Contemplating the College

The College of Arts & Sciences Blog

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.

State of the College – 2023

We made it to Commencement! I hope you enjoy reflecting on what you achieved this academic year. For me, consolation comes from witnessing the amazing work you are all doing to support each other, your students, your loved ones, and your communities. I would like to highlight just a few College successes of this year, hoping we can collectively savor the joy in these accomplishments.

Academic Excellence

CAS faculty and staff continue to give their all to students amidst persistent mental health and other challenges. 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:

  • Faculty published, exhibited, composed, and performed amazing works that are too numerous to mention here— many were honored at the Academic Honors Convocation, and we continue to highlight this scholarly and creative work on a regular basis in the monthly CAS newsletter. Remember that we rely on you to share your good news with us. Tell us about your and your colleagues’ successes here.
  • Faculty used over $115,000 in Career Development Funds to faculty and staff across the College. Faculty were also awarded $18,000 in funds for CAS Dean’s faculty development and special projects. Moving the application deadline from November to March to allow for a full fiscal year of spending resulted in a bumper crop of proposals. Thank you to the CAS Awards Committee for their work in reviewing two sets of submissions (the original November deadline for Fiscal Year 2023 and the new March deadline for Fiscal Year 2024).
  • Our students continued to shine with individual awards, as we saw at Academic Honors Convocation.
  • Kaaren Goeller-Bloom (Classical Civilizations, History, Native American Studies) won the CAS Outstanding Staff Award.
  • We submitted a successful Grand Challenge proposal for an Institute for Humanities, which is poised to be voted on at the July Board of Trustees meeting. This Institute will promote mission-aligned humanities scholarship, pedagogy, and community partnerships. Thank you to Interim Director of Applied Humanities Charlie Lassiter (Philosophy) for serving as the proposal’s co-convener and all the CAS faculty and staff who contributed to its success.
  • Several departments completed their program reviews and began undertaking curriculum enhancement and overhauls aligned with their vision of academic excellence.
  • New program proposals moved to Academic Council for recommendation for approval. Thank you to the faculty and staff who initiated these proposals and the CAS Curriculum Committee for your thoughtful and timely feedback.
Brook Swanson, Ph.D. (Biology), meets with students for an experiential, outdoor course.

Fundraising and Gifts

The CAS Dean’s Excellence Fund supports various initiatives across the College that our university budget cannot accommodate. This fund is the primary source of gifts to provide monies to CAS co-curricular groups like Model UN and the Gonzaga SACNAS Chapter so that students can afford to travel to conferences and competitions. I also use this fund to create startup packages to recruit faculty and staff, offer CAS Dean’s Summer Faculty Fellow stipends, and co-sponsor conferences like the Ancient Philosophy Conference and the Criminology Symposium, among other activities. I am thrilled to share the following fundraising milestones from this year:

  • We had a 6-fold increase in Zags Give Day (March 9) contributions to the Dean’s Excellence Fund from ~$5,000 in 2022 to ~$29,000 in 2023.
  • We have also grown contributions to this fund yearly (Fiscal Year 2021 = $3,575, FY 2022 = $59,307, FY 2023 = $78,345).
  • We added a second day of giving in November 2022 to recognize STEM Day and raised almost $19,000 to support STEM equipment and research.
  • We were gifted a new endowed award: the Runger/Dolliver CAS Faculty Excellence Award. This award includes a $5,000 stipend for a faculty member who exemplifies inclusive excellence in their teaching, scholarship, and service. Awardees are identified by the dean in the fall.
  • I continue to work with University Advancement on gifts to your departments and programs, including cash and endowed funds to support faculty-student research, equipment, speaker series, events, and other activities.

Much gratitude to our benefactors, including the CAS Advisory Council, University Advancement, and department colleagues who helped me build the case for benefaction in your areas.

Faculty Hiring and Retention

I am happy to report that we are welcoming 8 new tenure-track faculty in the following departments: Art, Chemistry & Biochemistry/Environmental Studies & Sciences, Integrated Media Studies, Music, Political Science, Psychology (2), and Sociology and Criminology. In addition, we will welcome several new lecturers across the College. Congratulations to all the departments for recruiting wonderful human beings as new colleagues! Recruiting and hiring is stressful as you navigate competing needs, short timelines, and a tight market. Thank you also to the search committee chairs and members, and search advocates who helped keep transparency and equity at the forefront throughout the process.

What’s on tap for the summer?

