Santa Clara University


State of the University 2009

Michael Engh, S.J.

February 23, 2009

Thank you, Lucia, for the introduction, and thank you all for gathering here this afternoon. I am grateful also to Sonny Manuel, S.J., for the Invocation, and to Rachel Manfre for her remarks, as well as for her advice and effective leadership of the undergraduate students. Let me commend the University Chamber Singers for their contribution to our convocation.

Many of you have sent messages or stopped me and extended a warm welcome to me. I have been most appreciative of these expressions of support. In particular, for all who have sent books and articles on how to be a leader, you deserve special thanks, like Barry Posner.

I am very excited to be here at Santa Clara. It feels like riding a wave on a surfboard, when the wave has turned out to be the “big one.”

My remarks today are those of a newcomer, the observations of a ’49er. Today marks my 49th day on the job, so I have impressions and comments to make, based on what I have gleaned from listening, watching, reading, and observing these 7 weeks. I have arranged my remarks in three categories: the accomplishments you have attained; the challenges we confront; and the commitment we share to academic quality.

Proud to be at Santa Clara

I have observed a vibrant academic climate here, a campus permeated by ideas and art and innovation, a campus where issues of spirituality and justice are taken seriously. Let me offer a few examples.

Among the students, I have been pleased to meet Noelle Lopez. As a senior Philosophy major, Noelle has received a Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University next year. She is the captain of our women's cross country and track teams and has worked as a Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center. Noelle is the first woman from Santa Clara to achieve this honor and only the second SCU student to do so since 1955. Congratulations to Noelle and to her professors and coaches! Noelle, would you please stand and be recognized?

In the past three weeks I have attended two events to celebrate Santa Clara’s invitation to the 2009 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C. After a remarkable 3rd place finish in 2007, our University is one of only 20 universities worldwide selected again to compete in this year’s Solar Decathlon. The final competition will take place on the National Mall in Washington this October 8-16, 2009.

Presidents receive many kinds of letters. They address a wide range of issues, and an early one caught my eye. Two students, Douglas Wheeler and Julia Mock, wrote to protest the university’s investment in a company noted for environmental degradation. Massey Energy mines coal through a process of mountain top removal, a process witnessed by the students during an immersion trip to Appalachia. In my inquiries I learned from the president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia that, yes, Massey Energy causes widespread damage to the environment in that state. This was corroborated by the research of a student intern in Environmental Studies. From our Finance Office I learned that the University did hold a small amount of stock in the company. This investment had been made unknowingly and it contradicted our ethical guidelines for investment. Once aware of this error, we divested. I thank the Finance Office staff, and the students, for such environmental responsibility.

Happily, the President also receives frequent messages from Linda Campbell in the Sponsored Projects Office about successful funding of faculty research. Let me offer several randomly selected examples. Please: do not feel offended if you are not mentioned!

  • Cary Yang (Electrical Engineering): thermal and electrical nanoscale transport;
  • Chris Weber (Physics): laser-based experiment in magnetism of Gallium Arsenide, important for semiconductors;
  • Dan Lewis (Computer Engineering): first year of a five-year grant in computer literacy;
  • Christopher Kitts (Mechanical Engineering): in astrobiology;
  • Rebecca Black (English): National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

These are examples of all your fine work.

I have discovered other examples of accomplishment of which we can be proud. I have witnessed basketball games for the men’s and women’s teams, and I am impressed by the sportsmanship of our athletes and coaches. In music and theatre, I have enjoyed several student performances. One was the Mozart opera, The Marriage of Figaro, conducted by Nancy Wait-Kromm, of the Music Department. The other was the play, Clare of Assisi, created and directed by Kristin Kusanovich and Mark Larson of the Theatre and Dance Department.

These performances reminded me of what poet Mark Doty wrote: “If art’s acceptable evidence, mustn’t what lies behind the world be at least as beautiful as the human voice?”

We can also be proud of former students. Most prominent in the news are two alumni. The first I saw when watching the inauguration of Barack Obama. Standing behind the President as he was sworn in was Janet Napolitano, class of ’79, new director of homeland security. For the second alumnus, I received a visit from two FBI agents. They came as part of the background check on Leon Panetta, Class of 1960, prior to his confirmation as the new director of the CIA.

We have much to boast about in our Campus Facilities that dramatically enhance the learning environment at Santa Clara.

  • The new Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library opened on March 31, 2008. Ron Danielson reports that there have been over 800,000 student visits since opening day eleven months ago.
  • Lucas Hall, home to the Leavey School of Business, was dedicated on September 14, 2008.

