Over the last 18 months academic vice president patricia o’connell Killen has immersed herself in the work of supporting and leading Gonzaga’s faculty. What she has found “bodes well for the future of Gonzaga,” she says.

Where do you hope to take Gonzaga from here?
I want to lead Gonzaga into a future in which the distinctive excellence of each program shines – and does so within a global frame. What does it mean for Gonzaga to be a global university in Spokane educating those who will shape the 22nd century? I think we have hints of the contours of that global university, in the growing interest in our international programs and in the international students who choose to study here. We also see it in how we think about big issues. We have a relatively new environmental studies program, for example. One cannot do environmental studies without thinking about the environment as a global issue. Similarly we have a women’s studies program that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, in a year when the three Nobel Peace Prize winners were all women from Africa. We have an incredible resource towards being that global 21st century university shaping leaders, artists and innovators for the 22nd century in our Jesuit, humanistic, Catholic heritage. From the beginning, Jesuit higher education has been willing to walk on the edges, to imagine alternative futures, always going toward the magis, the greater. The students we educate today are the people who will shape the future The decisions they make will have a profound impact on whether and how the human species and other species can live into a future. That’s the project, really.

Is Gonzaga’s core curriculum undergoing change?
For the past four-plus years, the faculty has been thinking about what the University’s core curriculum learning objectives should be. The process is a valuable one. The Core Curriculum Committee has proposed a set of core learning objectives, which the faculty discussed this fall. Two core models have emerged from the committee’s work. A third model has been offered by faculty. This spring we are gathering the sense of the community on those learning objectives and the core model.

I think it also is important for people to realize that, however great or small the changes finally agreed upon for the core, the review and discussion of it is a project worthy of the faculty’s thoughtful engagement. Gonzaga claims the core as central to students’ educational experience. The faculty needs to reflect on it. The last time the core was reviewed and revised was over three decades ago, when the vast majority of our faculty was not here.

How do you see technology and efficiency interacting at Gonzaga?
At Gonzaga we want to be as efficient and effective as we can be, and that has been an initiative of President McCulloh. We must make decisions that will not erode the quality of the education we provide. We need to think about creative forms of delivery of certain kinds of information and knowledge. We also need to think about how our students work with technology as they learn. A large number of our students do hybrid or entirely virtually delivered summer courses. Some of our international students find us through hybrid graduate courses. And we have welcomed many newer faculty who already are deploying technology and new communication media creatively in their teaching. We have the Florence campus and the Tilford Center high-tech learning environment. We could in fact deliver courses globally. I think we’re poised for significant innovation and creativity. We are taking steps toward increasing our capacity for virtual delivery so that we can increase our capacity to be creative and take advantage of emerging technologies.

What gems have you discovered at Gonzaga?
If I open my jewel box, the biggest gem I see is the commitment of our faculty and staff to our students and so to the mission of Gonzaga. The faculty – even when engaged in high-pitched debate on policy – and the staff share a profound commitment to educating our students to become full adults capable of being men and women for others.

People have heard about psychology professor Mark Bodamer’s work with chimps in Zambia. But our entire thriving psychology program, which is one of our largest majors, is also a gem. I think our linked thought-and-expression courses for first-year students are really important, too. Another jewel is the student-faculty research going on in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the professional schools.

And I’ll offer one last gem. During orientation last fall I gave a talk multiple times to groups of new freshmen. At a break between sessions, two custodians came through to make sure that all the spaces where sessions were going on were tidy and pleasing to everyone using them. Talking with our custodians, hearing the clarity with which they understood how their work contributed to the mission of Gonzaga was wonderful. The humanity of this place, the deep commitment and the cherishing of its heritage and mission – all in the context of incredible openness toward the future – this bodes very well for Gonzaga.

Comments are closed.