Contemplating the College

The College of Arts & Sciences Blog

The Finish Line

We’ve made it to finals week! I hope you are feeling a sense of success (and maybe, relief?) in making it to this point, despite the twists and turns of this aca-pandemic year. In the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola, this is a fitting time to savor the joys and consolations of these last two semesters. I am writing to share just a few College successes that give me a great sense of satisfaction and consolation, in the hope that we can collectively savor the joy in these accomplishments. It is easy to forget in the midst of darkness and distress but faculty, staff, students, and friends have been shining lights throughout the year.

Academic Excellence

CAS faculty and staff have given their all in the classroom this year and I have heard from many appreciative students and families about how you extended care and concern (cura personalis) to them. In addition, let’s celebrate these highlights:

  • Several departments completed their program reviews despite tough pandemic conditions. Now that’s vision!
  • New programs you have diligently worked on have been approved including the interdisciplinary Health Equity (HEAL) minor and a Statistics minor and concentration. Many thanks to the hard work of the CAS Curriculum Committee for moving these and the many course proposals and revisions through in a timely manner.
  • Students continue to shine with individual awards as we saw at Academic Honors Convocation in April. Also, the Model United Nations (UN) team led by Stacy Taninchev (Political Science) was awarded the top honor at the Model UN conference in New York City: Outstanding Delegation Award, the first time they have won this designation. And the Debate Team led by Glen Frappier (Communication Studies) won the competition at the prestigious LaFayette Debates in Washington, D.C. SACNAS (Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science), is in its second year and mentored by Biology faculty and staff (Carla Bonilla, Amanda Braley, Laura Díaz Martinez), and continues to grow and create a more inclusive STEM culture at Gonzaga.
  • CAS faculty and staff continued to engage in impressive scholarly and creative work and many were honored at the Academic Honors Convocation. Faculty also were awarded $18,000 in CAS Dean’s faculty development and special projects funds; in fact, all applications were awarded, most with full funding. And new appointments were made to our endowed professorships including the Powers (Laurie Arnold, Native American Studies, History) and Arnold (Melody Alsaker, Mathematics) professorships and an endowed chair in Dance (Suzanne Ostersmith). Azra Rašić won the CAS Outstanding Staff Award. Thank you to the CAS Awards Committee for selecting the award winners.
  • Faculty published, exhibited, composed, and performed amazing works that I will share in detail in the CAS annual report in June. Among these accomplishments were new grants including a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to Greg Gordon (Environmental Studies and Sciences) and Katey Roden (English) and a USDA grant to Julie Beckstead (Biology).

Fundraising and Gifts

I am thrilled to share that the College was the recipient of several new and major gifts by benefactors who are excited about the mission of the College and the work that you do to support students. Here are some of the gifts CAS departments received this fiscal year. Much gratitude to the donors and University Advancement, as well as department colleagues – in some cases, we had many conversations to get to the point of making these dreams become a reality.

  • Chemistry and Biochemistry: $250,000 for a new mass spectrometer
  • Communication Studies: $100,000 for the Fr. C. Pat Carroll, SJ endowed fund to showcase student work and support department colloquia
  • Mathematics: $20,000 from a current parent to support visiting scholars and faculty-student summer research
  • Political Science: $1,000,000 to support scholarships and an endowed fund in the department to use how it wishes
  • Psychology: $1,000,000 to support scholarships, two endowed funds in the department, and Bollier Center space
  • Theatre and Dance: $2,000,000 to create the Robert and Marion Oster Endowed Chair in Dance

I am also engaged in fundraising for the CAS Dean’s Excellence Fund, which supports a number of purposes across the College. This fund provides supplemental support to student groups like the ones mentioned above and provides funds to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and staff. One way we raised funds was through Zags Give Day (photos in this blog post are from my Zags Give Day tweets on March 3) and you might have seen me on social media getting the word out with impromptu photos with faculty or sharing other good news from the College. Another way we generate support is by working with the CAS Advisory Council, a dedicated group of CAS alumni who love what is happening in the College and want to support our work.

