COURAGE, TODAY: A Global Education for the 21st Century

By Marny Lombard

Today, we live and learn in a radically different landscape. No longer is Gonzaga’s grasp, or even its reach, contained within “the 509,” as the young people say. Our community, the Gonzaga community, has gone global. Digital communication, international politics, economic competition and a rising tide of desire for better lives around the globe make this so. Climate change makes this so. Social justice issues in Africa and many other places on earth make this so.

Gonzaga’s mission and anchoring values remain unchanged. Our Jesuit, Catholic heritage guides us to pursue the service of faith that promotes justice, the creation of women and men for others, and the search for Truth. The liberal arts – ageless, essential and among the formative building blocks that underpin Western civilization – will always uphold Gonzaga’s foundation. Respect for human dignity and the strength of Gonzaga’s community remain central to the University. However, as we begin in this anniversary year to re-imagine
Gonzaga’s future, discussions with President Thayne McCulloh, Academic Vice President Patricia O’Connell Killen and others bring to the fore significant ideas:

  • Global engagement, including intercultural fluency matters deeply, because the world is Gonzaga’s community.
  • A new level of academic excellence is indispensable, due to the challenges facing our nation and world.
  • Interdisciplinary learning will allow Gonzaga graduates to maneuver nimbly among varied modes of thinking and veins of knowledge.
  • Learning through internships and other experiences in the real world is called for by Ignatian pedagogy and is keenly desired by today’s employers.
  • Digital competence means analyzing and creating with technology, not simply consuming it.
  • Sustainability, a priority of faith-filled stewardship, requires our best thinking and most ardent teaching and learning.

Gonzaga’s new Center for Global Engagement animates the University’s development of a deeply thoughtful international and intercultural education. “Within the next five years, a student who matriculates at Gonzaga will have expanded opportunities for global engagement – from the inclusion of texts and examples from other parts of the world in courses, to study abroad and international service learning, to student-faculty research carried out by international teams seeking to understand and often to solve real issues,” Killen said.

“Florence will remain our cultural and spiritual background – that is supremely appropriate for us as a Jesuit university. But the world has changed. If you are a cutting-edge State Department foreign service offi cer today, you’re going to China, to Israel, to Jordan and other places. I think that’s a big ‘tell’ about where else Gonzaga should be going.” Richard Menard, director of Study Abroad

Last spring a faculty task force on campus internationalization developed a cultures-across-the-curriculum initiative. One of the outcomes of this initiative will be a growth in intercultural fluency. “As more students study abroad, as more international students enroll at Gonzaga, and as the student population at Gonzaga’s home campus becomes more diverse, the value of intercultural fluency will no longer be questioned: To be effective in the private, public and nonprofit sectors will require it as a matter of course,” Killen added.

Today’s technology already allows the collapse of geography. GU’s Virtual Campus, which now supports the university’s hybrid graduate programs, will grow into a resource center that will serve all academic programs which desire support for technologically enabled learning.

Some international opportunities will always involve students with boots on the ground. The School of Education, for instance, requires its students in Florence to spend 30-60 hours observing in international schools. Students tell education Dean Jon Sunderland that this is extraordinarily valuable – learning how a different culture influences a teacher’s work in a classroom, and about the International
Baccalaureate teaching program.

Gonzaga expects to see fully half of its students earn academic credit through study abroad programs; and we are very nearly there, with approximately 40 percent of GU students already choosing study abroad experience. Important facets of a stronger GU study abroad program include the need for scholarship funds to ensure that all students can participate. Most importantly, said Richard Menard, director of GU’s Study Abroad Offi ce, programming overseas must lead our students to unplug themselves from their electronic tethers and to engage deeply with the culture and people around them.

Overall, three trends are converging to create excitement and energy around our students’ educational experience, Killen says. “The first is growing attention across all disciplines and professions in universities to how learning actually occurs and to using that knowledge to compose more effective learning contexts for students.”

