A City for All Senses

For decades past and those to come, Gonzaga In Florence is the ultimate study-abroad experience.

Today, nearly 1,000 GU students study abroad in any given year, 45% of them at GIF and the rest in 60 programs offered in 35 other countries.
May 04, 2020
Story by Dale Goodwin ('86) | Photos by Zack Berlat ('11)
Gonzaga In Florence is the crown jewel of the University’s study abroad program, and the mechanism that started Gonzaga on the path to developing global citizens.

“Whether the original founders of Gonzaga In Florence knew it, they were light years ahead of many others in realizing the importance of helping Zags develop intercultural competencies and to be prepared for the world that we currently live in,” says Director Richard Menard of the Center for Global Engagement. “It allowed Gonzaga to imagine what it would look like for students also to study in Zambia, China, Chile, Jordan, New Zealand and more,” Menard says.

Gonzaga students taking selfie together in Florence
Gonzaga ranks #20 among doctorate-granting universities with 56.3% of undergrads participating in study abroad.
Gonzaga student studying, Mercedes Carrara at retirement celebration
Students find quiet time in the GIF library. Art historian and instructor Mercedes Carrara shares the warmth at her retirement celebration at La Certosa di Firenze, celebrating 45 years of teaching at GIF.
2 gonzaga students taking photo at Palazzo Michaelangelo

One of the city’s most beautiful settings is enjoyed from the Palazzo Michelangelo at sunset. It’s about a 6-mile walk or run from GIF campus and back - and a great workout for students.

Gonzaga students taking pictures at Corsini Winery in Florence
Graduate and undergraduate students enjoy lunch and a tour of the Corsini Winery just outside of Florence. Wine and olive oil are created here, both major Italian commodities on the worldwide market.
Gonzaga students at market in Florence
Associate Biology Professor Marianne Poxleitner’s Food Science students explore the Mercato de Sant’Ambroggio in Florence, learning to identify food by their Italian names, talk about steps in meat and cheese processing, and conclude their trip with a picnic featuring their selections from the market.
Gonzaga students at dinner in Florence
Students love the friendly experiences they have in pensiones - homes that provide personal interactions and authentic Italian meals in a family setting.
Jason Houston in Mozilo center
GIF Dean Jason Houston is expanding opportunities for students and sprucing up the Mozilo Center.

As Menard and GIF Dean Jason Houston look to the future, here are a few of their plans:

  • Expand opportunities for students who traditionally have not been able to participate, either for economic reasons or lack of academic offerings related to classes needed to graduate on time.
  • Promote Florence Scholars, which allows students a more immersive experience. These scholars take Italian 101 and 102 the year before they go, and meet regularly to learn more about Italian culture.
  • Invite faculty from many disciplines to bring their programs to Florence, as the schools of Law, Business Administration and Leadership Studies, in particular, have done in recent years, and expand opportunities to graduate students.
  • Create athletic partnerships, like a pilot program for the women’s rowing team to study in Florence and train with area rowing clubs on the Arno River.
  • Foster continued growth of choir and dance programs and opportunities to learn from the masters.
  • Continue academic immersions alongside nonacademic excursions to lesser-known destinations for deeper experience of Italian life.
  • Grow the summer slate of experiential learning opportunities for Spokane faculty, such as last summer’s Wine Law Clinic and Human Rights Symposium. Houston calls it the Florence Lab.
  • Bring Italian musicians and dancers to Spokane to deepen student learning.
In a globalized, well-connected world, employers increasingly value graduates with international experience and education. Studying abroad helps students learn new languages, appreciate other cultures, overcome challenges of living in another country and gain a greater understanding of the world. GIF students are passing that test.





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