Faculty Hiring and Retention

Many of us spent a great deal of time on faculty and staff recruitment this year (and we’re not done yet!). I am happy to report that we will be welcoming 13 new tenure-track faculty in the following departments: English, Biology, Environmental Studies & Sciences and Biology, Communication Studies (3), History, Music, Philosophy (2), Political Science (2), Religious Studies. In addition, as of this writing, we will be welcoming new lecturers in Biology, Religious Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Philosophy, and Music. Congratulations to all the departments for recruiting wonderful human beings as new colleagues!

I am mindful that we must provide new faculty and staff with the tools and knowledge to succeed. Tara McAloon has been a force in the dean’s office spending a great deal of time recruiting and retaining outstanding staff. I am also grateful to Shalon Parker who served as a CAS Dean’s Faculty Fellow in Spring 2022. She conducted listening sessions with early career faculty so that we can provide mentoring and coaching in an intentional way starting in the fall. I’m also looking forward to the work of the 2022 CAS Dean’s Summer Faculty Fellows, Naghme Morlock (Sociology & Criminology) and Leslie Stamoolis (Theatre & Dance) who will join forces with the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Human Resources, to create a more effective welcoming program for new faculty and staff; and Melissa Click (Communication Studies), who will also engage in collaborative work to build a cohort mentoring program for new faculty, especially faculty from groups that have been marginalized or excluded in higher education.

What’s Next?

I am keeping my eye on the future. Academic Excellence, Cura Personalis for Faculty and Staff, and Building Inclusive Community remain my top priorities. Here is what is on my summer agenda:

  • Fundraising: While the gifts I described above are wonderful, I am aware that continued fundraising for the College and your programs is necessary to help support the things you want to do. I’ll be working with University Advancement to develop a plan for fundraising that can build on the successes of this year.
  • Revisiting Vision 2024: We’re at a time in the pandemic when we can again look ahead to the future. We will be launching a Vision 2024 website in the summer that will allow us to document what we’ve achieved already, what work is still ahead of us, and how some of the goals may have changed since they were documented in August 2019. I will share how you can contribute your ideas to this work at the Fall All College meeting.
  • Mentoring and career development: As a “seasoned” colleague (it’s been 8 years since I attained Professor; 24 years since I earned my PhD) with an almost middle schooler and an elderly parent in a nearby assisted living apartment, it is not lost on me that we need to support mid-career and senior faculty as well as those who have caregiving responsibilities. Expanding the travel-only professional development fund to a more flexible Career Development Fund that can support a wide variety of activities is one piece of the puzzle (stay tuned for a separate email with details). I will also be seeking input from you about what other resources or programing you need to support growth at different career and life stages.
  • Continued emphasis on inclusion and healthy work environments: IDEAS in Action continues to make progress; we’ll provide updates on the website in June 2022. In addition, there is great interest in creating healthy workplace with workshops on countering academic harassment and bullying. It’s important we do this work if we truly want to live the mission of our Catholic, Jesuit, humanistic mission through our interactions with each other and with our students.
  • Getting to know you: I am grateful that I have gotten to know so many of you since I started in July 2020. This academic year and Spring 2022, in particular, has been the first time that I’ve met many of you in person. I look forward to being with you at department meetings and other events this next academic year (God willing).

My hope for all of you this summer is that you are able to rejuvenate and rest in the ways that work for you. You all deserve it immensely! Thank you for allowing me to serve as your dean.

Faith that does justice

“Being a disciple of Jesus is taking up the battle against evil. It is more than avoiding sin. It is helping to create a new world.”

Fr. George M. Smiga, STD (From Give us This Day, March 2022)

I began writing today’s blog on Ash Wednesday, the day in the Christian liturgical calendar that marks the beginning of the reflective and penitential season of Lent. As a family, we’ve been discussing how we want to honor this season. When I was a child, it was the custom to give something up. For me, it was usually chocolate, which was HARD! As an adult, especially after I started participating in Jesuit retreats, my practice developed into adding something to rather than subtracting from my daily routine. Over the last few years, my practice shifted again, with a focus on ways to do justice in the world, including at work.

Let me share a recent key shift in my perspective. In 2016, I was a parishioner at a suburban Detroit Catholic parish. It was near our home and a friendly place. As racist and xenophobic rhetoric in the public sphere increased, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the homilies preached by the pastor. They were not “wrong” but they always focused on personal sin and salvation, personal piety. Not once did he talk about the world around us, our local communities, or the moral imperative of a faith in service of others. I had noticed this pattern before but it created a strong dissonance in my spirit that year that moved me to search for a different worship community. I started attending a Jesuit parish in the city and later became a parishioner there. What a difference! The pastors did not neglect personal holiness but linked it directly to our life in community with others. They talked about our responsibility to see Jesus in others and to live out our faith in concrete ways. Faith and justice were naturally intertwined. As a community, the parish really took to heart St. Ignatius of Loyola’s command to “Go and set the world on fire!”

