GU Priorities Energized by Academic Affairs

Photo of Deena Gonzalez

March 03, 2020
Dale Goodwin ('86)

One of the most important steps, so far, in fulfilling President Thayne McCulloh’s academic vision, has been establishing the provost model of university governance.

Imagine a wheel, with Academic Affairs being at the center of the wheel, giving energy to all the spokes and receiving it back from all the parts. That’s the way Provost and Senior Vice President Deena González sees her division.

“Since I arrived in June, we’ve tried to establish a scope that understood Academic Affairs, not as autonomous, but in partnership with all the other areas of the University,” Provost González says. “Academic Affairs is the center of what we do here, and we partner with other parts of the University, including Student Affairs, Mission & Ministry, University Advancement, Finance and Campus Safety, to make sure we’re caring for every student.”

The academic division is considerably more encompassing than it was before the provost model was introduced, but González and her predecessor Beth Martin have reshaped the division, not by adding personnel but by reorganizing the people and positions within their division.

“Under this model, the understanding is that at a university, academics and academic success drives everything, generates the energy we need to do our jobs, change lives, ultimately, to educate students for a better world,” González says. For example, Student Affairs has been incorporated into the division of Provost and Senior Vice President, and a search is underway for a permanent vice provost to oversee that area.

“Student affairs today is not what we knew it to be 20, 30 years ago,” González says. “Back then, it included residential life, dining, counseling and health services. Today it’s far more complex, with student conduct, career and professional development, academic counseling, community engagement, cura personalis, enrollment management, to name a few.”

Meanwhile, González outlined in a Feb. 14 memo to our community a process to create a strategic plan for Academic Affairs that will guide Gonzaga into the next decade.

With the help of Sharon McDade, a facilitator with extensive experience in strategic planning and leadership consulting, the Academic Affairs Strategic Planning Group has begun its work to pull together priorities from the academic community that will shape the plan as it progresses to a final draft by fall, and implementation by next winter. This comes just prior to the end of the University’s comprehensive strategic plan in 2021, and González expects the academic strategic plan will inform the next University strategic document.

Co-chairing the AASPG are Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Jolanta Weber, Business Dean Ken Anderson, and Associate Professor/Chair Cindy Stavrianos, Women’s & Gender Studies.

González sees great advantages for Gonzaga, which is uniquely placed in the Inland Northwest, where a Catholic, Jesuit, humanistic education is important to the region and the world. “It pulls together a lot of threads that run through the history of the Pacific Northwest, and how this region came to being. We have definite links to the Native American communities here, and long-term relationships. Our faculty members think this is important, both environmentally and culturally. This makes us different from other institutions in the area. Discussions of mission and values is ongoing. It permeates our curriculum and our faculty’s work, what they publish and in how our students talk about their classes and what they’ve learned. This is important to the significance of Gonzaga,” González says.