Gonzaga brings four new leaders to campus this fall. Here, they share stories from the heart.
An Angel in their Path
At the University of Southern California, I had the chance to work with the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund. Students tax themselves to provide scholarships and support services for first-generation students. One professor learned that first-generation, low-income students are less apt to study abroad, so he partnered with the Topping Fund to create a summer program. These students spent a week in Los Angeles looking at corporations with ties to Japan, then a second week in Japan. Their learning was profound. Some of the students had never been outside Los Angeles. Some never perceived themselves as Americans; they had always been marginalized. But as an international traveler, you are American. So they were getting all these mixed emotions. My work in student affairs has always been about creating an environment where everyone can be successful. My mother, a first-generation, non-traditional college student, told me that she had had an angel in her path. I want to ensure that all students find an angel to help guide them through their Gonzaga experiences.
Garbuio’s strengths include strategic planning, the management of healthy student affairs organizations, and the development of cutting-edge student development programs and services.
A 16-Year Labor of Love
I was deeply involved at Fordham University in a project that helped K-8 students with psychoeducational screening and intervention. These students attended Catholic schools across the South Bronx and Harlem. We offered individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, parent training, teacher consultations and kindergarten screening to determine which students might be at risk for learning disabilities, behavioral difficulties, or emotional concerns involving anxiety or depression. Generally, the earlier we intervene, the greater the probability of success. Here’s an example. We worked with an eighth grader with Asperger syndrome. Individuals with Asperger syndrome typically do well in school, but don’t have effective communication skills. One of our graduate students worked to help him learn how to react to situations with his peers or adults at school. He was interested in a girl in the classroom and didn’t know how to approach her. Our extern worked with him on better ways of socializing. Because he was verbal and engaging, we were really able to see his growth. He was so appreciative, and his mom was pleased, too. He did exceptionally well academically and was accepted into a Catholic high school. We worked with over 3,000 students in 16 years. This project was a labor of love, a passion of mine, one that I’d like to bring to Gonzaga and Spokane.
Alfonso’s excellent interpersonal and organizational skills have helped him establish collaborative relationships over the past 20 years.
Learning Outside of the Classroom
I was a first-generation college student from a small town north of Cologne, Germany, I enrolled in the University of Cologne, a college with 50,000 students, and commuted to school by train. I loved being a student, but I would never have made it to this country had it not been for a professor who encouraged me to study abroad. I spent a year at Washington University in St. Louis. At the International Student House I met people from all over the world. I attended the Alvin Ailey Dancers and the Harlem Dance Theater. I heard Toni Morrison and Coretta King speak. I learned about learning outside of the classroom – it was eye-opening. Flash forward a few years. I returned to the U.S. for my Ph.D. in English and then moved across the country to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The city is 58 percent Latino, and the students similar in some ways to those in Cologne. Many are the first in their families to attend college. Many carry incredible burdens for 18- to 22-year-olds, working 30 to 40 hours a week while earning their degree, and taking care of family. Faculty are more than teachers; we were mentors, showing our concern and following up with students when they missed classes or assignments. I am still that first-generation college student. Wherever I teach, or wherever I lead faculty, I try consciously to make a difference to students.
Mermann-Jozwiak’s professional interests include transnational American studies, Chicana literature, and the field of teaching and learning
Lessons from a non-traditional student
I started graduate school at 41, a single parent of three children. Two years later, I became their only parent. Their father, an eye surgeon, died on my youngest son’s birthday, shortly before I began a doctoral program at the University of Michigan. Consoling my children while rebuilding our lives was painful; the most difficult part of my journey, however, was the lack of support from peers. Many felt I was “too old” to attend graduate school. Even the faculty were apprehensive. “Who do you think will hire you at your age?” I did one thing right, though. I chose a dissertation committee of men whose wives all attained degrees later in life; they were highly supportive, and I remain deeply appreciative. But I realize that when I reflect upon my journey, I am reflecting on the plight of non-traditional students generally. I am African-American; I was in my 40s; with the exception of occasional substitute teaching, I had never worked for a living. My life revolved around home and family. But I persevered and defended my thesis a few months after my 50th birthday. My commitment to support and to mentor non-traditional students evolved from these experiences, is enduring and will continue here at Gonzaga.
As an educator, Stevenson Marshall follows this credo, a paraphrase from St. John of the Cross: “It is not what happens to me but how I respond: That is all God cares about.”