In October, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments for a case that could overturn 40 years of precedent and ban affirmative action, or the use of race as a factor in higher education admission decisions across the nation. The case will likely be decided this summer, and Julie McCulloh, the associate provost for enrollment management, said this is of concern for the Gonzaga University Office of Admission.

“We aren’t sure what will happen, but we are concerned that as a predominantly white university, we’re going to have to find new ways to be attractive to students of diverse backgrounds and reach students of diverse backgrounds,” McCulloh said.

According to McCulloh, reaching students of diverse backgrounds is a major focus for the Office of Admission. GU's strategic plan, approved in 2015, set a goal for the Office of Admission: 30% of an incoming class should be students of color. GU surpassed this goal in 2021.

This year, the department raised this goal to 35%. McCulloh said the number is not a quota, but a way to measure how successful the department has been in upholding the mission statement.

“I absolutely believe we have richer intellectual experiences when we have more perspectives,” McCulloh said. “The more perspectives we have, the greater understanding of an issue we achieve, and the more diversity we have, the greater our ability to see problems in their complexities.”

McCulloh said the Office of Admission is primarily focused on fighting the impression that only one kind of student goes to GU.

“In the city of Spokane, we want any student who is a strong academic student who resonates with Gonzaga’s mission to see themselves at Gonzaga University, and we want our financial aid strategy to help them get there,” McCulloh said.

To accomplish this, the Office of Admission is working to make its recruiting efforts more wide-reaching and accessible. Among other things, it is expanding its high school reach, seeking out partnerships with community organizations and specifically targeting areas where students may not have equal access to recruiting materials.

Since 2020, online campus visits, panels and information sessions have become commonplace, engaging students without the means to travel to campus. Additionally, that spring the department held its first recruiting day specifically geared toward diversity, equity and inclusion.

The department is also committed to supporting students financially. For the last four years, all admitted students who qualify for the federal Pell Grant received a full tuition scholarship. Though this program is not new, it is getting a new name: the Gonzaga Access Pledge. Previously known as the Magis Commitment, McCulloh believes the name was confusing, and one of the reasons the scholarship was not adequately accessible.

In order to make sure these initiatives are at the forefront of the admissions process, last year the Office of Admission created a new position: Coordinator for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Senior Admission Counselor Alexa Gaske is the first to hold the role.

"It’s my job to be proactive and make sure that whatever we’re doing, whatever event we hold, students from underrepresented backgrounds are included and supported,” Gaske said.

Though the admission department is primarily responsible for getting students to campus, Gaske said in her role she makes sure the students they admit are supported all through their academic experience. For example, she and her colleagues have partnered with programs like BRIDGE, DICE and New Student and Family Programs on different events and initiatives. She described the process as a hand off.

Gaske said she is committed to making sure students of diverse backgrounds know college is possible and supporting students of diverse backgrounds throughout their journey.

“The beauty of a Gonzaga education, and a Jesuit education, is that we know the importance of global citizenship and diverse thought,” Gaske said. “We don’t want to be an echo chamber, and we want students to bring their unique experiences.”

Bailey White is a staff writer.

Staff Writer

Bailey is a senior studying business with a concentration in consumer economics and a minor in political science.