In the face of complexity, hardship and fear, one characteristic we hope to have embodied in the 2019-20 academic year is persistence.
Gonzaga University certainly had major hopes and goals for the year. There would have been milestone celebrations. There were plans for a fascinating historical, yet modern, parade to conclude our yearlong recognition of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the hard-won right to vote. Alumni chapters in multiple cities would host visits with Gonzaga leaders; these morphed from fabulous inperson events in autumn to online connections in the spring. Admission counselors had to forego in-person visits at high schools and on-campus tours with current students. Our men’s and women’s basketball teams, fresh from the West Coast Conference tournament, found there would be no NCAA Tournament. And perhaps most difficult of all, we missed out on celebrating “in person” commencement ceremonies honoring all of our undergraduate, graduate and law students, instead moving to less-satisfying “remote” events.
It would have been easier, and far simpler, to have closed the campus for fall 2020 and done our best to educate students via remote delivery systems; but we know that a significant dimension of the Gonzaga educational experience is created in the context of actual, in-person human interactions. We understood it would be complex to chart a course for resuming in-person work for the fall. Despite the rapidly evolving and ever-changing circumstances, our Gonzaga family showed great capacity to adapt and flex, dream and create. We challenged ourselves to re-create what a university needs to look like in the face of a pandemic, and I am indebted to our staff and faculty for their constant efforts and the long weeks spent working to identify challenges and find solutions.
I am also grateful to our Trustees and Regents for their increased involvement to help review and solidify plans. Our teams have shown relentless dedication and commitment. We developed processes and systems to endeavor to address concerns of students, parents and families – all while the answers continually changed. We leaned on alumni to keep our extended Zag family connected, and we incessantly sought the guidance of local, regional and national health care experts to ensure that, whatever we chose to do, we could do it as safely as possible.
Despite the many pandemic-related issues and challenges we have sought to address, we know that there are many other obligations and opportunities we must continue to respond to and nurture. While navigating in the era of COVID-19 will continue to keep us vigilant, we are buoyed by some positive accomplishments that offer us opportunities to be very grateful, as well.