Let me also mention the $3 million Sullivan Aquatic Center opened October 26, 2008.

Given the superior performance of so many across the university, it is gratifying to read that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine named Santa Clara University as one of the top 50 “best values” among private universities in the United States (#43). From Washington, D.C., we learned ten days ago that Santa Clara was named to the President’s Honor Roll for Community Service. The Kaplan College Guide 2009 named Santa Clara University one of the nation's 25 most environmentally responsible schools. The only other institution named from California was University of California-Berkeley.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) presented three gold medals and a pair of bronze awards at its regional awards ceremony to the Office of Marketing and Communication. With its quintet of awards, SCU was the most lauded university for the second consecutive year in CASE’s District VII, which includes more than 100 colleges and universities from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

To conclude my comments on accomplishments, I want to mention and compliment the three Centers of Distinction, our highly competent senior administration, as well as the dedicated and generous Trustees, Regents, and Alumni.

Much to be Accomplished

In the nation and the world, we face unprecedented economic problems. These developments affect each of us and our students and their families. Given that we rely upon tuition for 75% of our annual revenue, we are greatly concerned. We have not yet felt the full effects of the recession. Much of that will not be fully evident until fall enrollment figures are in.

In the past 49 days much of my attention has been on the implications for our University of the nation’s economic health. This has meant extensive work with the senior administration and the Trustees in preparing the budget just adopted for next year. In particular I want to note the work of Bob Warren and his good staff in Finance. I want to reiterate that we prepared this budget with several goals:

  • a commitment to academic quality;
  • a balanced budget;
  • avoiding involuntary lay-offs;
  • addressing changing financial aid needs; and
  • building financial reserves for next year.

A personal concern of mine was retaining an economic diversity among our students.

I communicated with you on several occasions about the process and the results.

  • Deans, center directors, vice presidents and the provost reviewed operating budgets to economize wherever possible. Targets were categories such as travel and entertainment – not academic programs. Savings of $2 million will result when implemented.
  • We have deferred most construction, except for those projects for which we have donor funding, such as the new Student Activity Center.
  • Faculty, staff, and administrators will forgo pay increases, save faculty who are promoted and employees with certain kinds of contracts or collective bargaining agreements.
  • We have instituted a position control process to verify the need for replacements in all areas where vacancies occur.
  • I have requested your assistance in our stepped-up efforts to ensure enrollment of continuing students.

I am happy to report that undergraduate student enrollment is holding steady. The attrition rate from fall to winter terms for the current year is estimated to be approximately 3%, which is consistent with past years. A similar picture emerges from the various graduate programs. Thus, based on winter-term enrollment and projections for spring, enrollments are holding.

In the fall Paul Locatelli asked that faculty encourage students with emergency financial need to see the Financial Aid Office. The University created Special Assistance Awards for one-year need-based grants to supplement any need-based financial aid and merit scholarships that students already held. Awards were made available to students who were not previously eligible for financial aid who would now qualify for need-based aid.

Through the end of December, 47 students qualified for a Special Assistance Award and received $438,000 in supplemental aid. The University funded these grants out of operating reserves ($338,000) and from an anonymous donor’s $100,000 gift. This exhausted the Financial Aid budget for the year.

The Financial Aid staff continues to evaluate additional student applications for Special Assistance Awards. Up to 80 more students may be certified as eligible – based on their documentation of significantly changed family financial circumstances. We may face an additional need between $500,000 and $600,000. To secure this money I have worked with Jim Purcell and our University Relations Staff to approach donors to help. To date we have received another $100,000 from the same anonymous donor who aided us in the fall. In addition, the Jesuit Community has designated $200,000 of its annual gift for emergency student aid. I am deeply grateful to Sonny Manuel, Rector of the Jesuit Community, and to our anonymous trustee, for their generosity to our students.

Let me recognize the work of the Financial Aid office in assisting students, as well as the Bursar’s Office that has enabled parents to create payment plans that accommodate changed economic circumstances. These responses have eased the strain on those family budgets – and allowed students to remain at Santa Clara.

We have initiated a range of efforts to secure next year’s freshman class. I wish to thank Provost Gilbert and Associate Provost Charles Erekson, along with leaders in Admissions and Financial Aid. We have:

  • Set one date, March 19, for notifying all “regular decision” applicants, rather than using “rolling” admissions. Far less confusing, it is the practice that most major universities are using.
  • Requested more proactive faculty involvement. I hear from parents how impressed they are with the phone calls you are making and the emails that you are sending.
  • Leveraged scholarship awards to strengthen our academic profile
  • Personal calls from the President and from the Provost to all Presidential and Provost scholarship recipients in the early admit pool.
  • The first Scholars Day event was held on Saturday, February 7. Thank you to those who participated.
  • Highlighted SCU's new core curriculum, new facilities—Learning Commons, Tech Center and Library; business school—all within the context of our engaged pedagogy, strong curriculum, core values, and Jesuit educational philosophy.
  • Better leverage our relationships with high school counselors.

