GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS FEATURE
By Peter Tormey
Gonzaga’s new freshman class is remarkable in many ways but sets records as the largest and most diverse class ever along with being one of the University’s most academically gifted classes.
Julie McCulloh, Gonzaga’s dean of admission, experienced her most difficult year bringing in freshmen, given the uncertain implications of the national economic downturn. McCulloh expressed relief with the class, a relief tempered by concern for her colleagues who are extremely busy teaching, advising, housing and feeding all of the new students.
Again, Gonzaga’s faculty and staff rallied to welcome and support the new students 100 percent.
“This was a wonderful triple play,” said McCulloh, pointing out all of her colleagues’ tireless work. “It’s in the top four freshman classes to ever enter the University. When you look at it in that context, it becomes even more amazing.”
McCulloh and colleagues were asked to bring in at least 1,080 freshmen, a goal they topped by 160 students with the freshmen class totaling 1,240. Students of color represent nearly 20 percent (19.5 percent) of this year’s freshmen, putting Gonzaga within reach of its goal of 20 percent ethnic and racial diversity in the fall 2010 entering class.
Previously, the largest freshman class in school history was 1,107 (fall 2008). Gonzaga’s current undergraduate total of 4,600 students also surpasses the previous record of 4,518 students (fall 2008). The 3.66 grade-point average of this year’s freshmen is identical to last year’s freshmen, but this year’s entering class posted an 1,188 average SAT composite score, the third-highest in school history. Total enrollment, including law and other graduate students, is pegged at nearly 7,600 students, eclipsing the previous high of 7,319 (fall 2008).
A more diverse student body has been a goal at Gonzaga for at least the past decade. It remains a target because of the increased educational value a diverse student body offers to all students and because intellectual and cultural diversity are hallmarks of a Jesuit education.
“If we are really training our students and preparing them for the world, we need them to hear many perspectives and understand different backgrounds. A diverse student body allows our students to take in diverse ideas as they learn. Then we will graduate students who are better educated and better prepared to work with different people from different backgrounds,” McCulloh said. “You want to have a University environment reflect the world that your graduates are going into so your students are well-equipped to handle whatever discipline they choose.”
Gonzaga’s Jesuit heritage encourages diversity. Interim President Thayne McCulloh has often cited diversity and intercultural dialogue as major forces shaping Gonzaga’s future.
“It’s very Jesuit. The Jesuits, since their founding, have engaged in intercultural dialogue. That’s part of who we are as a Jesuit institution and we must engage in those Jesuit practices because they are important,” Julie McCulloh said.
“The other part of diversity I want to emphasize is that we have a large population of first-generation, college-bound students, meaning their parents didn’t have college degrees,” she said. “That also adds to diversity of experience and interesting dialogue in the classroom. We continue to believe that education is one of the keys to successful careers in the United States.”