Gonzaga University isn’t just talking when it comes to diversity, it’s walking the walk, its new academic leaders say.
This fall, the school will debut four new deans, three of them women, and a female provost. That means three out of the school’s seven academic deans are women.
Some of the new leaders are also people of color.
New Provost and Senior Vice President Deena González said that while the world is diverse, students often see less diversity among university leadership and faculty.
“One of the things I see as the most important is what it signals to and relays to the students,” González said. “The academic setting is now catching up to the real world.”
“It’s refreshing, on the other hand it’s a little bit unbelievable in some ways, too,” she said.
Across the county women make up about 51% of higher education administrators, including executives, deans, assistant deans and department heads, according to 2019 data from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, or CUPA-HR. But women make up only 20% of the top five highest-paid positions — medicine, law, engineering, pharmacy, agriculture. The rate of people of color in top administrative roles is 16%, according to the same study.
Gonzaga, Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University, Central Washington University, the University of Washington and Washington State University were among the 1,174 higher education institutions surveyed by CUPA-HR.
Two out of seven academic deans at EWU, one out of eight at WWU and two out of four at CWU are women. At UW and WSU, eight out of 17 and two out of 12 academic deans are women, respectively.
By the end of this week, two of the six state universities in Washington will have a woman provost – Evergreen State College and WSU. Mitzi Montoya, former business dean at Oregon State University, will start her new job as WSU’s provost on Thursday.
González, Gonzaga’s provost, said dedication to diversity was in the job descriptions for each of the dean positions, especially since diversity and inclusive excellence are now markers of successful academic institutions.
“If you are actively engaged, I think (diversity) can be such an important tool and way of thinking that it will make our students stronger,” González said. “It will make them more resilient. I think it will make them more aware of the world into which they are going. It will make them more conversant on the global stage.”
Gonzaga’s new Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences Karlene Hoo is the first woman in school history to hold the position. Before she knew that, she told The Spokesman-Review she’d rather be remembered as the best than the first.
“While I appreciate the thought of being the first at anything, I want to be known as someone who cared very deeply about my profession, cared very deeply for students,” Hoo said.
In 2018, 12% of engineers and 16% of computer programmers and software developers in Washington were women, according to data compiled by the Society of Women Engineers.
Hoo said she’s used to it. Her academic and professional environment has been male-dominated since she went to Brooklyn Technical High School.
“I think I might have been the second year or third year of women that they invited,” she said.
She said she’s encouraged by the growing opportunities for women in engineering and the number of female engineering and applied sciences faculty at Gonzaga. There is a female tenured or tenure-track professor in each engineering and computer science discipline at Gonzaga.
“I’m really proud that we have quite a number of female faculty here at all levels,” Hoo said.
Hoo said she wants collaboration across different programs and contributions to the Gonzaga-UW Regional Health Partnership to be a major focus of her program. She plans to recruit more students from diverse backgrounds by looking at marketing efforts and becoming involved in campus visits.
“Whether it’s women, whether it’s other underrepresented groups, such as Native American populations, Hispanic populations, we’re really looking to recruit in all of these avenues,” Hoo said. “All of them are important to informing us about the world and creativity and innovation. Without that discourse we’re sort of mind-locked into one thing.”
In addition to a new position, incoming dean Rosemarie Hunter also will have a relatively new program on her hands in the School of Leadership Studies.
The school has offered graduate degrees and an undergraduate minor in leadership studies for years, but it launched the new school in June 2018 to expand its commitment to the field.
“It’s very exciting to think about a new school and the work that can be done,” Hunter said.
She said she also wants to expand Gonzaga’s work with nonprofits and create new pathways for diverse and underrepresented communities to gain leadership training.
Hunter previously worked as the director of a community leadership institute at the University of Utah serving immigrant and refugee populations. She aims to do something similar at Gonzaga.
“We want to see how we can invest in (our leaders) so that they can lead their own communities,” Hunter said.
Seeing the effects diverse leaders have had firsthand, Hunter expects Gonzaga’s campus climate to benefit as the faculty and administration diversify.
“That’s a beginning point that gives a message that says you’re welcome here, you belong here,” she said.
The new dean of the School of Education, Yolanda Gallardo Carter said she recognizes the work it takes to hire diverse leaders by serving on similar committees herself.
“I get the work that it’s taken and the intentionality,” Carter said. “ That’s why it means so much to me.”
She said she’s noticed the difference diversity initiatives can make on campus culture during her time at both big public schools, like Kansas State University, and small private schools, such as Berea College, a no-tuition school in Kentucky with an emphasis on social justice.
“It just really sets the tone for feeling like you are at the right place,” she said.
Carter said she’s excited to get involved in Gonzaga’s English language learning programs, which include Saturday tutoring sessions for local students and adults.
In the beginning of her teaching career, Carter started a bilingual school in Arizona during the English-only movement that led the local school district to shut down bilingual programs. The school Carter co-founded in 1998 still is open today.
“I think for me, that’s probably my greatest accomplishment to date,” Carter said.
Gonzaga’s only new male dean, Vincent Salyers of the School of Nursing and Human Physiology, is somewhat of an outlier in his own right. He was among a small percentage of male nurses when he was practicing and has overseen undergraduate programs where about 10% of students are male on average.
He said he hopes to attract more men to the field with accelerated licensing programs where career-changers can earn a master’s degree rather than a second bachelor’s. Salyers also plans to look at expanding online programs, in addition possibly creating degrees in health information, public health and physical therapy.
Salyers said diverse leadership is critical for improving campus climate.
“These are highly educated people who are absolutely rock stars in their fields,” Salyers said. “And to be able to join them is so exciting for me… Each one of them brings background and experience that will be something great.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 30, 2019 to include information about WSU’s new provost.
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