Emergency Management Team Finds Hope Amid Havoc: Gonzaga's Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Staff help students move out of their dorms

April 06, 2020
Dale Goodwin ('86)



Team finds

hope amid



Thoughts of a pandemic first appeared on

Emergency Preparedness Manager Cassandra

Stelter’s radar in December, and on the folks in the

Center for Global Engagement sooner as Gonzaga

had two students studying in China.


Gonzaga’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC)

opened Jan. 23 to address the COVID-19 issues in

Italy, where 160 Florence students were enjoying

their spring break, and on campus Feb. 28 to

support our efforts domestically, Stelter says.


“The Emergency Management Team, with

representatives from every major department

and division across campus, is here to provide a

collection of information to leaders on which they

can base their response decisions,” Stelter says.


New Risk Manager Deb Donning took her

baptism under fire, serving as point person on

the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. She worked

closely with Global Engagement Director Richard

Menard, GIF Dean Jason Houston and Enrollment

Management Associate Provost Julie McCulloh

in deciding to close down GIF and bring students

home before the epidemic there worsened and

travel was restricted.


“When we activated the EOC, our team worked

seven days a week, long hours, and remained

happy and ready to work every day, with grace

and goodwill,” Stelter says. She listed her

sections chiefs: Donning, Taylor Jordan,

Angela Ruff, Mary Joan Hahn, Dave Sonntag,

Steven Ponce, Wayne Shadd, Suzie Mize, Matt

Lamsma, Eric Baldwin, Julie McCulloh, Ken

Sammons, Deena Presnell, Kristiana Holmes,

Lisa Schwartzenburg, Becky Wilkey, and

the primary Policy Group comprised of Jim

Angelosante, Deena González and Thayne

McCulloh. “They deserve all the credit for this

effort being successful,” Stelter said.



Beacon of Reassurance

to Students, Parents

The Call Center, suggested by the EMT, created and

continually supported by Angela Ruff and Deb Donning,

has proven to be a source of calm for those seeking answers

about Gonzaga’s response to the pandemic. Established in

University Advancement’s telefund center, and staffed by

employees from UA, the Center for Career and Professional

Development, GUEST and a few other outposts, operators

answer direct calls and make a point to call back everyone

who leaves a message.


Callers are asking about lab classes, graduation, caps and

gown orders and hotel reservations.


“We live in California and we’re under shelter-in-place orders.

Do we have to be out of our dorm room by March 27?” No,

Housing offers an extension opportunity.


“We heard Washington is not letting anyone leave the state.

What if we gather up our stuff but can’t get home?” No,

Washington has not implemented that directive.


“May I leave my car on campus?” Sure, work with Campus

Safety and Security on what you need.


Many parents just need to talk and process. Every effort is

made to return calls not answered by a person in the center.

They’ve been very grateful. “Callers are wowed that our

people are calling them back,” says Ruff.


Other offices handling large volumes of calls are the

President’s Office, Housing, Benefits and the Parent and

Family office.



Rudders in a Storm

Justin Marquis and the Instructional Design and Delivery team

helped get most of the 450 faculty up to speed on distance

delivery methods and 1,400 courses online in less than two

weeks. There have been great advantages to this exercise in

technology. For one, faculty may record their classes, post them

on Blackboard and students can watch as often as they need to

absorb the content.


Meanwhile, Information Technology Services has supported

the effort while also working feverishly to make work-from-

home a possibility for the campus community, thanks to our web

conferencing solution, Zoom, our cloud-based collaboration

platform, Office 365, as well as an improved virtual private

network (VPN). It was Fr. Bob Lyons, S.J., in 2017 and the board

of the Gonzaga Telecommunications Association, that released

funds to pay for Zoom for the Gonzaga community. “Little did we

know then what a difference that technology would make for us

today,” says Chief Information Officer Borre Ulrichsen. ITS offers

free laptop checkout to students, faculty and staff who might not

have a computer at home. And they’re providing an abundance of

tech support over extended hours, seven days a week.


“ITS and IDD have received a lot of responses from community

members, appreciative of our staff’s care for fellow employees.

We are humbled and grateful that users take the time to

recognize all the effort that goes into moving us to this new

reality,” Ulrichsen says.



First Line of Defense

“Our attitude is to protect everyone,” says Custodial Manager

Edin Jusic. “We had already started extra cleaning with the onset

of the flu season in October, cleaning surfaces more often, using

disinfectants. With the coronavirus outbreak, we intensified our

efforts, including sanitizing all door handles and stair railings many

times throughout the day.”


Jusic says his crews also responded to increased requests from

faculty and staff for service in their personal spaces. Now, with few

people on campus, they are taking extra measures, i.e. dusting high

window casings, refinishing floors, deep cleaning classrooms.


“We’ve been fortunate to remain well stocked with supplies,” Jusic



Many of the custodians volunteered their time to assist students

and parents with the move-out process.



What Happens When You Can’t Put Food on the Table?

You bag it up and send it home with students.

Zag Dining Services planned for many different scenarios, depending

upon the directives given by the University. “It’s our first pandemic, but

not our first crisis,” said Sodexo District Manager Pat Clelland.


The Cog Team mobilized and remained open for take-out meals and the

360 Grill remained operational for hot meals to go. The Marketplace and

Starbucks was an option as well, but with no self-service allowed. “Our

primary goal was to make sure our students, faculty, staff and Sodexo

employees were safe, well cared for and served,” Clelland said.


Clelland met an exchange student from Russia, hanging around

Hemmingson by herself, unable to go home. “If she was going to be here,

I told her we were going to be here with her,” Clelland said. Her facial

expression went from sad to ‘I’m not in this alone, I’m going to be OK.’

“Here’s a person lost in the middle of all of this. Our team and the rest of

the GU team will embrace her. That’s what we do, we take care of each

other in times like this.”



Caring for Employees

Lisa Schwartzenburg in the Benefits Office hasn’t had much rest. “We’re

in unprecedented times. We want to be flexible enough with employees

so that they feel safe and Gonzaga is taking care of them, but the

University is still operational,” she says.


Child care issues, care for elderly family members in high-risk categories,

familiarizing employees with how to best use sick leave, vacation time and

working on a job-shifting program are among her many tasks, and helping

people to be aware of their multiple benefits, like Teledoc, SupportLinc

and others. Go to www.coronavirus.eaptoolkit.com for an extensive

toolkit of resources to assist faculty and staff through this pandemic.