This Lent, I can’t help but think about what this means for our Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic educational mission and practice at Gonzaga. We can focus on what we as individuals do in the classroom, or how our disciplines have always been taught. In some ways, this is like that sole focus on personal piety that does not attend to the cries of the poor (in this case, our students or the wider world). Alternatively, we can look around and really investigate (interrogate!) what and how we teach. No matter your religious or spiritual tradition (I recognize that people can be atheists and still spiritual), are you focused only on yourself, or do you enact a belief system that does justice, in service of your students? If we stick to our old way of doing things, we may miss opportunities to connect with students in a new way that may also change us for the better.

To be clear, personal piety is not a bad thing. Striving to be in a deeper relationship with Divine Majesty, however you define it, is healthy. It’s when we neglect the call to service and just or right action, that I think we’ve missed something. That service can look different for different people at different times of their lives. This Lent might be a great time to consider how your faith or belief system can be translated into justice for our students and colleagues.

Office of Mission Integration Lenten Resources: https://morningmail.gonzaga.edu/article/show/100582

Information on what it means to have a faith that does justice in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition:

https://www.usccb.org/offices/justice-peace-human-development/catholic-social-teaching

https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/how-be-ignatian-anti-racist-lent

Fundraising or Fun-raising?

#ZagsGiveDay is coming up March 3, 2022, and I’m excited about it.

Why?

Because it gives us another chance to share the wonderful work you are doing with the world!

Since joining Gonzaga, I’ve been listening to learn what you need to be successful, whether it’s in your discipline or career stage. Some of these needs require financial resources that cannot be satisfied from the College operational budget, most of which is used for the salaries and benefits of over 300 people. This is not unique to Gonzaga and is often why deans are expected to be fundraisers.

I know some people back away from leadership roles because they perceive fundraising to be unpleasant, but I enjoy it because it taps into my love of serving as a “matchmaker.” I find it personally fulfilling to connect people with shared interests and watch what they achieve together. In this case, it’s matching people who have resources to people who have great ideas. One visible way I do this is through social media (take a look at how I use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and it is very much about elevating the College and our shared vision, even when I post personal things). I also work behind the scenes with University Advancement to align potential donors’ desires or interests with the needs of a department, project, or person. We have recently been blessed with sizeable gifts to several departments like Political Science, Mathematics, and Biology. More are in process. These gifts will help departments do things they always wished they could do like provide summer stipends to faculty-student teams, host visiting speaker series, and more. I’m also working on broader College fundraising to show how gifts help us recruit and retain outstanding faculty and staff through startup funds and mini-grants, as well as support our student groups such as Model UN, Ethics Bowl, Debate Team, SACNAS, choirs, and other performing arts councils, and more. This is why fundraising is more like fun-raising to me. Each gift makes it possible to do something we couldn’t do before and brings more people into our collective work. Zags Give Day is a fun and meaningful Zag-sourcing (think, crowdsourcing) event to support your work.

Choir members sing for “Hold Fast to Dreams: A Social Justice Concert for Resilience, Remembrance and Responsibility.” Photo by Isabella Stout

If you would like to join in this effort, consider following the College on social media and re-sharing our #ZagsGiveDay posts on Thursday, March 3, 2022. We’re focusing on the CAS Dean’s Excellence Fund to support faculty, staff, and student work as described above.

Twitter: @GonzagaCAS

Instagram: @GonzagaCAS

Facebook: Gonzaga University – College of Arts and Sciences

Go Zags!

Low visibility

I don’t know about you but the “ice fog” we’ve been experiencing in Spokane is fascinating to me. It can be treacherous, coating the roads with a thin layer of ice, and it can be beautiful, creating frost-flocked landscapes. Fog is also a great metaphor for how we’re navigating through this phase of the pandemic. We’re trying to make our way on paths that were once familiar but now obscured. We’re not sure when it will lift or what’s ahead.

