Gonzaga University seems to have it all – or at least many of the things students look for in their college experience:
- School spirit – the official mascot is the Bulldog, but the teams and students refer to themselves as “Zags.” The basketball team makes frequent appearances in “March Madness” and students overwhelmingly show school pride in supporting their teams. Gonzaga was recently ranked by ESPN as the “craziest student section without football program.” These guys love their Division I sports teams!
- Great size – Gonzaga has just under 5,000 undergraduate students, and another ~2,500 graduate students, including a law school on campus. More quick facts here.
- Setting: far from home but not too far, city life, college town – Gonzaga is in Spokane, Washington, a direct, 2.5-hour flight from LAX, and walking distance from the heart of the downtown area in this 200,000-person city. There are two other colleges within a half hour radius, as well as two large universities, Washington State and University of Idaho, within about an hour.
- Small class sizes – with a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Gonzaga classes are generally small – the largest lecture hall looks to seat about 125 students. Most classes are significantly smaller.
Gonzaga is a Jesuit (Catholic) institution, and about half of the students are practicing Catholics. My tour guide, a sophomore nursing major from Bozeman, Montana, said that one of the unspoken “bucket list” things to do is to be invited to dinner at the Jesuit house, because she said “they have an awesome chef.”
Gonzaga is known for its strong business (management, marketing), biology (pre-med) and engineering programs. Students say that professors are accessible. The core curriculum is being restructured, but it currently allows students some flexibility in choosing courses within the disciplines they are required to study. Gonzaga encourages students to study abroad and has a full campus in Florence, Italy, where students of all majors – including engineering and business – may take a semester of classes. Gonzaga also has a campus in Paris, where history, art history, French and international studies majors may spend a semester.
Some non-religious – especially Jewish – families hesitate to have their students apply to Jesuit institutions, because they are concerned about the requirement that students must take religion courses. While most Jesuit schools do have this requirement as part of their core, and Gonzaga is no different, students are often surprised at the variety of choices they have to fulfill this requirement (take a look!). I corresponded with Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein, Asst. Professor of Religious Studies, who teaches Hebrew Bible and Judaism courses at Gonzaga, who told me that currently students are required to take three religion courses, one of which must have a basis in Christianity, but the core is being revised to only require two courses. Additionally, she told me that professors are well-aware that they have non-Christians in their classes. The Jewish community at Gonzaga, according to Rabbi Goldstein, is small but supportive, and they do host seders and holiday dinners.
Students are very dedicated to community service at Gonzaga; as the school is mid-city, there is significant opportunity for students interested in outreach to the homeless community. Students are required to live on campus for two years. The dorms looked like they needed a little bit of updating but students were happy; as my tour walked by the dorms, students shouted “Come to Gonzaga!” out the windows.
In the fall of 2014, a new University Center (student union) was under construction, scheduled to be completed in fall, 2015. It’s huge and will definitely be the center of student life when open. (more info here). We ate lunch at the temporary dining hall – buzzing with activity at noon on a Friday – and I can report that the food at this all-you-can-eat style cafeteria was awesome! I taste-tested much of it for you – the pizza was great, the pho was great, the homestyle entrée was great (I didn’t eat the roasted pork loin but I did have the braised local kale!). The lady who made the Tuscan bean salad – definitely homemade, not out of a jar – gave me a healthy serving and beamed as I enjoyed it. One staff person walked around the dining hall with a tray of freshly baked cookies. And the students told us that if you miss your mom’s lasagna – or anything else for that matter – and you can get her to send you the recipe, they’ll make it for you. Gonzaga students definitely eat well!
Gonzaga has a beautiful campus and that “college experience” you might just be looking for! You can see all of my photos from my visit here.
Admissions stats: SAT mid-50% CR 540-640, M 550-650 (they don’t take the writing score into consideration)
Visit date: October, 2014