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.