Is there something special about the first year/freshman experience at Gonzaga?
This is a great question because of our strong retention rate (between 92 and 95% the past three years). First and foremost, we view our “orientation” weekend which kicks off the school year as just the beginning. The First-Year Experience Office organizes programs for first year students all academic year to help ease the transition (rather than packing everything into a single long weekend). The actual Orientation Weekend each year is a good representation of the Gonzaga community though. The program is put on by students with the guidance of a staff advisor, but the program is run by over 250 student volunteers who give up the last weekend of their summer to welcome the new students. Beyond the initial weekend, we have First-Year Seminar courses to introduce students to the Gonzaga University educational style and enter into the core curriculum (gonzaga.edu/core). As a residential campus, we also require (and guarantee) on-campus housing for two years. Therefore, more than 50% of our student population lives in community on campus (about 30% of juniors and seniors still live on campus).
What is something every visitor should do when they come to Spokane/Gonzaga?
I encourage all visitors to spend time hanging out in the Hemmingson University Center, or if the weather is nice – take a walk down to the Spokane Falls or walk around Manito Park. As for meals, there are a lot of great options right near campus like Bangkok Thai, and Pete’s Pizza and Calzones, but one personal suggestion is heading downtown to Saranac, Boots (great vegan and gluten-free options), or Blackbird.
What was the theme of the most unique essay you read this year?
One of the most memorable essays I have read in recent years was written by a student of mine from Alaska. The essay was a narrative about the time in between classes. She spoke about the people she interacted with and what that signaled to her about the community she was a part of and how she was looking for the same kind of people in a college community. The essay was not revolutionary or about an obscure topic, instead it was a well-written essay which told me something about who the student was and her view of the world.
What is a common bump that many freshman hit and how would you suggest they avoid or overcome it?
Our first-year students, like many universities, tend to enjoy the freedom of being away from mom and dad. This means they commonly become overly involved in the “fun” student life side of the experience and struggle to balance coursework early in their first semester. Gonzaga offers a number of resources to assist with this transition and to help catch students who are struggling before the damage becomes too significant. Our Center for Cura Personalis (CCP) works with students both in a preventative capacity (promoting balance, mindfulness, and healthy living) and in a responsive capacity (providing case management and counseling for students of concern). Roommate conflicts are relatively rare at Gonzaga, and while all students feel homesick, the community on campus supports students very well (our retention rate has been 92% or higher the past three years and over 90% for more than a decade).
Would you like to share a little of the experience of Gonzaga's journey to the Final Four?
This was a very exciting year, in part due to the basketball team. The atmosphere on campus was electric (the videos down below give a good feel for life on campus during the tournament run - http://unfold.gonzaga.edu/finalfour.html).
What do you like best about living in Spokane and working at Gonzaga?
Spokane as a city provides great access to the outdoors and nature with enough concerts, events, and activity to feel like it’s a bigger city. I honestly love the balance where I can catch a major concert on Thursday night and then go backpacking in the middle of nowhere on the weekend.
If you had an alum who graduated 10 years ago visit, what would they notice as a change at Gonzaga?
The spirit and community of the school is absolutely the same as it was 10 years ago (when I was an undergraduate student), but the physical campus has changed significantly during that time. We have a new student center, multiple new academic facilities, are in the process of building a new performing arts center, and finishing a new athletic facility as well. The University is still a community oriented, student-first place, but the physical space is always evolving (as most colleges are).
Would you like to offer any admissions advice?
The advice I give to all students in the admission process is to truly be yourself. Many students (myself included when I was a high school student) get caught up in finding the most prestigious and selective college they can get into, but what really matters at the end of the year is finding the school which is the right fit (personally, academically, financially, socially, etc) for the student. No matter whether a student was admitted to one school or twenty they will only be attending one after high school so what matters is finding the school where they will truly thrive.