AUDACITY: Education informed by innovation

The second is the explosion of new technological tools that have the potential to be employed to enrich and improve pedagogy and to relieve faculty of routine work so that they can spend more time with students on those discussions, activities and apprenticeships
for which face-to-face interaction is invaluable. The third is a growing global consciousness – that higher education worth the name has to be infused with global perspectives.”

As well, academic excellence in the 21st century must involve the intelligent cultivation of innovation, creativity and imagination. Sir Ken Robinson, who visited Gonzaga in October, provides definitions of these three terms. He describes imagination as “the ability to bring to mind events and ideas that are not present to our senses.” Creativity is “the process of having original ideas that have value.” And innovation is “the process of putting original ideas into practice.”

“In our time, in our world, and in the face of the rapidly changing economic, social and political contexts in which we live, imagination, creativity and innovation are critical to creating a livable future,” Killen said.

Another catch phrase heard often today is experiential learning. “But all learning is experiential,” Killen said. “The emphasis on the ‘experiential’ in ‘experiential learning’ is a short-hand way of focusing attention on the need to connect what students are thinking, feeling and doing to the disciplinary material they are studying. It is easy to memorize and regurgitate. It is much harder to take the concepts,
theories and procedures of a discipline and know when and how to deploy them to better understand an event or to seek a solution to a problem. The experiential learning movement pushes faculty to reverse their thinking on how to compose the learning environment – starting with students’ experience and building bridges of connection to disciplinary material.”

Investing in faculty development and hiring the best young faculty nationwide will pay dividends. The creation of additional endowed funds make such investments possible. Student research – more experiential learning – is increasingly integrated into Gonzaga’s academic work, and is burgeoning, particularly in the sciences, engineering and computer science, and also in the social sciences and humanities.

“Disciplines aren’t going away. They remain a durable way to organize on-going communities of scholars and teachers who focus on a set of questions or problems. At the same time, interdisciplinary coursework will become more common in the future. Why? Because bringing the methods, concepts, theories and practices of multiple fields to questions of meaning contemplated in the humanities or to real
social problems has the potential to create richer, more complex, more close to real life learning situations,” Killen said.

As we imagine, discuss and plan for an education for Gonzaga’s future, deans and faculty raise intriguing questions: How might we infuse the richness of thinking in the liberal arts into business management classes? How might a course in interdisciplinary performing arts benefit students in engineering? How might teamwork be taught as an identifiable set of skills?

“Engineering and, increasingly, computer science are by their nature interdisciplinary. Few engineering or computer science projects are completed without interaction among the engineering disciplines and, quite often, interaction with the business, legal and social-science professions,” said Dean Steve Silliman of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In this regard, the school is looking to build on the success of the Center for Engineering Design and Entrepreneurship and projects funded through the KEEN (Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network) initiative. “Over the coming five years, engineering and computer science students will be encouraged as early as their freshman year to participate on team projects involving each of the engineering disciplines, as well as the possibility to work with students from the natural sciences, business, the social sciences, and law. We expect to see other such developments evolve across campus.”

“I would like to find a political science professor to sit in on my business class for a semester. Then, I would ask: You tell me the 10 different ways you could enrich my class. And we will figure out how to do that collaboratively. We, in Jepson, have to find a way to take advantage of the greatness in Gonzaga’s College of Arts and Sciences.” Ken Anderson, associate dean of the School of Business Administration

Ignatius of Loyola used the phrase “living with one foot raised” to describe the readiness of early Jesuits to go where God needed them. We still do this at Gonzaga today, although technology has supplanted foot traffic. “Technologies are tools, not solutions in and of themselves to any problem. Wide experimentation is under way on the use of communication technologies – blogs, electronic portfolios, twitter, and more to construct learning environments. New technologies will provide students tutorials, self-paced learning through problem sets, review and recitation sessions, multiple modes of presenting material and more. Through networks of universities, technology will give students access to faculty from around the world and the opportunity to interact with students from around the world,” Killen said.

Digital media literacy is emerging alongside speech and writing as a basic communications skill, and must be taught as such. In five years, mobile devices such as smart phones and e-readers may become more integrated into academic libraries, replacing laptops/desktops as students’ primary research hardware.

The changes in a Gonzaga education tomorrow will be significant, said President Thayne McCulloh, because our world and our era demand this.

