The College of Arts & Sciences Blog

Category: Gonzaga University

Arts & Sciences Welcomes New Faculty Cohort – Fall 2023

Gonzaga’s College of Arts & Sciences is proud to highlight our newest Faculty cohort starting their tenure this Fall. The faculty below come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Some are entirely new to our campus, and some are stepping into new roles. Click on the images below to learn more about individual faculty members.

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.

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.

Dean’s List…Of Summer Reading

I binge-read every summer. It could be the warmer weather or having more daylight hours (especially in Spokane!). The (slightly) slower pace of the workday might also mean I have more energy to focus on a book in the evenings. Whatever the reason, I just read more during the summer. 

For those of you who might ask, “How can a dean have time to read?” I answer that I wouldn’t feel like I’d be a good dean of a College of Arts and Sciences without time to read, especially novels and fiction (the humanities!) and non-fiction (about diversity and science!). And the social scientist in me revels in the psychological and social dynamics at play in fictional and real life. Reading also re-charges my energy and has expanded what I think is possible in life, including my own life as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, colleague, and citizen. 

But I didn’t always love reading. After a childhood filled with many trips to the public library (my parents were thrifty and would rarely spend money on books unless they were reference books I’d use over and over again), I lost interest in college. I did not perform well in my initial literature and poetry classes, and it felt punishing to read: Clearly, I was doing it all wrong, I thought. It was only later that I was able to see that my peers were more prepared to read critically and write the kinds of papers that earned As. I discovered how to write well in graduate school, and shortly after that, I began reading again. I am heartened by CAS faculty and staff who work closely with students to recognize their potential and nourish their curiosity so they can thrive in college and beyond. 

So, what are some of the books on my summer reading list? 


The Deep by River Solomon – A powerful Afrofuturistic tale about the transformation of grief and the loss of life of enslaved African people.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn – How the power of the land beats on in a Hawaiian family as told by each family member.

Pigs by Johanna Stoberock – This was recommended to me by a fellow Humanities Washington board member; a dystopian tale that weaves together themes of childhood innocence, adult greed, waste and sustainability.

Weather by Jenny Offill – A university librarian who gets roped into answering an advice column and learn more than she wants to know about human nature.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson – Map-making, monarchy, jinn, and power struggles on the Iberian peninsula during the last sultanate. Intriguing, right?


The Alchemy of Us by Ainissa Ramirez – Hidden stories of the scientific discoveries that have shaped us as a species, written by a Black materials scientist who left academia and now engages in science communication.

Once I Was You by Maria Hinojosa – A Latina journalist’s memoir of straddling two worlds, working on imposter syndrome, and taking ownership of her talents

The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein – A non-binary Black astrophysicist explains the order and disorder of the universe

How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell – A biracial (Filipina/white) artist describes how being too attached to a capitalist, digital economy can harm our being. I selected this one because I tend toward overcommitting myself and I’m always looking for ways to live a more balanced life.

Lessons from Plants by Beronda Montgomery – A Black plant biologist draws parallels between the health of plants and what we need as humans to thrive.

What are you reading or listening to?

What is the College?

When people ask me what I do, and I say I am dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gonzaga University, I initially get some impressed looks. (Wow, a dean!) But the next two questions are “What does a dean do?” and “Arts and Sciences? What is that?” Both are good questions but let’s start with the second (I’ll answer the first question in another post). The College is home to a range of disciplines spanning the fine and performing arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences in 23 departments. With 33 majors and 48 minors to choose from, it may seem like the College is just a hodgepodge of disciplines with no relation to each other. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Beautiful day outside College Hall, former home to the College.

This collection of disciplines is the core of a Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic education. Each component helps us reflect on ourselves and our place in the world, appreciating and celebrating our differences and uniqueness, whether at the atomic, cellular, individual, interpersonal, or societal levels. In the College, we ask fundamental questions: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here on this Earth? and How can we use our knowledge, skills, and creativity to work together to solve life’s great problems? What sets Gonzaga’s College apart is that faculty, staff, and students have the opportunity to explore and learn together in a community that values the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. Each student is more than their grades or what they produce. This means that the education we offer in the College is limitless and can transform how we interact with others and build a better world. In two recent interviews, College of Arts and Sciences faculty and students shared their perspectives about what they are learning. As you will see, a College of Arts and Sciences education is more than meets the eye.

Collection of art objects at the Gonzaga University Urban Arts Center.
Artwork from the senior art show, April 2021.

Almost all Gonzaga undergraduates pass through the College as they journey through the University Core. It is here they gain skills that will support success throughout their lives, including ethical decision-making, critical thinking, self-reflection, and the ability to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds. I have been impressed with how well our students can articulate how courses across the College foster a growth mindset that will serve them well into the future whether they pursue careers in health care, research, art and performance, education, public service, ministry, or business and industry. For instance, in this interview, students with a range of majors including Biology and Environmental Studies, describe how printmaking (Art) and creative writing (English) classes helped them develop their self-reflection. These creative problem-solving, and reasoning skills have served them well in other classes and will come in handy in their career and in life.

“These lessons will take them far in fulfilling career paths where they can also enjoy themselves and create lasting friendships.”

In the College, we apply this sensibility to our work outside the classroom too. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing students and faculty who participate in Model UN program and Debate teams and was inspired by their knowledge about current events and issues facing people worldwide but with their ability to see how they valued being part of a team. Supporting their colleagues in honing their arguments and having fun as they practiced their written and oral reasoning skills was as much a part of the learning process as their research. These lessons will take them far in fulfilling career paths where they can also enjoy themselves and create lasting friendships.

I hope that this small introduction to what we do in the College provides some initial answers to “What is the College of Arts and Sciences?” I’ll share more about individual departments and degree programs in future posts to provide a deeper understanding of how each program develops students in the Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic traditions.

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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