Spotlight: Opus Prize

bnr-opus-prizeIt was the Friday Morning of spring break when I found myself being guided around a neighborhood in Queens by a nun with a thick New York accent. Sister Tessa is the leader of the nonprofit Hour Children, with a focus to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their families. The passion that she has for her work is evident even in the few hours we spend wandering around her neighborhood. We stop to talk with a woman, a mother who was released from prison years ago. She is understandably shy, having been introduced to a large group of strangers from across the country, but Sister lovingly encourages her to tell us about herself and the role that she plays at Hour Children’s daycare facility. We wish the woman the best and continue on. As we walk away, Sister Tessa tells us about the woman’s journey at Hour Children with motherly affection. We have similar encounters with many others on our walk, including staff members, children, and after school tutors. Sister Tessa’s intentionality and the genuine care that she exhibits toward every individual she comes into contact with is something that I will remember for a long time.

My name is Carson Schneider, and I am a junior Biology major. I am a fan of all forms of basketball, running by the river, and re-watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. My Gonzaga experience, like many others, is one that has taken me places I never would have expected. This is a place where you can really get your feet wet. The University has programs, connections, and partners all over the world that are open to students with drive enough to pursue them. In the Spring of 2014 I became involved in the Opus Prize Foundation. Each year Opus partners with a different Catholic university, which happens to be Gonzaga this year. An annual one million dollar prize is awarded to an unsung humanitarian, tackling one of the world’s foremost social justice issues, by the Opus Prize Foundation. Two annual $100,000 prizes are also awarded. In April two other students, myself and a professor flew to New York to assist in the vetting of Sister Tessa as one of the finalists for the 2014 Opus prize.

A common theme that I heard on our visit to Hour Children was that the organization is one that allows the women to be able to pick themselves up. I didn’t truly understand the implications of that statement until our group phone call with Janine Geske. Janine is a retired Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who is now on the board for the Opus Prize Foundation. We talked about the people she had met and their stories, and shared how she admired the strength and courage of those she has served. Janine expressed that had she been in those situations, she doubts that she would have been able to escape the cycle. The real power of Hour Children is that it gives women a chance to change their lives, who otherwise might be “left in the cycle.” The desire to turn things around is the necessary first step for an incarcerated woman, but Hour Children is an organization that provides the community and structure necessary to do so; Janine’s story is enough for me to understand how powerful that is.

This is the kind of thing that Gonzaga students get to learn from and share about on campus. It is moments like walking around in Queens with Sister Tessa that bring my Gonzaga experience full circle. We as a University profess to be men and women for and with others- part of the Opus Prize vetting trip for me was redefining what that means. In college we are supposed to ask the tough insightful questions. On the New York trip we observed and participated in doing just that. At its core, college is about learning, and at Gonzaga you’ll be presented with many opportunities to do that in places you wouldn’t expect.

Editor’s note: Gonzaga hosts this year’s Opus finalists on campus October 14-16, 2014, with the Opus Prize Awards Ceremony on April 16 at 7pm at the Fox Theatre in downtown Spokane. Free tickets will be available to students through the Crosby Information Desk in October.   Find out more about Gonzaga’s collaboration with the Opus Prize Foundation this year at


Academic Read #10: A “Normal” Freshman Year

From our Statement of Affirmation: Gonzaga identifies with the Catholic Social Teaching, which recognizes that “The common good and a just society cannot be attained without working to positively impact the state of the poor, the vulnerable, and those marginalized by society at large.

           I’d like to think my freshman year was normal enough. I had to deal with the same things as most of my peers: balancing friends, classes, clubs and activities. It was hard, and there isn’t much you can do to prepare for it. While my freshman year felt just like everyone else’s, it was completely different and unique. I never could have known the things that awaited for me.