I am reflecting on this as we head into the third week of the Spring 2022 semester, with the omicron variant tearing through communities. Many of you are frustrated and disappointed about the no-win situation of wanting to provide a quality educational experience to your students while also staying safe. And there seems to be no end in sight. Our path is obscured by uncertainty.

Yet, if I can share one thing, it’s to consider who is with you on this foggy journey. It might be the loved ones or friends you live with, your pets, your colleagues, your students, or others who are far away but close in spirit. In addition to my family and friends, I can’t think of better company right now than faculty and staff in the College of Arts and Sciences. I have seen how you’ve creatively pulled together to create community in your remote and in-person classrooms, support and encourage each other, and take care of yourselves. It’s truly amazing! For my part, I will continue to work to support what you love to do at Gonzaga, no matter the weather. Stay tuned for future blog posts that will share some of the bright spots in this work.

November – the Month of Remembrance

November is the Month of Remembrance in the Catholic Church. We may be feeling sorrow and grief not only because of the loss of loved ones but because the last two years have highlighted humanity’s collective loss due to the pandemic and racial injustices. Yet, this time also offers hope as we consider those who have gone before us, what they have meant for us, and how we can be good ancestors to others. Fr. Tim Clancy, SJ offers us a bigger picture about what this season can mean for us. And a thank you to Paul Manoguerra, Director of the Jundt Art Museum for sharing these pieces from the collection that may inspire us in our remembrance. – Dean Annmarie Caño.

Decorative image by Elizabeth Dove.
Remember When, Elizabeth Dove

November  reflection, Tim Clancy S.J.

As Fall moves into winter, and nature “dies,” religions around the world use this time of the year to remember their dead. From Celtic Samhain, (from whence comes our Halloween)  to Persephone’s kidnapping by Hades, King of the Underworld and Innana’s imprisonment by Sumer’s Queen of the Underworld, Erishkigal, Inanna’s own sister, agrarian peoples saw the death of their loved ones as an imitation of nature’s own cycle of life and death….and the promise of rebirth in the Spring.

Christianity is no exception. We begin with the feast of our heroic ancestors, the feast of All Saints, immediately followed by the commemoration of our own dearly departed in the feast of All Souls. Many parishes present a book of the dead during the rest of the month for parishioners to write down the names of those who have died in the past year for the congregation as a whole to commemorate.

Decorative image by Manuel Álvarez Bravo.
Votos, Manuel Álvarez Bravo

In Hebrews, Paul speaks of our life as a race in a sports arena and the dead as “a great cloud of witnesses” in the stands. I like to think of our ancestors near and remote cheering us on as we strain for victory, keeping “our eyes on the prize.” As a Jesuit here at Gonzaga I think particularly of our own recently departed Jesuits, Peter Ely, Mike Cook, and Steve Kuder in the celestial Kennel, leading chants and hopping up and down rooting us on to victory.

Founder’s Day Reflections on Freedom

I have to admit that I thought that Founder’s Day celebrated Fr. Joseph Cataldo, SJ, the Jesuit founder of Gonzaga University. But if you’re a savvier Zag than I am, you know that Founder’s Day actually celebrates the birthday of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

One of the university’s savvier Zags reflecting on Founder’s Day

This Founder’s Day, I find myself reflecting on our Jesuit mission and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, specifically, the call to freedom. In the Spiritual Exercises, we are encouraged to be open to learning about and freeing ourselves from “inordinate attachments” to pride or power, honors, or riches (money or things). Seeking freedom is a foundational feature of the spiritual life across different religious traditions. It’s an ongoing process that requires keen listening skills and thankfully, it’s a process that can be learned. Allow me to share some ways we can practice this search for freedom as we journey through another academic year.  

Listening to ourselves

Academia is rife with assumptions and attitudes because it has traditionally been viewed as a meritocracy in which we earn privileges over time. If we do not also look at the evidence that there is inequitable access and distribution of opportunities to earn privileges, we may come to think we deserve certain things at the expense of others because of our status. Take for instance, an attitude that might be expressed like this: “I have earned the right to teach only what I want or to have my preferred teaching schedule every semester.” Understandably, we each have our own preferences, life experiences, and expertise, but let’s focus on that italicized phrase: “earned the right.” This attitude can convey an area of unfreedom that can limit our own growth as educators, and also adversely affect others such as students and other faculty. If you are upset or uncomfortable when someone challenges your assumptions about a practice that has benefited you in some way, it’s an invitation to listen in the Ignatian tradition to see if there is an inordinate attachment to power, honors, or riches that might undergird these feelings. (And I will add, no one is immune from attachments—not even the dean!—I sincerely see discomfort as an invitation for self-reflection and growth).

