted that last fall, Aven Satre-Meloy ’13 was awarded a Rhodes scholarship. (Read the story here.) Before Satre-Meloy heads to Oxford, he is returning to campus as a President’s Fellow to work with other students, advising on student leadership and development and assisting with scholarship applications.

Other highlights: Building on SCU’s national recognition for efforts in sustainability, SCU plans a renewal of the University’s Campus Climate Commitment to use solar energy and reduce the University’s carbon footprint. Fr. Engh also reported high marks for SCU’s Title IX–related policies and protocols and ensuring a safe campus climate.

In summarizing the recently approved University budget, President Engh noted that the planned 3.4 percent tuition increase is the second lowest in more than 30 years, while at the same time the University is continuing with plans for growth including adding 16 new tenure-track faculty positions, and investing in a comprehensive upgrade in the IT system that serves the entire campus.


Provost Dennis Jacobs took the podium to describe the University’s ambitious comprehensive campaign and campus expansion articulated in the Santa Clara 2020: Integrated Strategic Plan. (The six goals and details are elaborated on the plan website.)

Highlights of the University’s comprehensive campaign include:

  • Major capital projects at various stages of completion, including the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building, a new law school building at the entrance of campus, a STEM complex, and residence halls sufficient to house the eventual addition of 600 new students
  • The closing of Franklin Street to expand SCU’s pedestrian-mall campus
  • Upgrades to Buck Shaw stadium
  • New STEM, professional, arts, and other “districts” being created through the new buildings and other changes on campus, to better facilitate collaboration and community


Director of Campus Ministry Lulu Santana M.A. ’97 offered the opening invocation, with a prayer seeking healing and comfort in places that have seen violence from Libya to Ukraine—and even on the Santa Clara campus just two days before. According to police, at 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 17, one student attacked his roommate in Graham Hall with a knife, wounding his roommate and then himself. Santa Clara student emergency medical technicians were the first to treat both. Following up on outreach to parents and the campus community over the previous days, President Engh acknowledged that the incident had stunned the campus community. And Fr. Engh thanked student EMTs, community facilitators, Campus Safety and Student Life staff, and others for their professional and compassionate care during and after the incident.

“Your care for our students impressed me deeply, the compassionate care that distinguishes Santa Clara as such a special place,” he said.

A campus prayer vigil for healing and hope was held on Feb. 23 in the Mission Church.


“Not only is this a special place, but Santa Clara is located in an extraordinary spot on the globe,” Fr. Engh said. SCU’s ambitious plans are a way of challenging the University to “do something great.” Silicon Valley is “a rare ecosystem of venture capital, creativity, risk, and genius,” Fr. Engh said, and Santa Clara is “called to greatness of study and research and creativity; great engagement of imagination, a worldview that is expansive and passionate” and one that is “alive to the challenges and needs of our planet, our society, and the greatest needs of God’s people.”

He told stories: of accompanying Frederick Ferrer ’80, president of the Health Trust, “on a tour of one of the largest homeless encampments in San Jose, known as the Jungle. He introduced me to homeless advocates, county medical personnel, volunteers, and inhabitants of this sprawling camp of 300 to 400 residents. Our visit took place just days before the camp was bulldozed and the residents dispersed to find other shelter wherever they could.”

Curbing homelessness “requires serious and prolonged thought, deep study, and great compassion to produce solutions that so far have eluded American society. And why not Santa Clara University to engage in such an issue?” he asked.

“The local community also needs Santa Clara to work with its children,” Fr. Engh said—which SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, led by Michael C. McCarthy, S.J. ’87, M.Div. ’97, is doing through the Thriving Neighbors Initiative at Washington Elementary School in San Jose. The initiative brings together faculty, students, and staff along with parents and children at the elementary school, where Maria Arias Evans ’71 serves as principal.

SCU students in Engineering 111, STEM Outreach to the Community, work there under Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Shoba Krishnan to teach principles of engineering to fifth and sixth graders. And students working with Associate Professor of Education Marco Bravo collaborated with five mothers “to design, implement, evaluate, and sustain an early literacy program for children.” One mother recounted that, through the use of personal iPads in the course, “her four-year old son—who had never learned to speak—pronounced his first words.”

Make AI the Best of Us

What we get out of artificial intelligence depends on the humanity we put into it.

The Co-Op

Santa Clara University has long been a bastion of interdisciplinary learning. A new fund is taking cross-collaboration to new heights.

Human at Heart

How Santa Clara University is distinguishing itself as a leader in one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation.

A Campus on the Rise

New buildings on campus—count ’em, six in total—aren’t the only changes brought by a successful $1 billion fundraising campaign. Come explore what’s new.