Santa Clara University

Santa Clara's Role in a World of Shifting Paradigms


The complexities and speed of globalization mandate higher education that readies graduates to shape and respond to a remarkable array of circumstances. We need researchers and creators of scientific, engineering, and business knowledge to provide us with the tools to live in an era of seemingly endless technological possibility. We look to artists, poets, musicians, and writers to spark our imaginations and open our hearts to what can be. And we turn to ethical, religious, and spiritual leaders to raise the questions that will guide our spiritual and moral considerations of both the troubling inequities and great human possibilities of our age.

While history well-learned can serve as a guide, society must always adapt to the changing realities of the current time and place in order to articulate new challenges and develop effective solutions. We in higher education have talked for decades about educating our students to be flexible to changing societal needs, and I concur with the importance of an open and flexible mind. But today, I see another role that Jesuit universities are distinctively provisioned to play. Our students want also to know what they can hang on to—what doesn’t change.

In the Residential Learning Communities, at the Sunday night Mass in the Mission Church, in the 1,200 community-based learning placements and subsequent reflection sessions, in their enthusiastic response to the DISCOVER vocation program, their attendance at talks by faculty and staff on why they love their work, even in their protests for or against administrative actions, Santa Clara’s students demonstrate a powerful desire to learn and test what is true spiritually, morally, ethically.


Even if they don’t articulate it this way for 20 years, I can tell you that many, if not most, come to value the opportunities they had at SCU to confront what it means to become people of competence, conscience, and compassion—to develop and hold dear personally tested lifetime values that help them address globalization and other significant issues in honorable ways.

For this President’s Report, we have profiled a handful of individuals whose personal and professional experiences of debate and discernment have shaped not only their successes, but the world around them. Brandi Chastain, Dave Drummond, Regis McKenna, Lulu Santana, Hersh Shefrin, Meir Statman, and Drago Siljak are grounded in life, yet do extraordinary things. Their examples challenge us to reflect on how best to offer a Catholic, Jesuit education to our current students. In their roles as faculty or staff, alumni, or volunteer leaders at SCU, they contribute to the quality and character of a Santa Clara education and also help shape our world for the better.

Like generations before us, we who labor in higher education hope to pass on knowledge and understanding that will enable our students to transform the world so that peace exists among all nations, human rights are respected universally, and all people live in a prosperous and just society.

And that is why I said, in my comments to the faculty at the start of the new academic year, “Universities need to be places of open and exacting discernment and debate.” It seems as good a formula for creating tomorrow’s leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion as any I know.