All of these efforts are highly significant so that we remain competitive in recruiting qualified students. With a national demographic shift underway, there will be fewer high school seniors applying to college next year. We have begun the search for a director of enrollment management. We must be prepared with a strategic plan to respond.

Commitment to Academic Quality

My third and final general topic today concerns our commitment to Academic Quality. In my recent reading, I learned that Silicon Valley is not so much a place as it is a state of mind, a culture – ambitious for innovation, change and improvement. At Santa Clara we best apply this commitment to innovation and change in all our efforts to enhance Academic Quality and engaged pedagogy. Let me offer three examples where we must be innovators on the cutting edge.

Implementation of the Core

Our Provost assures me that we shall be ready to launch the new Core Curriculum in Fall 2009. Over 200 syllabi have already been approved. Most are “Foundations” courses for first year students; some are “Explorations” and “Integrations” courses as well. This year, 21 pilot courses are currently underway in two areas of the new Core: Cultures and Ideas and Critical Thinking and Writing.

Built into the budget is a four-year plan to add new faculty positions for the Core, with the final increment in next year’s budget


The re-accreditation process helps us to examine what we’re doing well and what we can do to improve. A draft of the Capacity and Preparatory Report for the WASC self study for reaffirmation of accreditation has been completed and is posted on a password protected website. After receiving feedback from the University community, the self-study committees will revise the draft for a July 30 submission.

A site visit will be held October 20-22, 2009.

JST: Jesuit School of Theology

The planned affiliation of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley with Santa Clara has been a movement that has attracted little public notice.

Drawing on the diversity of people and cultures in California, the Jesuit School of Theology is an international center for the study of theology and ministry, and admits students from all over the world. The Jesuits founded it outside Los Gatos in 1934, and relocated it to Berkeley in 1969.

JST will not move again. It will remain in Berkeley and become a regional campus of Santa Clara University known as the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. Degrees granted by JST eventually will bear that name. JST is one of only two Jesuit theological centers in the United States that are approved by the Vatican Congregation of Catholic Education to grant the ecclesiastical degrees necessary for Jesuit priests to be ordained. They also educate a large number of lay ministers for positions in the Church. I want to acknowledge the work of John Ottoboni, University Legal Counsel, for navigating the legal aspects of the affiliation.

Many prized facets of JST and SCU will remain unchanged after the integration. For instance, JST will remain a member of the nine-school Graduate Theological Union, and will retain access to its world-class theological library. Both schools will retain the academic freedoms they currently enjoy. The Vatican Congregation of Catholic Education in Rome will continue to set standards – which will be implemented by the JST’s seven Jesuit members – for the granting of JST ecclesiastical degrees.

I could offer a fourth example, in our Centers of Distinction. As of yet I am not sufficiently acquainted to comment. I see vast opportunity for interdisciplinary teaching and study and for partnerships with the Silicon Valley. More on that after my further investigation.

Concluding Remarks

In future years I hope to be briefer. This year, however, we face unprecedented economic challenges, and I wanted you to be as fully informed as possible. I also wanted you to know what I have learned to date about your accomplishments; the challenges we confront; and the unwavering commitment we share to academic quality. In my 49 days here, I have been greatly impressed by your understanding of our efforts to cope with these fiscal difficulties. Again and again, you have expressed your willingness to do all you can to insure that our students remain at Santa Clara and complete their education.

I am learning much in my small group meetings with faculty and staff, as well as lunch sessions in Benson with students. I have welcomed individuals and groups, from the general Superior of the Jesuits, Adolfo Nicolas, to a delegation of administrators from the Communist Party Training College, Shenzen, outside Beijing. I have attended meetings of groups from the Catala Club to Kids on Campus, the STS Advisory Board, to the Bronco Bench Foundation. My effort to “listen deeply” is proving quite rewarding for me. At the end of each gathering, I leave impressed with your values, your insight and wisdom, and your love of learning. Thank you for your generosity, for all you do in our shared mission of Jesuit, Catholic higher education. I am excited and happy to be here, to help to lead the remarkable individuals who comprise the faculty, staff, and students of Santa Clara University.

Thank you very much.

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