Santa Clara University's Growing Jesuit Network Connections

By Deborah Lohse, Assistant Director for Media Relations, Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University students being welcomed by students at Xavier Institute of Engineering, Mumbai, in an Indian tradition of pasting sandalwood paste on their forehead and throwing flower petals. (Photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)

Santa Clara University students being welcomed by students at Xavier Institute of Engineering, Mumbai, in an Indian tradition of pasting sandalwood paste on their forehead and throwing flower petals. (Photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)

Since 2008, when Jesuit Superior General Rev. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J. issued a call for greater coordination and collaboration among the nearly 200 Jesuit institutions of higher education worldwide, a growing number of Santa Clara University departments, centers and leaders have formed rich collaborations and teaching partnerships with international Jesuit institutions.

Many of the partnerships have, at their core, shared goals related to social justice, e.g. helping eradicate poverty through social entrepreneurship; sharing technology to address social and environmental challenges; and tapping the assets and resources of the vast Jesuit network. 

“Santa Clara is beginning to realize the potential of the huge untapped resource of the Jesuit network,” said Santa Clara electrical engineering professor and associate dean Aleksandar Zecevic, an avid proponent of collaboration among Jesuit universities. He currently teaches his science and religion class at Jesuit universities on three continents (at Santa Clara in the United States, at St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata and Mumbai, India, and at Universidad Catolica del Uruguay in Uruguay).

Embracing Social Entrepreneurship

When Santa Clara’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society set a goal five years ago to positively impact 1 billion lives through its training and mentoring program for social entrepreneurs, it became quickly apparent that the Center could not do it alone. Its leaders began turning to other Jesuit universities worldwide, some of which had already been creating programs on campus for “social entrepreneurship,” using businesses or nonprofits that are self-sustaining to help solve problems like poverty, drought, or lack of energy access.

The resulting Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) Network now includes ten Jesuit universities and another dozen or so mission-aligned universities or programs. The growing group has met at least once a year since 2011, in Peru, Manila, Santa Clara, Mexico and Barcelona.

Jesuit partners include Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS) in Brazil; ESADE in Spain; Marquette University in Milwaukee; Universidad Loyola Andalucia in Spain; Le Moyne College in Syracuse; Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines; Fu Jen in Taiwan; XLRI in India; and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia.

The group’s focus is on helping all Network members launch and strengthen their social entrepreneurship programs. Their methods of doing so vary: incubating and mentoring global social entrepreneurs (which Santa Clara has long done and ESADE, Javeriana and Marquette have replicated in various ways); supporting student immersions to help social entrepreneurs (which Ateneo and Loyola Andalucia have done); or fostering programs to motivate local residents or students to think of social entrepreneurship as a way to help the poor (which UNISINOS and Fu Jen are doing).

“Even the non-Jesuit universities in the GSBI Network have adopted social entrepreneurship as a pathway to social justice, a good outlet for student engagement, and a way for business or other schools to serve humanity,” said Hallie Noble, GSBI program manager at Santa Clara. 
Network members have begun taking the concept of incubating social entrepreneurship in new directions. For example, ESADE is helping other Jesuit universities partner with banks as a way of funding and training social entrepreneurs.

This exponential growth will continue. Santa Clara has received funding to “train the trainers” in international locations including India and Kenya, and members of the GSBI Network have created working groups to discuss new ways of student engagement, utilizing business case studies, and sparking innovative social entrepreneurship programs.

New Collaborations with UCA

Last fall, a group of ten faculty and university leaders from Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador visited Santa Clara to advance and enhance the longstanding relationship between the two schools.

It was the first time that a group of leaders from UCA had visited Santa Clara. They left with plans to collaborate with the University in a number of ways that are currently being explored, including:

  • Tapping Santa Clara’s development officers to help with fundraising from alumni and other donors;
  • Collaborating with Santa Clara’s law school on possible joint online courses, short joint intensive courses, or cross-clinical collaboration in various areas of law such as immigration, human rights or business;
  • Collaborating with Santa Clara’s engineering school on a possible new master’s program in computer science, and creating a new program for Santa Clara computer engineering students to study abroad at UCA. 

Leveraging Immersion Partnerships

Last summer, a group of twelve students took a three-week immersion trip to India, for the first-of-its-kind collaboration between Santa Clara’s Ignatian Center and India’s Jesuit Xavier Institute of Engineering (XIE) in Mumbai.  

As part of the trip, two engineering students taught for a week at XIE, including a class on how to make robots with visual sensors, and helping with a project analyzing nearby cellular towers for radiation. The local newspaper wrote about the project, noting the rarity of Silicon Valley students visiting Mumbai. 

This summer, Santa Clara engineering students will return to help XIE students with a project to use robots to help analyze sewage runoff and eventually replace the grueling human task of removing waste from public areas. 

The trip and collaboration with XIE was facilitated by Rev. John Rose, S.J., a Jesuit from India who has been at Santa Clara off and on since 2009, when he received his master’s degree in computer engineering. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering and teaches robotics and cloud computing at XIE. 

“It was wonderful to see the vibrant interaction between the students from Santa Clara and Xavier,” said Fr. John. “Their Jesuit values make them feel like they belong to one family, with everyone trying to make the world a better place.”