Just about a year ago today I sat down with my parents and decided that I was going to Gonzaga. This was very exciting for my family and I— I am a first generation college student. Upon arriving at Gonzaga for Orientation Weekend, I was slammed with all sort of things to do and be involved in. It was overwhelming. After the next couple of weeks passed, I began to find a groove of what I would do day to day. But after some time I felt I grew too complacent with my life too quickly. I saw my peers continuing to join new clubs and signing up for activities every day. I grew jealous and wanted to find more for myself. I sat in my room I thought of new things to try, but I had trouble discovering what I wanted. One night I walked into the common room and saw on my RA’s whiteboard “Mission Possible Sign-up: 7:00 am”I said, “Okay.”

Mission Possible is an alternative spring break trip that has nine different locations where groups of students are sent. We work with all kinds of communities, varying from homelessness, construction sites, developmentally disabled, and many more impactful causes. I called my parents and told them I wouldn’t be coming home for spring break, but leaving on a trip somewhere in the country. I woke up early the next morning, secured my spot on a trip, and after weeks of waiting I found out I was leaving for Tacoma, Washington with a group of students I had never met before. Needless to say, I was terrified.

Once the trip was about to leave, I had learned most of their names, but they still felt like strangers to me. However, I didn’t let that stand in the way of the personal goal I had set for myself. Before the trip I told myself, “Whatever happens or however this turns out, I want to give myself to this trip for one week.”I shared this goal with the rest the group before we left and I felt it IGNITED something inside all of us to not just go on this trip, but be a part of it. While we were there, we strived to simply absorb everything. The biggest thing I took away from the trip were the lessons about service. I had never done anything like this before and could go on for hours about what I learned and the experiences I had, but that is for you to experience for yourself.

At the end of the trip I left with new perspectives and thoughts that I had never experienced before. As well as coming home with twelve other students I now consider some of my best friends. The spark I had IGNITED in the beginning erupted into a flame. I wanted more: more service, more community, more experiences. I began to jump in wherever I could with GUSR, GU Outdoors, or GUTS. Whatever I wanted to do I was no longer afraid to do it. It took me half of my freshman year to figure that out, so I hope to inspire you to make the most of your freshmen year from the very beginning. Don’t be afraid to try something new, it doesn’t matter if it sucks and you hate it, at least you tried. Gonzaga has so much to offer, so please don’t let it pass you by!

Zack Rosse is a Sophomore at Gonzaga studying Civil Engineering. He is also an Orientation Leader, participates in GU Outdoors, and GUSR.

IGNITE Question: Like Zack, we at Gonzaga strive to combat becoming “too complacent with life too quickly.” What will motivate you to challenge yourself and leave your comfort zone?

Spotlight: True Life- I Didn’t Like My Housing Assignment Until…

All right people, housing assignments have gone out! If you haven’t been checking your Zagmail, now would be a good time to log-in. You may be over the moon about your assignment, but a lot of people freak out if they didn’t get their first choice. Real talk: I was one of these people.

When I was on my campus tour, the Ambassador gave a quick profile of each residence hall’s character, but assured that every dorm had its positives. I scoffed at this politically correct statement, and had my heart set on Catherine Monica. I had been home-schooled, and attended an all-girls’ high school; in short, I was ready for things to get rowdy. July rolled around and lo and behold, I was assigned to the all-girls floor in Coughlin. It’s funny how in retrospect things seem so silly, but at the time this was basically the end of the world. But, I put my trust in Housing, and said “okay.”

Coughlin Four South, Service & Leadership was the best thing that could have happened to me. Since it was a themed floor, I already had something in common with these 42 strangers. Through hall activities, service projects, and hall dinners, these strangers became my best friends, and in turn, my family. Every student will say the residence hall they lived in was the best, and that’s because it’s true for them. Where you are assigned is the best place for you.

So have a little faith. Sometimes the unexpected, and even the unwanted, ends up being the definitive occurrence that can change your entire Gonzaga experience. (Fun fact: I lived with O-Core Soldati in Coughlin!)

Some cool things about our Residence Halls:

Coughlin- Themed floors facilitate friendship and commonalities.

St. Catherine/St. Monica or “CM”- Highly social; there’s hardly a dull moment.

Madonna- You have sinks in the room and the closest you can get to the BARC!

