20190924 Pamela Alvarado - LKaneshige 011

Pamela Alvarado is a new addition to Gonzaga's leadership program, taking on the role as the new director of the Payne Leadership Program.

Gonzaga has recently welcomed Pamela Alvarado as the new director of The Payne Center for Leadership Development. 

After the previous director of nine years retired, GU was searching for the next great candidate to run The Payne Center for Leadership Development and oversee related leadership programs. After an intense application process, Alvarado was deemed the perfect successor for the job. 

The director position was posted by GU in April and received a robust pool of 70 applicants from across the nation. Out of these candidates, 12 were selected for Skype interviews and four were invited to campus for a day of meeting students, search committee officers and future colleagues. Alvarado accepted her job offer at the end of June.

Alvarado’s supervisor, Colleen Vandenboom, assistant dean of student involvement and leadership, said that she is the total package. 

“She has a passion for helping students to grow, she has direct knowledge about leadership programs and making them successful," Vandenboom. "She understands Jesuit education and our dedication to social justice and that shows in her professional and her personal life."

As a self-proclaimed storyteller, Alvarado told the story about her first visit to campus. She recalled that it was a great day because she was given the opportunity to share more about herself, her work and her contributions to the field. The weather was beautiful, and her first meeting was with GU President Thayne McCulloh. 

“We were sitting on one of the benches outside and I saw a butterfly, and I felt like that butterfly was with me throughout the day. It was really symbolic for me personally, and so the day was a great day," Alvarado said. "I enjoyed meeting all the folks who were part of the process."

Alvarado noticed the job opening and received many supportive emails from her community which encouraged her to apply. The position excited her because of her passion for higher education and student affairs, both of which she has an abundance of education and experience in.  

After growing up in East Wenatchee, Washington, Alvarado pursued an undergraduate degree in communications at Central Washington University with a Spanish minor. She then earned her master’s in higher education at a Jesuit university, Loyola University Chicago. 

While she was a student, she also had an assistantship at the Loyola Leadership Center. This position allowed her to apply the higher education theory she was learning in the classroom while working closely with the director to develop the leadership program. She is on her third year working towards a doctorate at Colorado State University. 

Alvarado has an impressive work resume to complement her educational background. Her first job after graduating was in 2012 as a retention specialist at a Hispanic-serving institution on tribal land. Since then, she has been a teacher, worked in student affairs and overseen two federal grants. 

For Alvarado, her role is all about providing opportunity and access to all students to participate and engage in the community. She loves to connect with students, organizations and clubs.

“I think what makes me excited is to get to meet students and to be able to grow along with students and having those ah-ha moments that are really fulfilling,” Alvarado said. “The opportunity to be here is really exciting for me and for my community too, my family and friends and mentors.” 

The Payne Center for Leadership Development already has a strong strategic plan in place for this academic year, so Alvarado does not have plans to make any major changes right away. However, she is an advocate for assessment and is open to hearing feedback as it relates to current leadership programing to ensure the best possible experience for students in the future.

Cara Konowalchuk is a staff writer.


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