Along with students who returned from winter break, Manuel Gómez arrived at Gonzaga on the first day of the spring semester and has begun his transition into the interim vice provost of student affairs position.

The search for a new vice provost is in response to Judi Biggs Garbuio’s scheduled departure to become vice president of student affairs at Catholic University. 

Gómez is slated to stay for six months to ensure a smooth transition for a permanent incoming vice provost and that the important work of student affairs continues with purpose and does not stagnate.

“Dr. Gómez will be an excellent partner to those inside the division of student affairs and to the supervisors and staff who assist the work of student development,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Deena Gónzalez. “He will certainly be helpful to the division as it thinks of its next stages and steps.”

Eric Baldwin, assistant vice president and dean of student well-being and healthy living, oversaw the responsibilities of the position until an interim vice provost of student affairs was chosen. He also helped with reviewing résumés and interviewing the final three candidates. He will be supporting Gómez for the first two weeks of the semester.

The never-ending work occurring in student affairs and the need for detailed attention around the implementation of initiatives required a timely fill of the interim position.

“I look forward to watching and learning from Dr. Gómez as he goes about the business of ‘setting the table’ for this new person [vice provost of student affairs],” Baldwin said.

The office of the provost and senior vice president, as well as the rest of GU’s community, is pleased to welcome this seasoned leader of higher education onto campus to assist in the integration of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs and collaborate with the offices within the Student Affairs division on ways to enrich student experiences, Gónzalez said.

“I hope my Student Affairs experience, my managerial skills, my communication style and my belief in the university mission will all help me to contribute to doing what GU already does, even better,” Gómez said.

In light of the search for this new candidate within Student Development, the title changed from associate provost to vice provost. Gónzalez said the areas of responsibilities and roles of Student Development and Academic Affairs Administration are the largest.

To make these areas of responsibility assume equivalency, Gónzalez proposed changing the position titles. Executive committees of both areas agreed with the benefits the change would introduce, given the expansive role both areas hold in student life and GU’s plans. The linkage will also contribute to GU’s “whole person” approach to education.

Gónzalez said the search for an interim vice provost relied on the Registry, a group of professionals who place willing and suitable members into executive leadership positions on an interim basis only. The Registry allows any experienced Student Affairs professional to apply for the position, which allowed anyone from within GU to do so if they were interested. On-campus, daylong interviews occurred in mid-December and Gómez was selected shortly after.  

Gómez expressed his enjoyment with visiting campus for the final stages of the interview process and meeting President Thayne McCulloh, Gónzalez and other individuals dedicated to GU’s growth.  

“I was deeply impressed with the student-friendly administrative leadership, the excellent facilities and the outstanding faculty, staff and stellar students,” Gòmez said. “The GU community reflects a special spirit that continues to guide the campus to even greater heights.”

The search for a permanent vice provost of Student Affairs is structured differently and had been going on simultaneously with the search process for the interim. Gónzalez administered the formation of a diverse search committee to work alongside Academic Search, a national search firm, to select the best vice provost candidate. Academic Search visited campus in December to meet with those in Student Development, as well as with students, to understand the goals and hopes of the community.

Gónzalez said the final job description and leadership profile was set to be posted around Jan. 10.

“Dr. Gómez brings a long record of experience from UC Irvine, where he served as vice chancellor for Student Affairs,” Gónzalez said. “Gómez’s work has been nationally recognized, especially with underrepresented students, first-generation students and undocumented students.”

During his first two years of professional experience, he worked on diversifying teacher curriculum in the Oakland Public School District to include material reflective of the Native American, African American and Latinx experience. Afterward, he became an outreach counselor at UC Irvine when the campus was only 7 years old and rose through the ranks during his tenure.

One of Gómez’s many projects at UC Irvine was assisting in the creation of the Dalai Lama Scholarship Program, which awards an undergraduate up to $10,000 to help with school fees and up to $6,000 to support the completion of their project proposal aimed to engage campus and community members in topics relating to ethics, peace and global affairs.

Additionally, he has taught courses in multicultural poetry and history, and has written and published various books.

“I am confident we can find common ground in our work with students,” Gómez said. “If we do not set the example and lead the way, how do we expect things to change? And if we don’t expect change, how can we continue our work?”

Melina Benjamin is a News Editor.

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