Santa Clara University

Santa Clara’s Tapestry of Excellence:

The Education of the Whole Person

 —by Paul Locatelli, S.J.
The Education of the Whole PersonSanta Clara strives to educate the whole person within the Catholic and Jesuit tradition. This commitment inter-weaves a number of ideals forming a tapestry that includes a passion for intel-lectual acumen, a diverse and pluralistic learning community, a genuine Christian inspiration, and interreligious and inter-cultural dialogue. The education of the whole person is achieved in a learning environment that integrates rigorous inquiry, creative imagination, reflective engagement with society, and a commitment to fashioning a more humane and just world.

As a Catholic university, Santa Clara has the same commitment and dedication to research, teaching, and the education of students that every genuine university has. The 1990 apostolic letter from the Vatican emphasized universities are places where students and teachers share in the common love of knowledge that was "so precious to Saint Augustine, gaudium et veritate, namely, the joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge."

Santa Clara shares this dedication through the particular lens of Jesuit education. The education of the whole person has been the ideal of Jesuit colleges and universities from the time of Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500s to the present. Over the centuries, however, the meaning of educating the whole person has changed. For Ignatius, the concept of the whole person was satisfied by considering intellectual, spiritual and physical formation.

The Education of the Whole Person
But in his address for our sesquicentennial celebration, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, brought a new scope to the meaning of educating the whole person. Keeping the student at center stage, he said, "The real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become…In the 21st century, we must therefore raise our Jesuit educational standard to educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world."

Solidarity is captured in the beautiful phrase from Jewish spirituality: "to heal the world." Solidarity brings the intellectual, spiritual, moral and physical aspects of the person into coherence and leads to the constructive use of knowledge to make the world more humane and just. Solidarity shifts the educational question from "how ought I to live?" to "how ought all of us live together in this time and place?"

Santa Clara students have the opportunity to answer that most important question through three interwoven realities: an integrated humanism, faith and scholarly inquiry, and engagement with the world in pursuit of justice.

Integrated humanism and academic excellence

Jesuit education has always placed its central focus on an integrated humanism. To achieve this ideal, Santa Clara does not pursue the stereotype of the large research university where the generation of knowledge in highly specialized departments often takes precedence over almost everything else, including effective teaching. Nor does it fit the image of small colleges that typically emphasize teaching the liberal arts to a much smaller student body but often allow less time for original research.

Santa Clara lies between the two types and aspires to incorporate the best of both which today also means integrating the latest learning technologies into a humanistic education.

The early Jesuits combined the two competing forms of higher education in the sixteenth century to inaugurate a distinctively Catholic educational tradition. They emphasized classical languages and literature, eloquent expression and the arts, as the ways to shape the moral character and religious development of students. Other universities, by contrast, depended upon a more scholastic method of lecturing and disputation that developed the analytical skills of students in law, medicine, philosophy and theology. As graduates of the University of Paris, the leading educational institution of Europe, the first Jesuits were very familiar with that model.

A Santa Clara education retains the orientation of an ethical education found in the Renaissance humanist tradition, and enriches it with a faith orientation, as the early Jesuits did, as well as with a scholarly commitment found in the late 19th century European and American colleges. It strives for the intellectual rigor, critical thinking, and scholarly and professional excellence critical to solving the complex problems this world faces.

Jesuit education today also retains great confidence that human reason and actions can be the media of divine grace. This tradition shares common ground with other people of faith and secular academics in valuing the pursuit of truth and the generation of knowledge, as well as a common commitment to developing the humanity of their students.

Faith and scholarly inquiry
Clara Chu

The second dimension of a Santa Clara education is the place of faith in an integrated humanism. From its origins, the Christian community valued learning and dialogue with culture. The Catholic Church founded the great medieval universities. Santa Clara stands in continuity with this commitment to learning, rooting itself in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, Catholic intellectual and social teachings, evolving expressions of worship and prayer, and human intelligence and wisdom.

Well-educated persons will include in their educational experience exploring the life of faith. Both in theology courses and the practice of religion, students, faculty and staff have opportunities to find the transcendent goodness of God intimately involved in healing the world and in the search for truth. Our Jesuit education appreciates that reflective faith can free a person to search for ultimate meaning in every area of knowledge.

Genuine faith, then, is not an enemy of reason, but its complement. The Catholic tradition is at home in the University because of its radical confidence that reason will not contradict faith. It needs the University’s intellectual resources to produce a deeper, more critical self-understanding and a more mature and open faith.

When intellectual positions are assumed but not open for critical examination, it cuts short the dialogue that is the life of the University. The University should be a place in a pluralistic society where genuine dialogue takes place with the sort of conversation where all parties are open to illumination.

September 11 taught us the importance of interreligious and multi-racial and multi-national dialogue. Genuine, respectful dialogue is, in my judgment, the path to understanding and breaking down the boundaries that divide us as members of the human family. Dialogue, in short, is the path to knowing, believing, and valuing what is most human. It is also the only path to peace. The alternative is uncritical ideology and distorted uses of religion which lead to conflict and war.

Engagement with the world
The Education of the Whole Person

The jesuit educational tradition brings a commitment to engage the world because of its faith, of which striving for justice is a critical dimension.  Solidarity adds a new breadth and engagement to this humanism by integrating it into the larger world.  While apprciating the intrinsic value of knowledge, a well-educated solidarityy also asks, "Who benefits from this knowledge?"

And so, we turn scholarly attention to the most prominent issues of our day, such as the poverty and injustice that burden over half of humanity, global ecology, international human rights, migration and immigration, and the rights of women.  The Jesuit commitment to "faith that does justice" has sparked critical research and teaching in ethics, theology, literature, and the arts, and challenged the professions of business, law, engineering and medicine to deal with critical ethical dilemmas to heal the world.

Students do not learn solidarity by concepts alone, but also, and especially, by direct contact - direct experience with people of different cultures, classes, and ethnic groups.  As Father Kolvenbach recently told the alumni of Jesuit education: "When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change.  Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection."  Critical reflection on experience offers the best chance of inspiring a dsire to help fashion a more humane and just world and local community.

Commitment to the Future
Education of the Whole Person

A Santa Clara education seeks to prepare students to take on the responsibility for their own learning and development as whole persons.  The teaching scholars who make up the faculty serve as mentors and advisors and, even more important, as examples of what we hope our students will become - people of well-educated solidarity using their considerable talents to heal the world to make life better for all people, particularly the most vulnerable and forgotten.

Santa Clara will continue to commit to the same dedication to research, teaching, and the education of students that every genuine university has.  It will also continue to emphasize its distinctive mission and tradition as a Catholic, Jesuit university.  Our future depends on it.

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