President's Brief

TO: The Gonzaga University Community
FROM: Thayne M. McCulloh, Ph.D.
SUBJ: President's Brief
DATE: January 7, 2011

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As we begin the Spring Semester, please accept my best wishes for a very Happy New Year.  While every year brings its own unique challenges, I always draw energy from the sense of optimism that comes with “ringing in the new year”—and there is a special charge that comes from seeing everyone return to campus.  I hope that the Christmas season afforded you some relaxation and opportunity to spend time with loved ones.

University presidents spend a great deal of time with “external” constituents: alumni, community partners, prospective and current benefactors, and so forth.  A consequence of this is that I find myself having less time to connect with all of you.  This “brief” which I intend to issue monthly, is an effort to try to keep you informed of what I and my office are up to.  At times, I will use it as a medium to ask for your assistance as well.  I count on you to let me know if an issue I highlight raises questions or needs further clarification.

December 2010 Activities

December is always an incredibly busy month, especially on a college campus.  The Advent season is filled with anticipation of Christmas while virtually everyone is engaged in stressful year-end finals, projects and activities.  In the President’s Office, it is a major time of communication and relationship-building with our benefactors, as many of our donors make gifts at the end of the calendar year.

Each December, our Trustees meet, traditionally in Seattle, for the annual business meeting.  A key activity of the meeting involves approval of 2011-12 tuition and fees.  The complex process of setting the right tuition point is always an effort to strike a balance between covering expenses and keeping increases as low as possible.  For next academic year, the Trustees approved a 4.24% increase in tuition for undergraduates and law.  Virtually no general fees (e.g., technology, activities) were increased; however, room & dining plan rates are scheduled to increase, on average, by about 3.5%.  Some of the most significant drivers of cost include anticipated increases in electricity and natural gas rates, student financial aid, and health care expense.  As we continue to put the budget together for next year, we will look carefully at every way we can contain costs while preserving and enhancing institutional quality.

For over seven months, the Law Dean Search Committee, chaired by Spokane Trustee Don Curran, has worked tirelessly to identify and interview top-flight candidates for the Law Dean’s position.  Following their efforts and recommendations, Academic VP Patricia O’Connell Killen and I collaborated during the last weeks of December to secure a new dean, and I am gratified that we have hired Professor Jane Korn, J.D. of the University of Arizona School of Law, who will join us beginning July 1st, 2011.  Our thanks and congratulations to the Committee Members and the School of Law on this successful search.

January 2011 Activities

January is, of course, no less busy than December for us..  As I write this, I am flying back from three intense days spent in part with colleague presidents at an annual institute, and in visits with parents, benefactors and trustees who live in the Los Angeles area.  The  recognition and support Gonzaga University enjoys energizes me to  gear up for the Spring and some of the items on the “to do list” for our office:

  • Presentation to the Spring Faculty Conference (Monday, January 10)
  • Preparation of the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget (January-April)
  • Intense work on the institution’s first full-scale accreditation report since the Northwest Commission instituted new standards (due March 1)
  • Continued development of plans and strategy regarding pedestrian safety on Sharp Avenue and Hamilton Avenue
  • Appointment of the Search Committee for the Vice President for Mission
  • Appointment of Committee to Review & Revise University Events Policy
  • Preparation for the February Trustee Meeting & Retreat (February 10-12)
  • Travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with colleague presidents of the Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities, and to meet with our Congressional Delegation (Rep. McMorris-Rogers, Senators Murray and Cantwell) regarding federal appropriations requests (January 26-February 1).

Upcoming Event

I am pleased to announce that, after months of effort, we have been successful in landing nationally-recognized speaker and activist Greg Mortenson for an appearance.  Mr. Mortenson is the author of the highly-acclaimed Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, and he will be here on Monday, March 28th, 2011 at the McCarthey Center (tentatively 7:30 p.m.) to talk about his amazing story of promoting peace through building schools, especially for women, in Afghanistan.  Mortenson has become a valuable adviser to the U.S. military, given the esteem in which he is held by the Afghan people.  The proceeds from this event will go to support his school-building efforts and I ask you to mark this on your calendar.  More information will soon follow.

“Winter Blues”

This time of year, when the days are freezing, night comes too early, and we all begin to wonder if the snow isn’t really permafrost, it is natural for everyone to become weary of the cold and gray.  It is cold-and-flu season, and some—perhaps especially students—are prone to illness, seasonal affective disorder and post-holiday depression.  Acknowledging this, I ask and encourage all of us to make an active effort to support one another in moving through the final months of winter.  One of the hallmarks of Gonzaga has always been its sense of close-knit and supportive community; this does not happen by magic; it requires ongoing nurturing.  In this new year, let us continue to affirm our individual value to one another on a daily basis.  Stay healthy and take care of yourselves.

My grateful prayers and best wishes are with you.  GO ZAGS!

Thayne M McCulloh

Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.
Gonzaga University

Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.

Chief of Staff to the President
John Sklut

Exec. Assistant to the President
Julia Bjordahl

Admin. Assistant/Event Coordinator
Allison Peterson