Listening to students

Dr. Jennifer Niven Shepherd holds a lab for students with proper social distancing.

Our students teach us as much as we teach them (and sometimes they teach us much, much more!). It is true that students haven’t earned a terminal degree in our fields, but they are experts in knowing what makes a good teacher and mentor. They know who engages them authentically and will take them seriously, who cares about their welfare, who motivates them to do their best, who knows how to set expectations for respectful dialogue and address disrespect, bias, or overt discrimination in the classroom. Students know when instructors behave as humble experts. In other words, they are “authenticity detectors.”

It is for this reason that I value student input in faculty hiring and when assessing how things are going in our programs. Do we listen only to students? No, but I think we could do a better job of being free enough to listen non-defensively (with greater freedom!) when they have something to say about what’s happening in their classrooms. Without their expert witness, our desire to create a transformative learning experience falls short.

Listening to our community 

Let’s now focus on the departments or units in which we work. We are sometimes overly committed (attached?) to seeing our units in the best positive light. It’s an act of freedom to take a closer look to see how people may have been marginalized or excluded in our units, especially when those with more power disregard their experiences or fail to act to change toxic environments. I have witnessed courageous work in the College yet we will see sustained and more widespread change if we also create healthy policies and accountability practices that build transparency and inclusion. I am excited that department chairs will begin learning ways to support their departments to create community agreements and eventually, by-laws to govern their work. If your reaction to this plan is “We’re doing just fine the way we are,” that’s great! Now is the time to codify and preserve your healthy department culture for future generations. I also ask you to consider that what seems healthy or normal to you may in fact be harmful to someone with less power or privilege. I know of colleagues who have thought about leaving Gonzaga or academia because of the departmental culture. “Seeking freedom,” asks us to reflect on the attachments that prevent us from hearing our colleagues and that lead to (often unconscious) exclusions. Community agreements and by-laws can invite colleagues into reflection and can help immensely to build a more inclusive and participatory culture by ensuring everyone has a voice in a consistent, transparent way. At a departmental level, this is what systemic change and freedom can look like.

Academic convocation outside St. Aloysius Church

At a Jesuit institution like Gonzaga, we are all called to seek greater freedom, not just as individuals but also as a community. This means we listen, have patience with ourselves and others, and have the courage to see ourselves in an honest light. Seeking freedom is not easy but I’m confident on this Founder’s Day that we can live in joyful hope by co-creating an environment and culture that St. Ignatius envisioned in developing the Spiritual Exercises.

More on Ignatian freedom:

Spiritual Freedom in an Emotional World

Annmarie Caño, Ph.D. is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of Psychology at Gonzaga University.

Replenishing the tank

This past weekend, I was able to experience my very first Fall Family Weekend. OK, so I missed Kraziness in the Kennel, but I did enjoy seeing the fruits of faculty and student labor and learning more about what excites and animates our students. What I experienced gave me a much-needed jolt of inspiration and energy when I was beginning to feel a bit stretched. From my conversations with faculty and staff, I don’t think I’m alone in finding October both exhilarating and exhausting.

Woman with mask and garland on her head, holding book and speaking into microphone.
Amy Pistone kicks off the 12+ hour reading of Homer’s Odyssey

My weekend started with attending the Homerathon, billed as the “most epic tradition at Gonzaga University.” I didn’t stay for the entire 12+ hour epic reading of Homer’s The Odyssey, but I did stop in with my 10-year old sidekick, who was off from school that day. It was so inspiring that he committed to reading a little bit next year if someone could help him with the Greek pronunciations (and wear some cool ancient Greekwear). Classics for the win!

Showcasing Undergraduate Research

Saturday, I visited several College of Arts and Sciences students at their posters, during the Undergraduate Student Research Showcase, which represented the culmination of their scholarly and creative work in their majors. I learned about patterns of racial segregation in the Midwest, the representation of political and cultural themes in Milton’s Paradise Lost (which still resonate today), the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on older adults living in assisted living facilities, music and dance as a manifestation of the varieties of the immigration experience. I also learned more about neofascist behavior in social media networks, intravenous drug use patterns among incarcerated people, algorithms to solve equations related to chemical energy more efficiently, and behavioral signaling and competition in insects.