Here is what is on the dean’s office summer agenda:

Faculty retention and advancement:

  • We celebrated a successful conclusion to the first year of the CAS faculty mentoring program in April. Thank you to all who participated in the mentoring “pods” consisting of a Professor, an Associate Professor, and 3-5 Assistant Professors. We will prepare to expand this program over the summer to include all faculty in their first 6 years on the tenure track starting in Fall.
  • Two CAS Dean’s Summer Faculty Fellows will contribute to retention and advancement in the College. Stemming from IDEAS in Action work, Chip Callahan (Religious Studies) will be working to amplify equity-minded teaching practices in the College. Sarah Arpin (Psychology) will work with Associate Dean Jonathan Rossing and others to provide DEI- and Jesuit mission-related guidance in the College RPT guidelines.
  • The associate deans and a volunteer group of faculty and department chairs will collaborate to create College guidelines incorporating Faculty Handbook revisions regarding promotion and tenure, and post-tenure review.
  • Career development and support: We successfully expanded the travel-only professional development fund to a more flexible Career Development Fund that supports various activities for faculty and staff. Despite increased travel and other professional development costs, this budget line has been static. We will continue to advocate for greater support from the university. When we are asked to trim our budget, we have not touched this budget line because we know how important it is.
  • Continued emphasis on inclusion and healthy work environments: Most of you want to create healthier workplaces in the College and your departments. Several reading groups were tasked with providing recommendations to me about how we can do this. We must do this work if we truly want to live our Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic mission through our interactions with each other and our students. Even if you have not experienced oppressive or toxic interactions or environments, please know that some of your colleagues have. We should listen to them with openness, curiosity, and humility so that Gonzaga is welcoming to all.

Dean’s Survey & Vision 2024

  • Responding to Dean’s Survey: We have already instituted a few changes, including updating the dean’s office My.GU page, including more information about funding issues and budget, and in award letters. At the last Chair’s Council meeting in April, I also shared more information than I have in the past about my advocacy on behalf of departments. The dean’s office continues to welcome constructive feedback about how to best serve the College.
  • Revisiting Vision 2024: Provost Kopp has indicated that the College and Schools must align their strategic plans with the university plan. He will share his thoughts at the All College Meeting in August, setting the stage for continued work on the College’s existing plan, Vision 2024.

I am grateful to have gotten to know so many of you over the last three years. May you have a restorative and rejuvenating summer. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your dean.



Seeking Truth

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Matthew 2: 1-12

Epiphany, also known as Día de los Reyes or Three Kings Day, is one of my favorite holidays. Since the kings, or more properly, Magi from afar, This feast day commemorates when the birth of Jesus became known to the rest of the world. As a child, we celebrated Epiphany by putting a box under our beds filled with lettuce for the Magi’s camels as they passed through on their way to baby Jesus. (I never questioned why they would go out of their way to stop in New York!) In other parts of the world, children leave shoes or other containers under their beds or outside their doors, but the outcome is the same: In gratitude, the Magi would leave small gifts.

The three magi as lego figures.
A set of Playskool Magi left for Dean Caño’s son on Three Kings Day

The feast of Epiphany is full of symbolism and mystery: A mysterious star appears overhead, there is political intrigue as Herod tries to use the Magi to get intel on his newborn rival, the Magi interpret dreams, and the Magi present precious but seemingly useless gifts to the infant Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What strikes me this year is the Magi’s openness to God’s word and impelling Spirit. They were experienced seekers of knowledge, yet humble enough to accept a journey that didn’t make much sense to others.

I wonder how the Magi reacted as they began to uncover the truth of their journey. I bet they didn’t always agree when they learned something new. And each one may have discovered different elements that needed discussion with the others. Yet, they were unified in one thing: Discovering the Truth. It takes a certain amount of trust and humility to collaborate with others in truth-seeking.

Magi Spirit in the College

I like to think we are like the Magi in the College of Arts of Sciences. Each of us is trying to reveal the Truth manifested within our disciplines and life experiences. We share our learnings with our students and communities with the hope that we can make the world a better place. Sometimes what we learn doesn’t make much sense or doesn’t seem important to others, but it is still valuable in that we are all seeking the Truth.

Carved wood in the shape of the three magi.
Dean Caño’s son received these Ostheimer figures over several years as Three Kings Day gifts

Here is a place where we can grow and be more like the Magi.