Goller- Lots of resources if you’re an engineering student, and a good environment to get work done.

Dillon- Suite-style with some sweet room sizes.

Twohy- Starbucks and FroYo is literally a 1 minute walk from your door. Starbucks in your backyard? Yes please!

Marian- You get free access to GU Outdoor rentals!

Chardin- The RAs here are fabulous this year AND you share a bathroom with only 3 other people.

Cushing- You’re able to wake up 5 minutes before class and still make it to your class in College Hall.

Dooley- Bigger rooms, and you get to know your freshmen and sophomore hall mates.

Alliance (ladies), Lincoln (ladies), Roncalli (gentlemen)- Don’t be weary of the “single-gender” thing; with smaller halls, you’re bound to form tight-knit communities!

Crimont- They have a really cool movie room and lounge in the basement that is perfect for all your game nights or birthday celebrations.

Desmet (gentlemen) & Welch (ladies)- Central to campus, it’s easy to pop back into your dorm for a quick nap/snack/study session between classes.

Academic Read #9: Orientation’s Service Event with the Zag Volunteer Corps

From our Statement of Affirmation: The values of a Jesuit University include that “each work of the [University] is dedicated to the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement.”

Being a Zag means more to me than attending class, camping out in Tent City, or winning intramural championships. It means more than making friends for life, studying late at night, or discovering my career. At Gonzaga, we are called to live greater, to step outside of our comfort zones and engage in what St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, calls the “Magis,” literally “the more.” In light of this tradition, the Center for Community Action and Service-Learning (CCASL, pronounced “castle”) is launching the Zag Volunteer Corps – a series of one-day service projects happening throughout the academic year. The first-ever Zag Volunteer Corps event is a part of your New Student Orientation and you’re encouraged to join us on Saturday, September 6th. You’ll get to spend the day serving alongside fellow new students, meeting upperclassmen, and getting to know your new home here in Spokane.

I know from experience how easy it is to get carried away with on-campus activities and dorm life, but part of what makes Gonzaga special is our community- both on campus and off. My collegiate experience became so much richer once I started exploring the greater Spokane area through service. Spokane isn’t just a place I’m visiting for four years. It’s my home now, too. I invite you to sign-up, to become connected, to ignite the “Magis” through Zag Volunteer Corps this fall. We are counting on the Class of 2018 to make its mark in the Jesuit tradition of service for and with others. Join us.

Laura Regester is a Senior Journalism Major from Phoenix, AZ, and is a Small Group Leader for the Zag Volunteer Corps.

Sign up for Orientation’s service event with the Zag Volunteer Corps HERE. Be sure to register before spots fill up! O-Core cannot wait to serve alongside our new fellow Zags! 

IGNITE Question: How will you find the Magis at Gonzaga?

Spotlight: Academic Campus Video Tour

Where’s Tilford? What does Room 402 mean? Where does your Intro to Engineering class meet? O-Core member Garick Sherburn takes you on a tour of Gonzaga’s academic buildings. Be sure to watch this short video for a few laughs and lots of useful tips & tricks before your first day of class!

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Academic Read #8: Travel Thursdays

 From our Statement of Affirmation: “…through its educational work, [Gonzaga University] demonstrates an appreciation for international and global interconnectedness, and the value associated with relating each student’s educational experience to the contemporary issues of a global reality.”

Before there was “Throwback Thursday,” we had “Travel Thursday”. After lunch, I, along with my fellow Gonzaga-in-Florence classmates, would pack our backpacks and take off — Cinque Terre one weekend, the Amalfi Coast and Capri the next, Croatia and Bosnia for Thanksgiving, Turkey and Greece for Christmas tour, Venice for Carnevale.

For us, Thursdays meant new adventures were on the horizon. Each weekend brought new opportunities to take roads less traveled in Italy or once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences such as spending 24 hours on a bus to Krakow, Poland or taking the overnight train to wake up on my 21st birthday in Paris.

Now that I am ten years removed from my time at Gonzaga, I’ve reflected on what experience transformed me into the person I am today. While I can point to inspiring professors, service learning projects or political activism, the Gonzaga experience that truly ignited my spirit was my year abroad in the Gonzaga-in-Florence program.