Poster showcasing student research in background as female student explains her work to another woman.
Cintia Murillo shares her research at the Undergraduate Student Research Showcase

But what was truly inspiring was how all of these students were able to share their knowledge and passion for their topics. As a long-time mentor of doctoral students, I had to keep checking myself: “These are undergraduate students!” I enjoyed hearing what they hope to do next. Among this group of students are future K-12 teachers and professors, doctors, attorneys, public servants, researchers, and therapists. And to see family members’ beaming with pride about their students’ work was a treat.

Music makes the soul

Lights shine above a group of choral students as they sing at a concert. Piano and choral director in foreground.
We’ll All Rise Together led by Dr. Amy Porter and Dr. Jadrian Tarver

Later in the evening, I attended the Gonzaga University Choirs concert We’ll All Rise Together, led by our amazing Department of Music faculty, Dr. Amy Porter and Dr. Jadrian Tarver. How uplifting it was to enjoy the voices of our students, and after only about six weeks of practice! Compositions varied from traditional to contemporary and included African-American spirituals and Spanish choral pieces, showcasing that choral and musical excellence requires diversity. I hope the rest of the audience was uplifted and transformed by what they experienced. I can’t wait to see what our talented conductors and students bring to us next!

Fall Family Weekend is not just for students and families. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, October is often when we begin to feel depleted, but Fall Family Weekend revived my sense of wonder and instilled new hope even as we still move through this pandemic. And looking even farther into the future, I know we’re going to be OK because we’re launching thoughtful, compassionate, and curious students into the world.


Learn more about the College here and here.

Celebration of Whistalks Way and Warrior Women

On August 20th, Toni Lodge (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), CEO of the Native Project, and Margo Hill (Spokane), Associate Professor of Urban and Tribal Planning at EWU, co-hosted an event celebrating the recently renamed Whistalks Way.

The event also celebrated the woman who inspired the name, Whist-alks, a Spokane woman, warrior, and wife of Yakama sub-chief Qualchan. She fought in Plateau War battles alongside her husband and, upon his hanging at the hands of Colonel George Wright, rode into Wright’s camp and threw her spear into the ground in front of him. Her defiant challenge asserted that Plateau Peoples would not be defeated and her courage made the U.S. Army see Plateau women. Whist-alks personified Plateau women’s commitment to community, culture, family, and homelands.

A certificate of appreciation and a scarf were offered during the ceremony. To the right, black gloves featuring the author’s grandmother’s beadwork.

Ms. Lodge and Professor Hill, a Gonzaga Law School alumna, joined with other leaders in the community to identify contemporary women who inherited the legacy of not only Whist-alks but of generations of grandmothers. More than 70 Native women and allies from fields including health care, education, law, Indigenous language preservation, community organizing and activism, and more were honored as Warrior Women. I am humbled and grateful to be among them, and proud to see Gonzaga recognized for the contributions of Wendy Thompson (Salish Kootenai), Director of Tribal Relations, and Rachelle Strawther, Director of Leadership Training and Development.

People have asked what specific action or accomplishment garnered recognition, but there is no single reason, no formula. While our names were read individually, in that setting we stood side-by-side as part of the whole. We each serve our communities in our own ways, and we do so as people raised with Native American cultural and kinship practices. We are responsible to this place and each other.

Centering Native-based Knowledge

My academic work is one way I contribute to the Plateau and my communities. This year marks the ninth year of the Native American Studies (NTAS) program, a minor established to embed Native content in the curriculum and to reinforce Gonzaga’s responsibility to place and community. Faculty who teach Native American Studies invite Native knowledge holders into classrooms and campus events because we want this campus to hear Native people speak for themselves and center Native-held knowledge. Approximately 40 guest speakers from the region and 20 speakers from Indian Country have shared our campus spaces, participating in conversations about tribal sovereignty, Native arts, Plateau health, Indigenous architecture, film, theatre, politics, Indigenous science, TEK, MMIW, and more.

While our names were read individually, in that setting we stood side-by-side as part of the whole.