“We live on a planet that only ten years ago had one billion fewer people,” McCulloh said. “The impact of mass scale resource consumption, coupled with growing awareness of its impact on the environment, creates opportunities for solution-building of a kind never before imagined.

“We are a university called to live and learn and teach and explore not comfortably at the center of the culture, but at the frontiers – the cutting edge, the margins, places that require courage. Our world needs educated people who can and will transform the world. By working together, we can meet these challenges.”

PORTAL ON THE WORLD: A new University Center

The University Center, a proposed major new building, will help to propel Gonzaga’s transformation. Academic, student development,
and social and faith components will join together under one roof – in what cannot help but become the new heart of the campus. In addition, the building’s sustainability attributes will create a learning laboratory.

Now under design, the center will replace the COG and its parking lot. Built in 1953, the COG – Circulum Omnium Gonzagorum – has served Gonzaga students well. The new center’s approval and construction depend on successful fundraising efforts.

If fund-raising work is successful and if the Trustees give their approval in April, construction will begin this summer. This spring, the University will complete a new four-story parking garage with a retail center on its ground floor – space that will house an interim dining hall, during the new center’s construction. The city of Spokane required new parking as a condition of pursuing the University Center. The garage itself is funded partly through benefaction.

At this new heart of the campus, students will engage with each another and their professors. Imagine a series of flexible spaces, studios or tinker boxes for research partners, spaces intimate or spacious, for groups large and small, formal and informal, to discuss, perform, reflect, converse and make community. Spaces to enjoy the arts. Places to watch and learn. Conference spaces. University Ministry and a multi-faith reflection space. A window on the world; a global portal on campus. A magnet for students and faculty alike.

Tomorrow’s technology will animate the University Center, streaming life and learning from across the world. Interactive global learning will be an integral part of Gonzaga students’ daily experience. Digital media spaces will connect students to learning in and outside of classrooms, anywhere in the world. The learning and interactive capacities of the University Center will equal or exceed any of Gonzaga’s peer institutions.

“I want people to be surprised and delighted by this new University Center – by what they learn as they work with their peers and professors, as well as what the building itself has to teach them.” Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., president

Those members of the campus community who have helped to research and to dream about the University Center say that it ought to provide space and technology that allow faculty and students to work on research; and to encourage faculty from differing disciplines to leave their silos and come together to spark on and plan the innovative courses of 20 years, 40 years from now.

The University Center, Foley Center and Crosby Center, arrayed on three sides of a quad, will emerge as a triumvirate serving many student needs. Co-curricular programs will locate in the new center. Non-traditional students and graduate students will find a home-away-from home at the center. Conference facilities will draw in the community, as well.

Foley Center will see significant changes. As the mastery of technical tools continues to grow in importance, the main floor and part of the lowest level of Foley will serve technology-enhanced learning. Foley will continue to house the faculty’s Center for Teaching and Advising, and the Writers Center. It also will house the teaching and learning tool of the ages – books. For humanities, said Foley Dean Eileen Bell-Garrison, books remain the gold standard.


  • Construction costs are projected at $51 million.
  • Estimated 170,000 square feet spread over four levels.
  • Large multi-purpose room or ballroom, with an 800-person capacity.
  • A Global Commons with a central hearth will connect many major components of the building.
  • Dining opportunities will include a two-level dining hall, a cafe and a pub. President McCulloh has spoken of his interest in a pub that will offer a place where responsible drinking habits can be modeled.
  • The Center for Global Engagement and University Ministry will be located in close proximity, helping students to create their own connections among cultures, learning and faith.
  • Student services including the Center for Community Action and Service-Learning, Gonzaga Outdoors and GSBA offices will locate in the center.
  • New technology will make for rich learning opportunities.
  • Advanced heating and cooling equipment will take advantage of the 56 degree aquifer underneath the site.
  • The design-build team for the University Center includes Hoffman Construction, Opsis Architecture, both of Portland, Ore., and Bernardo-Wills Architects of Spokane. Spokane firms make up two-thirds of the sub-contractors.
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