My experience abroad was more than a series of “selfies” in front of famous buildings (although I do have a picture of me holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa). I embraced the year as an opportunity to interact with locals, learn about the Italian culture and Europeans’ perspectives on Americans.

The 2002-2003 school year was a challenging time to be abroad. Europe had recently integrated the euro and adjusting to their coordinated economies. America was still reeling from the attacks of September 11th and heading into war with Iraq. The world was changing – becoming smaller and more instantaneously connected through Internet and cell phone technology. As a political science major, I found the conversations about world affairs I’d overhear at cafés or on the train fascinating and at times chimed in. I gained an invaluable outsider’s perspective on American politics that enriched my studies in the classroom.

As our world becomes even more connected through social media and 24-hour news coverage, it won’t be uncommon to be asked in your future career to work in a foreign country or communicate with an international office at your company. Gonzaga makes a commitment to be true to its mission statement fostering students’ growth in intercultural competence and global engagement. It’s why GU sets a high standard by sending 48.3% of its undergraduates abroad to numerous countries on six continents.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Make your plan.

I know what you must be thinking, this alum is telling me to start thinking about studying abroad while its summer and the only thing on my biggest concern is making sure I have the right sheets to fit my dorm’s bed!

I get it. I’ve been there.

You’re figuring out how you are getting yourself and a mini version of Bed Bath and Beyond that your loved ones have supplied for you to Spokane. (Oh, don’t forget a few power strips!). You’re probably thinking, let me get through Orientation and my first year year and then we’ll see about living in another country.

Again, I get it. I’ve been there but I want to encourage you to envision where you could spend sophomore or junior year and how you can live out Gonzaga’s mission of being a man or woman for others who possesses intercultural competence and is globally engaged.

My Gonzaga experience would not have been complete without my Florence year so I am taking this opportunity to encourage you to study abroad. On a personal front, I can tell you it was one of the greatest experiences of my life and probably will be yours too. On a practical front, we live in a global economy therefore having experience living abroad and connecting with other cultures is a way to make you a competitive candidate in your future career.

As you were told in high school, that it’s never too early to think about college. You’ve made it! You’re a Zag! So here I am, Gonzaga alum, telling you it’s never too early to think about studying abroad. In the midst of all the activities, during the first few weeks on campus there will be a study abroad fair. I encourage you to go. You’ll learn about the programs GU offers and how to plan your academic experience to ensure you’ll be able to go abroad, fulfill your core and major requirements, and still graduate in four years.

When you meet with your academic advisor, chat with him or her that you are thinking of going abroad. Gonzaga is truly a supportive community and many people will help you make your plan to study abroad a reality!

I encourage you to begin thinking about how studying abroad will ignite your spirit because it was the experience at Gonzaga that ignited mine. I use the skills I gained to this day – how to pack efficiently, how to read a train schedule, how to book a flight, how to order a cappuccino properly. I vividly recall striking up a conversation on a train ride back from Sicily with two men who after spending the weekend with their families were heading to work in the northern part of the country. I remember visiting a synagogue in Krakow, Poland and meeting a man who was one of the 1200 Jews saved by Oskar Schindler during the Holocaust. I cherish the opportunity to learn about Michelangelo’s philosophy of creating the David and being able to visit the Accademia Gallery to see the work up close. I deepened my faith by visiting the Vatican and seeing Pope John Paul II canonize saints in St. Peter’s Square.

Studying and traveling were very important aspects of my time abroad but I am forever impacted by my personal self-growth and my keen awareness of my place in the world. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try new things, to challenge myself physically and mentally, to embrace new experiences.

Did I mention that you could eat gelato everyday? Ignite your spirit. Study abroad!

 Danielle Cendejas graduated from Gonzaga in 2004, and is now a project manager for The Strategy Group based out of Pasadena, CA. She was a political science major while at GU, and has worked on a several high-profile political campaigns. And she’s a Zag through-and-through; she is the L.A. Chapter President and is actively involved with the Hire-A-Zag initiative.

