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From Penmanship to Python Programing: A Century of Business Education at SCU’s Leavey School

It wasn’t long after Santa Clara University’s (SCU) establishment that the school offered its first commercial course in 1854, offering courses in stenography, penmanship and bookkeeping. That commercial course was the start of today’s Leavey School of Business, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

Responding to the post-WWI business boom, the university established the College of Commerce and Finance in 1923, adding typing — still a key skill needed in business — as well as advanced classes in management, finance, accounting and economics. The student body has grown from 35 in 1923 to 2,500 today. Leavey School has expanded to include a range of graduate as well as baccalaureate degrees, in-person and online courses.

“Today, students have to be well-rounded,” said Leavey School of Business Dean Ed Grier. “Students set a ‘platform’ for what they need. Most undergraduate students really don’t know exactly what they want to do. They want to study business, but business has a lot of different lanes.”


To help students to get an overview of the possibilities, new students receive an introductory survey of different aspects of business.

“This includes case studies that give students a taste of the many varieties of work they could be doing,” explained Grier.

“We want to give students flexibility. Not only just through coursework but in the workplace, too,” continued Grier. “Internships are very, very important, and I think something like 88% of our students have internships. That’s very beneficial for them as they start out in business.”

Because SCU is a Jesuit school, social conscience and community service are also part of the education.

“Students have to take a course that has a social aspect to it and work in community service,” said Grier.

He aims to inspire students to take an expansive view of business objectives.

“We want to communicate; think of the broadness of the impact you can have as you’re making these decisions. Think of impacts not just from a P&L standpoint. It’s your community, your companies, your employees,” said Grier.

As far as it’s come in a century, Leavey isn’t resting on its laurels.

“Even though the school is 100 years old, we’re really just getting started,” Grier said. “I think we have huge upside from a brand standpoint. We’re known in this part of the country, obviously. But I think we have an opportunity. When I first came here, I kept hearing we’re a hidden gem.

“We’re going to work hard to improve that as much as we can. And we want this to be, you know, the destination for any student around the globe that wants to study business,” Grier continued.

As part of the school’s centennial celebration, Leavey is planning a variety of activities for the coming year. The centennial website has a historic timeline and the school is producing a book about its history.

The year also will see the kick-off of a major renovation of its home, Lucas Hall on the SCU campus, which will be designed to create a more collaborative space.

In the Spring, Dean Grier will launch a new strategic plan for Leavey’s next century.


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