In Academia, some disciplines treat Truth like a commodity owned by the privileged few. Those who do not study the “right” topic, explore “non-traditional” or applied questions, or whose work spans the boundaries of disciplines may be denigrated or silenced. They are not “serious scholars.” This is called epistemic exclusion, and it is a way for some to maintain power and control in a discipline or their departments. I have witnessed this pattern at Gonzaga at times, and I argue that this is a fear-based response that has no place here. Putting down others because of what they study is antithetical to our mission. Because a core feature of our Jesuit mission and Ignatian spirituality is to seek freedom, we should welcome Truth in all its forms as a gift, as well as the gift-bearers, our precious colleagues.

Colorful hand painted ornament depicting the three magi.
A handpainted ornament from Frankenmuth (Michigan’s version of Leavenworth)

As we move into a new year, let’s embrace the spirit of Magi. I know many of you are already doing this in your work on community agreements (i.e., how we treat each other in our departments) and policies and procedures (i.e., how we make decisions and who gets to participate). Like the Magi, we are all on the same journey. We each have gifts that contribute to the greater good, including our scholarly and creative work. We must cultivate humility to value the gifts others bring to our creative and intellectual enterprise. Imagine what we can give to the world if we can do this!

Orienting New Colleagues

Summer Fellows Naghme Morlock & Leslie Stamoolis offer new ways to onboard incoming faculty

Sara Ahmed’s book, Complaint!

This summer we have had the privilege of being CAS Dean’s fellows—an experience that we found immensely valuable and meaningful. As part of this fellowship, which was co-funded by dean and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we had the opportunity to work on onboarding-related efforts for incoming faculty (including those who joined us during the earlier pandemic years), read and discuss “Complaint!” by Sara Ahmed (selected by us as a group) with Dean Caño and the other summer Fellow, Melissa Click, gain a deeper insight into the day-to-day work of our dean, and to have enriching conversations with others around campus (including administrators, staff, and faculty).

When we applied for the Fellowship we were motivated to continue and extend the work we were already involved in as part of the IDEAS in Action Council. Even more so, we both feel extremely passionate about the idea that a sense of belonging and community is critically important for any member of our campus community to thrive. Therefore, our goal at the start of this summer was to begin the development of a more long-term onboarding program for our new faculty. We recognized early on that the development and implementation of a longer-term program would require more lead time, so we shifted to focusing on the initial arrival on campus for this year. Our new goal is to build on what we did this year in the years to come to develop a robust onboarding program for the College (which could be replicated in the other schools throughout Gonzaga).

Incoming Faculty Orientation

As part of this work, we planned a fall CAS orientation session with the assistance of the Dean’s office.  We included a panel to share and discuss with our newer colleagues some things we wish we had known when we first began working at Gonzaga. The goal was to have an honest and frank conversation about the possibilities and also potential challenges and how to navigate the first couple of years in a way that allows them to build community, find belonging and connection, and find their own authentic resonance with the university mission on their journey. The panel turned into a wonderful discussion and several attendees expressed how valuable they found the conversation.

New faculty after orientation.

In addition to the orientation meeting, we also developed a resource list to be shared online that contains suggestions and ideas for ways to connect in the broader off-campus community but also includes ideas for recreational activities and places to explore in Spokane. Belonging and community mean much more than just restaurants and organizations; at the same time, many of our new colleagues ask for those recommendations, so we included them. Further, some of these places can be spaces to connect with others who share similar interests or backgrounds.

Throughout the entire summer, during regular meetings with the Faculty Fellows and Dean Caño, we were able to discuss and learn about the work of our dean, observe what leadership with a commitment to DEI looks like, and have an opportunity to connect and get to know each other more. Getting to engage in reflective discussions with each other outside of the regular academic year was exciting, refreshing, and inspiring. So often during the intensity of the school year, there is not the space or time to do this deeper reflective work and it added a meaningful experience to being a Fellow this summer.

Naghme Morlock is an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology whose specialty areas are Mass Trauma, Gender, & Human Rights.

Leslie Stamoolis is an Associate Professor of Theatre & Dance and the Theatre Program Director.

Introducing Fulbright Scholar Dr. Maico Demi Aperocho

Dr. Maico Demi Aperocho

Getting to Know Dr. Maico Demi Aperocho

The College of Arts & Sciences‘ Modern Language & Literature is proud to welcome to its department Fulbright Visiting Scholar Dr. Maico Demi Aperocho. Dr. Aperocho is visiting Gonzaga from the Philippines and will teach Filipino 101 and 102. Maico will also offer a public lecture this month entitled, “Mental Health and Language Matters: The case of Philippine Microstructure“.

