It Takes a Village

Man putting food into a brown paper bag
Sodexo's Martin Bustamante fills meal orders for delivery to students. (GU photo)

December 07, 2020
Dale Goodwin ('86)

Care from All Corners Brighten Days for Sequestered Students 

Hats off to Gonzaga students who are doing their part to mitigate widespread transmission of COVID-19 this fall. 

“Our low case numbers are a testament to our students’ care for one another,” says COVID-19 Coordinator Taylor Jordan (’15).

Gonzaga was braced with processes and protocols in how to handle outbreaks, but it wasn’t until the first big flush of cases about three weeks into fall semester that the real learning took place.

“The learning curve was steep,” says Jon Wheeler, director of Housing and Residence Life. “But after the first big surge, we learned a lot about students’ needs in those situations.”

Jordan’s COVID-19 Response Action Team, including Health and Counseling Services, Housing and Residence Life, Auxiliary Services, Plant Services, Human Resources, Sodexo and several arms of Student Affairs — in rather extraordinary synchronization — responded quickly and effectively to better care for students in quarantine.

Quarantine housing established in residence halls and apartments is for students who may have come in close proximity with someone positively diagnosed with COVID-19. These students remain in their rooms for 14 days following the date of their exposure. Students testing positive for COVID-19 are put into isolation in a residence hall and allowed to roam freely within that hall as they can’t infect others with the same virus.

Sodexo Resident District Director Pat Clelland used feedback from a student in isolation who, on his own, collected information from peers about what would make food service better for his sequestered classmates, “which helped us modify our menu options and quantities,” Clelland says. Meals are delivered by members of GUEST/Auxiliary Services each day to all students in isolation or quarantine who wish to receive them, including lunch, dinner and the next day’s breakfast, as well as snacks. Each room has a microwave and refrigerator.

While not ideal, “Food services were incredibly considerate. At any time, we were able to voice dietary constraints and modify what we received with a phone call or email,” says student Anders Svenningsen.

He says time inched along slowly during certain portions of quarantine and flew by in others. “Zoom meetings, assignments and online classes kept us busy, and we gathered on the weekends for some friendly ping pong, pool and card games. Catching a Lakers game on TV or listening to someone playing the piano added bright spots to our unusual stay,” Svenningsen says.

“While students are isolating themselves to keep our community safe, they are still part of our community,” says Colleen Vandenboom, assistant dean, Student Involvement and Leadership. “Our goal is to continue care for every student’s body, mind and soul.”
She and a group of campus partners developed a 14-day self-guided retreat, for students entering isolation and quarantine. The retreat was inspired by St. Ignatius’ time healing in his sickbed. The goal is to make students’ time in isolation an opportunity for them to slow down and reflect. Each day students are encouraged to focus on a new topic, from joy, grace and laughter to embracing their place.

Students “on the outside” record positive messages to share with those sequestered. Mission and Ministry, Student Involvement and Cura Personalis play big parts in this exercise.

“A new student to Gonzaga could feel quite isolated from others in this situation. Our goal is to make them feel comforted,” Vandenboom adds.

Activities include Bingo and trivia nights, and for those in quarantine, half-hour daily breaks for outside yoga, in-place circuit workouts or to feel the new-fallen snow, masked up, of course.

Out of a concern for the disruption and stress students might experience in moving and isolating from their friends, President Thayne McCulloh initiated the QI Hospitality program, which partners with several areas to provide personal attention to each isolation or quarantine campus resident. Students receive a small plant and inspirational poster to liven up their space, hand-written postcards of encouragement from members of the campus community, and a gift bag of activity and care items with a personal card from President McCulloh. The hospitality team includes Julia Bjordahl, Gayle Clayton, Ashley Martin (President’s Office), Suzie Mize, Carol Osenga, Angela Ruff, Carrie Senn and Janeen Steer, with several more volunteers for card-writing and special deliveries.

A special group from the hospitality team assists the Health and Counseling Center by confirming negative COVID-19 test results to the students participating in the University’s testing program. Before Thanksgiving, this number totaled more than 4,000 contacts.

Pretty good teamwork. It’s the Zag way. 


  • Health & Wellness
  • Student Life