NTAS students engage in research projects that advance Native-centered knowledge. This fall, the Introduction to Native American History course will work with Plateau knowledge holders to create digital interpretations of canoes and sn̓k̓ʷul̓mn̓ (things we use) as part of a larger digital humanities project. One year, students worked as “historical consultants” in the Jesuit Oregon Province Archives, researching tribal materials held in the collections, then preparing reports about the contents. At the end of the semester, one group’s report resulted in members of that community visiting the archives and reproducing materials to bring home with them. This kind of work connects students and community members in shared pursuits of knowledge and interpretation. 

Research is part of my academic practice as well, and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to co-author scholarly articles with Indigenous women including Shelly Boyd (Sinixt), Emma Noyes (Sinixt), and Miki’ala Pescaia (Native Hawaiian). According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2019 approximately 457,000 women taught at four-year private institutions. How many of those women were Native? 550. How many Native women were tenured? 136. I am the second Native person and the first Native woman to be tenured at Gonzaga—and I have only held tenure since 2020, 133 years after Gonzaga was founded. Institutions must do better. If we want to achieve equity, we absolutely must do better.

Standing on the shoulders of ancestors

Toni Lodge and Margo Hill reminded honorees and attendees that we stand on the shoulders of our grandmothers and walk the paths they blazed for us. My grandmother was with me that day in the roses she once beaded for my moccasins. The moccasins don’t fit anymore, but I moved the roses to a dress and a pair of gloves—I know she would be happy to see I still carry them with me as I travel some of the same Plateau paths she did.

Laurie Arnold, Ph.D. (Sinixt Band Colville Confederated Tribe) is the Director of Native American Studies and an Associate Professor of History.

Committing to Inclusion

The College of Arts and Sciences continues intentionally and systematically to embrace principles of inclusion, equity, justice, and diversity throughout our departments, classes, and policies. One important step in this work will be to solidify our commitment to recruiting, hiring, and retaining faculty whose experiences and expertise will contribute to these ongoing efforts. My work as faculty fellow this summer focused on recruiting and hiring– specifically developing a recruitment ad that highlights Gonzaga’s values and commitments around diversity, equity, and inclusion and developing supporting tools for search committees to better evaluate a candidate’s experience and contributions (appropriate to career stage) in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.

Research shows that job postings that showcase institutional values supporting diversity and signal institutional commitments to inclusive hiring processes are more likely to yield more diverse applicant pools and hires. Therefore, we’ve developed a recruitment ad to highlight institutional values like inclusive excellence and cura personalis. The ad will appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Back to School issue this September.

Following Sara Ahmed’s analysis of institutional DEI documents (On Being Included), the ad seeks to avoid the pitfall of sounding inclusive and welcoming while still communicating that diverse scholars are perpetual outsiders joining the people who already “belong.” Instead, the ad signals a different ethic of inclusion with more invitational language, attention to the many DEI efforts and initiatives already underway in the College, and an acknowledgment that we still have work to do. The ad explicitly invites and welcomes a diversity of scholarly perspectives and lived experiences to join as colleagues to collaborate on these efforts as we strive for inclusive academic excellence in the College.

Research shows that job postings that showcase institutional values supporting diversity and signal institutional commitments to inclusive hiring processes are more likely to yield more diverse applicant pools and hires.

Going beyond the Cover Letter

This summer Faculty Fellow work yielded preliminary guidelines for requesting, reviewing, and evaluating faculty statements on contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Asking faculty applicants to address their experience with inclusion, equity, diversity, and justice work signals Gonzaga University’s commitments to these values. Such statements about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice indicate to applicants that these values are important enough to our institution and the College to warrant deeper exploration than simply adding a few sentences to a cover letter template.

Statements on diversity, equity, and inclusion allow applicants to demonstrate commitments, capacities, and experiences related to Gonzaga’s mission-grounded projects of educating the whole person and fostering a mature commitment to human dignity and social justice. Dr. Tabbye Chavous of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s National Center for Institutional Diversity writes, “It doesn’t quite make sense to affirm diversity as underpinning the institutional mission, while not giving candidates the opportunity to talk about and be credited for their efforts.”