We sat down with Dr. Aperocho to learn a little more about his presence at GU and his upcoming lecture.

Can you tell us a little more about your lecture on September 29th and why you find it important to discuss this subject matter at GU?

Aperocho: The lecture will be based on my dissertation on depressive language in the virtual sphere in the Philippine context. At Gonzaga, we highly value cura personalis, which means that we also give attention to everyone’s mental health. This lecture will shed light on the linguistic features of the depressive language, how language is used by people living with mental health conditions, and what ideologies this microstructure has within a vulnerable community heavily stigmatized in Philippine communities. Everyone in the GU community can appreciate more how important language is in mental health. 

What are you most looking forward to during your time at Gonzaga?

I only have around nine months of academic and professional stay at GU, so I just want to make connections and learn from people, and at the same time, become a Filipino ambassador of language and culture. I am excited also to share what little knowledge I have in my field and advance the causes I believe in, such as language and mental health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Mental Health and Language Matters: The case of Philippine Microstructure Public Lecture

Description: When it comes to mental health issues, anyone can become vulnerable. This talk will focus on the depressive language used by Filipinos living in the microstructure, the stigmatized, voiceless, powerless, unsafe, and misunderstood; by delving into their language use, language experiences, and ideological representations.

September 29, 4:10pm in the Center for Global Engagement

This all-university presentation is in English, and all are welcome.

Formalizing a Faculty Support Network in CAS

This fall we welcome many new Arts and Sciences faculty to the Gonzaga campus. As someone who chaired two search committees (for four new colleagues) in the academic year 2021-2022, I have been thinking a lot about how to help our new colleagues feel welcome at Gonzaga. While GU does a great job with new faculty orientation and the New Faculty Learning Community, I think it is important for Gonzaga to develop a formal faculty mentoring program.

What faculty mentoring provides

Positive impacts of faculty mentoring include improved retention of high-quality, diverse faculty and students; a more supportive faculty community; increased transparency and clarity about reappointment, tenure, and promotion; investment in and development of future leaders; and the sharing of resources. A strong mentorship program can also help with recruitment and improve university reputations in ways that attract new faculty members and students. Faculty mentoring is all the more important now because, as Dean Annmarie Caño has stressed, we are living through challenging times shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic and a number of other crises “including white supremacy, heterosexism and cis-sexism, and violence against many marginalized communities — that have harmed our academic institutions and the people we serve.” Misra, Kanalee and Mickey assert that faculty mentoring is a crucial component of diversity, equity, and inclusion and suggest that “[e]ffective mentoring plays a crucial role in ensuring that no one falls through the cracks, uncertain how to strategize and move their careers forward.” A faculty mentoring program will promote inclusivity, collaboration, and engagement, all of which are important factors for all faculty to feel part of the Gonzaga community.

Serving as a mentor has been a rewarding part of my academic life, and as a first-generation student who had little access to mentors in the early part of my career, I strongly believe that everyone should have support as their story unfolds at Gonzaga. This belief led me to apply to be a “Faculty Fellow” in the College of Arts and Sciences this summer to develop a faculty mentoring program. As part of my fellowship, which was co-funded by Gonzaga’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I learned about how to design a faculty mentorship program by participating in a 5-week “bootcamp” with Academic Impressions, an organization that provides training and development for higher education leaders.

Opportunities for Gonzaga

Given Gonzaga’s Jesuit, humanistic mission and its focus on cura personalis and accompaniment, it is a surprise that GU has not had a formal mentor program. However, in the listening sessions she held with early career faculty and chairs, Spring 2022 CAS Faculty Fellow Dr. Shalon Parker found that there are pockets of mentoring happening in the College. Extending this work to support all new faculty across CAS engages Ignatian philosophy and aligns nicely with the College of Arts and Sciences’ Vision 2024, focusing particularly on one goal: “Build on our current strengths and develop new ones through careful stewardship of our human and material resources.”

I am excited that the pilot faculty mentoring program I designed in consultation with the CAS Dean’s Office and GU’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is launching this fall. Its goals include:

  • Cultivating and advancing all faculty members in teaching, research, and service activities, in line with institutional and departmental goals.  
  • Offering all faculty opportunities to connect and collaborate across the College, outside of their academic departments.
  • Providing all faculty members with professional and social networking opportunities that foster inclusion between diverse faculty members and disciplines. 