IGNITE Question: Gonzaga has over 30 study abroad programs, including two campuses (in Florence and in Paris!) that offer summer, semester, and year- long opportunities. Where will you go? What do you hope studying abroad will do for your Gonzaga Experience?

Spotlight: Student Employment

Working while going to school requires efficient time management, but a job can be an important part of the GU Experience. Gonzaga is all about real-world application, and there’s no better forum to put into practice what you learn in the classroom than at a job. There are several types of employment opportunities both on- and off- campus, and the Student Employment Office is dedicated to assisting your job search.

On-Campus Jobs at Gonzaga

  • Federal Work Study (FWS): Based on financial need as determined by your FAFSA.  Eligibility questions  should be directed to your financial aid counselor.
  • Institutional: Open to any Gonzaga student and is department funded.

Off-Campus Jobs at Gonzaga

  • State Work Study (SWS): Based on financial need as determined by your FAFSA.  Eligibility questions  should be directed to your financial aid counselor.
  • Community Job Board: Postings from individuals and businesses in the area.

How Do I Know Which Jobs Are Available?

*If you are eligible for FWS or SWS, please monitor your Zagmail throughout the summer. The Student Employment Office will be sending emails periodically with important information regarding your job search.

  • Check your financial aid award package on Zagweb to see if you have been awarded FWS or SWS.
    • FWS jobs list will be available online in August.
    • SWS jobs list will be available online in August.
  • If you are not eligible for work study, you will be looking for an Institutional job on-campus.
    • The Institutional jobs list will be available by request only. Please contact Student Employment for more information. These jobs are hard to find so be sure to act early!
    • Community Job Board jobs can be found at

Student Employment Job Fair (for on-campus jobs only)

Monday, September 1st from 11:30 am-1:00pm in Cataldo Hall

What to Bring

  • For on-campus jobs, you must complete hiring paperwork.  For this we will need to see original documents such as an unexpired passport, an original social security card, or an original birth certificate.
  • Students working on-campus are paid by direct deposit so bring your bank information including your account and routing numbers.

For FWS and Institutional jobs contact Robin Guevara at 509-313-6587 or

For SWS jobs contact Katrina Rambo at 509-313-6218 or

Academic Read #7: Gonzaga’s Unity in Diversity

From our Statement of Affirmation: The values of a Jesuit University include “that the university fosters an appreciation for the cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of its local communities and the wider world.”

There are 28 countries, 45 U.S. states, more than 20 religions, over 100 active clubs and organizations, and 75 fields of study represented at Gonzaga University. These were overwhelming numbers for me as a freshman! However, as I have embarked upon my journey at Gonzaga I have become thankful for the diverse opportunities this school has provided me to interact with. As each year passes, this school is proud to say “this is the most diverse class at Gonzaga.” Now what does that really mean? That Gonzaga have a greater representation of minority races on our campus each year? Yes, that is true, but I see it as the diversity of things that we can do, the diversity at Gonzaga lies in the different organization we become a part of, the clubs we take part in and the individual passions we bring. Even though our campus might not be the most diverse campus, it is the most inclusive campus.

One thing I learned fairly quickly at GU was to embrace my identity, not to hide it. We are all Zags who come from different backgrounds and bring something unique to this campus. Our cultures, passions, and ambitions are what makes this campus’ diversity. It is that diversity that allows us to become well-informed and culturally aware individuals.


With so much diversity comes curiosity–which is great! It is important to ask questions outside the four walls of the classroom. I come from a minority faith practice and had never read the Bible, nor have I ever known that much about Christianity. My religion courses sparked much curiosity within me and I asked my roommates constantly about what I had learned in class. We came from vastly different backgrounds, but by having these conversations we were able to understand each other better. It is important to embrace our differences and express ourselves, but it is equally important to be open-minded and to take the time to learn about your peers and what makes them unique. Being unique will cause challenges during your journey at Gonzaga, but these obstacles are an opportunity to educate your peers about your identity, your story and what makes you, you!

