Gonzaga University’s campus was swarming Friday as 1,265 members of the Class of 2021 unwrapped sheets, broke down boxes and moved into dorms.
Scores of student volunteers clad in blue shirts helped freshmen carry boxes up the narrow stairs of St. Catherine Hall and St. Monica Hall, known colloquially as “CM” on campus. They’re not just there for grunt work: known as “team leaders,” the students will help a small group of new students adjust to campus by guiding them through orientation and facilitating activities.
Julian Moreno, a sophomore broadcast studies major from San Francisco, said his team leaders last year embodied the spirit of “Zags helping Zags.”
“They were kind of like my first friends,” Moreno said. “I just wanted to pay that forward.”
The staircases on the buildings were narrow, so lines formed as families waited to go up and down. One boy, presumably the younger brother of a student, issued a good-natured complaint: “We’ve got so much more stuff to unpack!”
The university is boasting the freshman as its “strongest academic class ever,” with an average 3.79 grade-point average and higher standardized test score than previous groups, Gonzaga said in a news release. As is typical, a plurality (almost 46 percent) are from Washington, though students come from 31 students.
Religion is also a uniting force at the Jesuit school – 45 percent of the class is Roman Catholic, and more than two dozen faith traditions are represented.
The Zags’ winning basketball record has helped raise the university’s profile. Emily Johnson, an aspiring elementary school teacher from Mill Creek, Washington, first learned of the school thanks to her father, Steve, who is a high school basketball coach.
He’s been bringing his team from Henry M. Jackson High School to Gonzaga’s summer basketball camp for the past 20 years, he said.
Johnson said she’d like to major in developmental psychology and go on to a teaching certificate. Gonzaga’s academic reputation sealed the deal for her. Though she doesn’t play basketball, she called herself a fan.
“You’d better say you’re a fan!” her father interrupted, laughing.
Her roommate, Kerry Flannery, is from San Francisco and went to a Jesuit high school. Flannery said the school typically sends a few students each year to Gonzaga.
Her family opted to fly to Spokane, buying everything for her dorm room at Bed, Bath and Beyond and having it shipped to a Spokane store. A few items during move-in were lacking, she realized, including more storage space. But “otherwise it’s going pretty well,” she said.
Flannery said she was attracted by the nursing program, which students can apply to directly when they seek admission to the university.
She said the weather on campus was nicer than the San Francisco fog she’s been facing for most of the summer. Over the winter, she’ll hit another life milestone: seeing snow for the first time.
“That’ll be interesting,” she said.
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