The CAS faculty mentoring pilot program follows a group mentoring model. This model places new faculty together with mid-career and senior faculty to meet at least once a month, build their campus networks and share resources. We are calling these mentoring groups “squads.” The squads are intentionally designed to connect faculty across departmental lines and offer opportunities to be in regular contact with established and well-networked faculty. We’re also thinking about the mentorship needs of non-tenure track, mid-career, and senior faculty, and plan to offer networking opportunities for these faculty members so they too can receive support for issues that matter to them. CAS’s pilot mentoring program will run the entire 2022-2023 academic year with regular check-ins with the squads to make sure that the squads are running smoothly and to provide any resources they may need. Our goal is for this program to become a regular CAS feature, supporting faculty and strengthening the CAS community.

Trained in the field of communication with experience in media studies, cultural studies, and feminist scholarship, Melissa A. Click, Ph.D. employs a critical perspective in her scholarship to focus on questions of power and politics, media representations, and intersectional identities through examinations of media audiences and digital media cultures.

College of Arts & Sciences Welcomes New Faculty Cohort

The College of Arts & Sciences is proud to welcome 14 new tenure track and 13 lecturer faculty this Fall semester. This year’s cohort represents 14 different departments, including Political Science (2), Communication Studies (4), Religious Studies (3), Environmental Studies & Sciences (1), Philosophy (4), Biology (3), English (3), Music (1), History (1), Women & Gender Studies (1), International Studies (1), Mathematics (1), Psychology (1), and Theatre & Dance (1). In addition to its size, this year’s cohort includes a diverse array of expertise and identities and is likely the most diverse cohort integrated into the College. From Dean Caño, 

The incoming class of faculty are a stellar cohort, hailing from many different parts of the world and representing a diverse array of disciplinary knowledge, skills, and life experiences. Despite their differences, they all have one thing in common: an excitement to learn from and contribute to the Gonzaga community. I can’t wait for everyone to meet their new colleagues over the course of the year.

Tenure-Track Faculty

Jenaro Alberto Abraham

Department: Political Science

Expertise: Latin American and Caribbean Politics

Fun Fact: I like playing soccer and listening to salsa.

Charles Athanasopoulos

Department: Communication Studies

Expertise: Communication Studies; the Black Radical Tradition; Cultural Studies; Visual Rhetoric

Fun Fact: This is my first time living on the west coast (originally from Queens, NY).

Richard “Chip” Callahan

Department: Religious Studies

Expertise: Religion in American culture; Religion and labor history; Method and theory in the study of religion

Fun Fact: I’ve always been an ocean-lover, living on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but I am now in love with Spokane and I love the mountains, the lakes, and kayaking on the Spokane River. I’m a fan of bluegrass music, and lately, I can’t hear enough of Billy Strings’s music.

Nigel D’Souza

Department: Environmental Studies & Sciences and Biology

Expertise: Microbial Ecology

Fun Fact: I stress out microbes for a living. I have lived in 7 states across the US in the last 15 years.

Jeremiah Favara

Department: Communication Studies

Expertise: Gender and feminism, sexuality and queer theory, intersectionality, and militarization and media

Fun Fact: I’ve lived in 7 states and 5 countries.

Kendall Fisher

Department: Philosophy

Expertise: Medieval Philosophy

Fun Fact: I love sewing, especially from vintage patterns!

Jens Hegg

Department: Biology

Expertise: Aquatic Ecology

Fun Fact: I enjoy performing Americana, blues, and folk on guitar. Catch me at the Palouse Music Festival at the end of July in my hometown of Palouse, WA.

Sarah James

Department: Political Science

Expertise: American politics and social policy

Fun Fact: Before going to graduate school, I was a high school principal.

Miranda McLeod

Department: English

Expertise: Creative Writing, Composition, English Literature

Fun Fact: I’m a new gardener and would love to get to know people who have experience growing in the area. Please invite me to a seed swap!

Sarah Porter

Department: Religious Studies

Expertise: Byzantine Studies

Fun Fact: I lost my 7th-grade spelling bee on “springbok.”

Darian Spearman

Department: Philosophy

Expertise: Africana Philosophy

Fun Fact: I’ve lived in many places around the country, but I am happy to be returning home!

Meg Stohlmann

Department: Music

Expertise: Choral music and education

Fun Fact: I jumped out of a plane 5 times (when I was in the Air Force in another life) and earned my jump wings :).