My favorite event at Gonzaga is Diversity Monologues. This annual event captures how diversity is defined at Gonzaga University. It is a competition that provides Gonzaga students a space to engage their creative voices in sharing their experiences with diversity. Everyone has a story and are made up of multiple social identities. The Diversity Monologues provide a forum for Gonzaga students to express their lived experience through their personal cultural lens. It is an amazing event that brings our campus together to learn about each other’s stories and to embrace the differences amongst us. Whether those be racial, ethnical, social, or economical difference, we are able to realize that we are one school, one community, one family…together we are ALL Zags!

Yusra Hamidani is a junior from Federal Way, Washington. She’s majoring in business administration with concentrations in marketing, management information systems, and operations. Her favorite place on campus is the Jundt Amphitheater overlooking Lake Arthur.

IGNITE Question: During Orientation Weekend, you’ll be asked to reflect on your identity, and what diverse backgrounds you come from. As Yusra wrote, diversity comes in all forms and ideas, shaped by your unique experiences. How are YOU diverse?

Spotlight: Transportation

Freaking out about how you’re going to get around? Have you had a scuffle with your parents about taking a car or not? Do parking passes and bike locks confuse you? Fret not! Gonzaga has several transportation resources available for your transportation needs. Whether you take your own car or rent a Zip Car, you will definitely be able to explore all 131 acres of our beautiful campus and the 60.02 square miles of the surrounding Spokane community! Here are a few transportation options on campus:

1. Zipcar

Do you need a car once in a while? Are you concerned about expenses and sustainability? Gonzaga offers car sharing with Zipcar, a cost-effective and environmentally-conscious option for occasional drivers. Gonzaga University students, faculty and staff age 18 and older can join Zipcar for a $25 annual fee and will receive $35 in driving credit. To join, visit

2. GSBA Weekend Shuttle

Don’t have a car, and want to go downtown with your friends? Gonzaga Student Body Association provides students a free shuttle service that operates on the weekends. It’s a great alternative to  having and maintaining a car and will get you to downtown Spokane and back. The shuttle departs from and returns to Desmet Circle on a consistent schedule. Best part: it’s FREE!

3. Safe Ride with CAMPO

Need a ride home from a compromising situation or a safe ride back to campus or your residence?
It’s on Campus Public Safety and Security, who we lovingly refer to as “Campo” To use this service, call (509) 313-2222. They will pick you up anywhere, anytime. We just want to ensure your safety.

4. Bicycles

If you bring a bike to campus, register it with CAMPO here. You can also purchase U-lock bike locks from their office. Make sure to get a U-lock and not one of those wirey/swirly things to reduce the risk of bike theft. A bike is a great inexpensive mode of transportation, plus you get some quality exercise in. The Freshmen 15 is REAL!

5. Parking Permits

If you do decide to bring your own car, you may purchase parking permits for $85+tax per year and can be purchased online or at the Campus Public Safety and Security office starting August 15. Our permits are considerably less expensive than other institutions, but think about if you will really use your car year-round or only in the first non-snowy months of school!

Whatever you choose, just know that you will never be “stuck.” For those of you coming from across the country, or even across an ocean, there will be several ways to get from point A to point B!

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Academic Read #6: Teaching to Transform

From our Mission Statement: “Gonzaga models and expects excellence in academic and professional pursuits…”

On the first day of every fall semester I walk into a room filled with wide-eyed and often wildly nervous freshmen.  I usually begin with a statement that goes something like this:

“What we read, think about, and discuss this semester will change the way you look at the world and the way you see yourself in it.”

The majority of my students are not English Majors; many of them claim they dislike reading, and many of them openly admit that they would rather gouge their own eyes out than write an essay on the meaning of the 17th-century poem they see on my syllabus.  Given this reality, I recognize that my claim is astronomically ambitious, but I feel I’d do a disservice to my students if I aimed for anything less…I also know my aspiration is more than just a claim; it is a truth.