To support search committees, the guidelines for statements on contributions to DEI provide numerous prompt options for soliciting such a statement. Additionally, the guidelines feature a sample rubric that search committees can use or adapt for their needs, as well as a wide range of example evidence that committees might look for that would signal a candidate’s knowledge, experience, and capacity to contribute in these important areas.

These efforts are just two stepping stones in our larger College and University efforts toward equity and inclusion. Yet we hope they will be important steps toward increasing diversity in the College and creating a work and learning environment that supports and includes all colleagues as whole people.

Professor Rossing studies the rhetoric of social justice, particularly in relation to race and racism in the United States. His primary focus is on the way people use humor to provoke conversations and to provide a critical education about race. He regularly applies theories of play and improvisation in teaching, leadership, and diversity training.

Reflections on the AJCU Leadership Institute

In early August, I returned from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Leadership Institute at Loyola University-Chicago. The institute focused on the Jesuits’ four Universal Apostolic Preferences: Showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment, walking with the excluded, journeying with youth, and care for our common home. It was an amazing experience to spend time with colleagues across the Jesuit network as we reflected and engaged more deeply in our work together to form “people for others.” 

I’m still pondering the lessons from the institute. In particular, the work of discernment, as it can mean so many different things to people. As pointed out in the institute, discernment is more than just making a single concrete decision. It’s about listening.

Many years ago, I was first introduced to the Ignatian way of listening and discernment at a Jesuit retreat house. Over the years, I’ve been drawn deeper into the Ignatian way, eventually completing a 2-year internship in Ignatian spirituality, co-leading discernment workshops with Jesuits, and writing about it for the secular press

Throughout this journey, St. Ignatius’ teachings on spiritual freedom, discernment of spirits, and discernment of God’s will have had an enormous impact on how I teach and lead, pay attention to what attracts or repels me, and how I make professional and personal decisions. You may have noticed this in my leadership when I survey people to get a sense of how they feel about a given problem or when I ask about what enlivens people about their work. 

It’s this kind of Ignatian listening that led me here to Gonzaga. Let me share how. 

Discerning the path ahead

After reading an article in America magazine about women leaders transforming AJCU institutions while remaining true to themselves and the Jesuit mission, I felt a deep sense of “rightness” and quiet excitement. These feelings of spiritual consolation were the nudge to start looking to see who in the AJCU network might be hiring. A month later, I saw the Gonzaga advertisement. As I read more about Gonzaga, I thought, I’d love to work at a place like this! The emphasis on educating the whole person, the close-knit community, the Jesuit commitment to justice, and the common good are just some of the characteristics that stood out for me.

A month later, I saw the Gonzaga advertisement. As I read more about Gonzaga, I thought, I’d love to work at a place like this! The emphasis on educating the whole person, the close-knit community, the Jesuit commitment to justice, and the common good are just some of the characteristics that stood out for me. 

Yet, when I expressed hesitation and dragged my feet about writing the letter of interest, saying, “This is really not the right time,” a friend looked at me with disbelief: “This is everything you are looking for, and they are looking for you!”, she said. What fed into my hesitation? My attachment to the safe and familiar—I knew everyone at my old institution, I knew how things worked, I knew where to grocery shop, I loved my child’s school, and he loved his friends and teacher (and I was worried about ruining his life!). I had never lived in the West and had no family close by. But, I came to see these feelings as they were—it’s normal to feel like this when confronted with change. At the same time, I was not feeling entirely free to choose the next right thing offered to me. Once I had worked through those feelings of resistance or desolations, I was able to write my letter. The search committee also discerned, and I accepted the position in December 2019 to start July 1, 2020. 

Being a people for others – in the College and beyond

I share this example to show that discernment is a listening process that takes time, can reveal where we are not entirely free, and requires that we consult with trusted others when possible. I see the fruits of discernment when I look at the amazing work we’ve accomplished together during the pandemic in the three priority areas of academic excellence, cura personalis, and building an inclusive community. I believe we have been able to do these things, in part, because we are each discerning our next right steps individually and as a College. As we enter the next academic year, I hope that we can more deeply embrace these gifts of Ignatian discernment to listen to each other and co-create action plans in the College to pursue the common good and prepare our students to build a better world. I am grateful that the AJCU Leadership Institute supports this collective work within and across our institutions and that it elevated the four apostolic preferences as key guides of our work together.

Annmarie Caño, Ph.D. is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of Psychology at Gonzaga University.

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