Corinne Sugino

Department: Communication Studies

Expertise: Communication Studies, Asian American rhetoric, cultural studies, post-racialism

Fun Fact: I enjoy hiking and am excited to explore the surrounding area/nearby national parks!

Joseph Vignone

Department: History

Expertise: Medieval Islamic science, religion, and literature

Fun Fact: I’m developing a course on historical video games as a form of public history, and am looking for collaborators!


Josh Anthony

Department: English

Expertise: Creative Writing

Fun Fact: I recently got into disc golf.

Kevin Brown

Department: Religious Studies

Expertise: Systematic Theology (ecclesiology, ecumenism, Christology, liberation theologies, hermeneutics, spirituality, pneumatology, fundamental theology, Second Vatican Council)

Fun Fact: I am a life-long, die-hard Dodgers fan. My dad’s family happened to move from New Jersey to California the same year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to LA, so the roots of the fandom go back several generations.

Krista Kubiak Crotty

Department: Psychology

Fun Fact: I love the mountains, hope to see you on the slopes this winter!

Avery Dame-Griff

Department: Women’s & Gender Studies

Expertise: How the Internet transformed transgender political organizing from the 1980s to the contemporary moment.

Fun Fact: I’m distantly related to Milton S. Hershey, the founder of Hershey’s Chocolate.

Albana Dwonch

Department: International Studies

Expertise: International Studies. Modern Middle East, Networked Social Movements

Fun Fact: I am an avid reader of literary fiction, and in my free time, I translate novels from English into my native language. It is like linguistic therapy for me and it keeps me connected to my language and my culture, Albanian.

Blake Edwards

Department: Theatre & Dance

Expertise: Theatre arts

Fun Fact: A long time ago in LA, I was in a play with Meryl Streep’s son. She came to see the show. Afterward, she congratulated me and said I was a very good actor. I told her that she was also proficient.

Hussein El Ebiary

Department: Biology

Expertise: Microbiology

Fun Fact: I played college basketball for 4 years. I’m an athletic nerd!

Anthony Fisher

Department: Philosophy

Andrei Kochegarov

Department: Biology

Expertise: Microbiology

Ryan McWilliams

Department: English

Expertise: American Literature

Fun Fact: My grandfather taught at Gonzaga, but my first time setting foot on Gonzaga’s campus was for summer basketball camp.

Kelvin Rivera-Lopez

Department: Mathematics

Chandler D. Rogers

Department: Philosophy

Expertise: Environmental Philosophy, 19th Century Philosophy

Tao Zhang

Department: Communication Studies

Expertise: Intercultural Communication, Critical Communication Pedagogy

Fun Fact: Swimming and hiking are my favorite hobbies after work. I also love eating anything potato, for which I earned the nickname Lady Potato.

Where Did the Summer Go?

Many of us have been asking this question as we begin the month of August. I know I am! After the semester ended, the dean’s office continued to hum with activity through June and into July. I noticed my own energy flagging by the time Independence Day rolled around. By the time mid-July hit, I was ready for our family vacation to the Oregon coast. The sand and sun and roar of the Pacific was re-energizing, but what I really loved was the action of the tides. At low tide, we were able to see sea stars, anemones, sponge, and mussels. We even saw perceves – goose-neck barnacles here, but in Spain, my uncles would scale the cliffs to chisel these delicacies off the rocks and sell them for a good price at market! At high tide, the sea once again blanketed, protected, and nourished its creatures.

Close shot of goose necked barnacles found in the Oregon coast.
Goose necked barnacles

At one particularly low tide, a community group called Circles in the Sand, drew an intricate labyrinth into the sand and invited us all to walk it with love. If you have walked labyrinths before, you know it can be a meditative experience with many twists and turns that offer different perspectives. Walking a labyrinth you know will be washed away in a few hours adds another dimension: This path that I walk will not be here later, let me savor this experience! When I was training as a spiritual director, the Jesuit in charge emphasized how important it is to savor consolations. St. Ignatius of Loyola indeed pointed out that consolations—feelings of greater faith, hope, and love—must be recognized, savored, and stored up, especially for those times when we experience desolation and fatigue.

Intricate labyrinth to be washed away by the ocean, but temporarily enjoyed by visitors to the Oregon coast.
Labyrinth created by Circles in the Sand

The summer felt too short but I will be taking my vacation experiences, and all the smaller experiences of consolation, with me into the Fall. What consolations will you savor as you enter the new academic year?

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:

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

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