When you walk through the halls of Gonzaga University and sit down in a classroom, whether you know it or not, you are seeking more than just an education, more than just knowledge or experience, and certainly more than just degree requirements to eventually land a job.  Your presence here suggests that you seek a deep and abiding transformation of the self.  Your presence in our classrooms and common areas, our dorms and our chapels, our athletic fields and concert halls, is a testament to the fact that you desire to know yourself better. You have taken the first step in beginning a process of transformation from your current self into the “you” you’d most like to be.

It is not a lie when I say this process might very well begin with an “Introduction to Literature” class.  I know that your transformation will occur over time, but I also know that the first inkling of change can come with a hard poem or a challenging novel that forces you to struggle with a seemingly impenetrable, impossible, or even uncomfortable text.  I know that through this struggle you will come to know a great deal about yourself.

And here is the beauty of beginning this process at Gonzaga: you will not be alone.  My fellow professors and I will gladly walk with you on your journey, and we will care about more than just how your personal journey ends; we will care about how you feel along the way.  We will care about you, and we are deeply invested in providing the platform on which you will discover, alter, reimagine, and in turn rediscover yourself.

This personal care and commitment to building a community of learners, a community your professors are also a member of, is a hallmark of Gonzaga’s Jesuit and humanistic educational model that stresses the importance of cura personalis, or “care for the individual person.”  This tradition calls Gonzaga’s faculty to teach with the vision of our students as individuals who hold a vital stake in their own transformation always before us.

As such, I am constantly inspired to offer a learning environment that reaches well beyond the walls of our classroom and into the lived experiences of my students.  I strive to assign texts that open up avenues to new ideas that explode into meaning because they authentically speak to not just our minds but also our souls and our humanity.

I am not interested in forcing students to read and write for a requirement.  I am interested in inviting students to thoughtfully consider the deep reciprocity between the stories we tell and the experience of being human.  I often have the pleasure of seeing my classrooms pulse with life as the result of a meaningful emotional shifting a poem or a beautifully ironic moment in a play where we don’t know if we should cry or laugh.  These moments leap off the pages and straight into our hearts, and as a result, we become ignited with not just the spirit of the text, but with a greater understanding of our shared humanity.  It is a remarkable thing to see a young woman or man engage in this process of discovery and connect with a voice from another time or even find a voice that speaks to this moment, right now.  In these instances I leave my classroom both enlivened and improved for having had the opportunity to listen to you.

The transformations that come from the work we will do here may not happen immediately within the walls of my classroom; in fact, I suspect it rarely does.  The real, abiding, intractable changes in the way we think, feel, and live largely come in small, sneaking, and mostly silent sensations months or even years later, but the seeds are planted now, here in a learning community intent upon activating your desire for growth.  I know this to be true, and teaching with this truth in mind makes me believe whole-heartedly that my lofty ambition to ignite a spirit of transformation in my students is not beyond reach.  I can see transformation hovering above our heads during a heated classroom debater when a student comes into my office to discuss an assignment they’re struggling with.  Transformation is palpable in these moments.

The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats reportedly once declared, “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”  It is an assertion that doesn’t really sound like Yeats, and has actually proven difficult to attribute to Yeats, but regardless of whether or not a famous poet uttered these words, they are undeniably true.  Fires are hard to extinguish; they indelibly alter the landscape through which they blaze, and they are the building blocks of rebirth, renewal, and transformation in the natural world.  At Gonzaga the faculty is called to do much more than dispense droplets of knowledge onto our students while holding back a greater reservoir for ourselves. We, the faculty, will offer you fuel; we’ll supply you with matches, but only you can ignite the fire within.


Professor Katey Roden is a lecturer in the Gonzaga English Department, often teaching courses such as ENGL 102: Intro to Literature. Look for her name when you get your student schedules in August; you’d be lucky to have her as a professor!

 IGNITE Question: “Cura Personalis” is not simply a term we use capriciously. Reflect on how you will live this through during your Gonzaga experience. How will you begin your academic journey and implement this notion of “care for the whole person”?

P.S. Don’t forget to comment on these academic reads for your chance to win free ZagSwag! Get the low-down here.