Wednesdays at noon, rain or shine, Judi Biggs Garbuio can be found outside Hemmingson, wating to lead a walk around campus and eager to chat about student mental wellness.
These walks, titled Wellness Walks, are one of the many ways Biggs Garbuio has left her stamp at Gonzaga.
On Oct. 23 an email to the GU community announced that Biggs Garbuio would be leaving her position as vice president of student affairs and accepting a position at Catholic University in Washington D.C.
Biggs Garbuio has contributed to numerous programs throughout her time at GU to make the campus a safer and happier place for students, faculty and staff. Programs that are well-known by students are a result of Biggs Garbuio’s work.
The Center for Cura Personalis (CCP) was created under her supervision in 2014. The office specializes in giving students a safe place to go when they’re having problems at school.
She saw a need for this office to be created after talking to the Counseling Center, seeing that there was a four-to-six week waiting list to speak with someone who works there.
“In conversations with the Counseling Center staff they said a lot of the visits were not urgent, but, students just needed someone to guide them through a particular event that had happened (e.g., death of a grandparent, adjusting to college, etc.),” Biggs Garbuio said in an email.
CCP began to offer services that were a combination of the “case managers” and wellness programming including drug and alcohol abuse help, healthy relationships and suicide prevention.
By fall 2014, the waitlist for the Counseling Center dropped dramatically, thanks to CCP and its programming.
Biggs Garbuio also helped coin the term “Zags Help Zags” taking over the previously named ‘green-dot system’. She realized that at the time students were using that term and twisting it into a joke, and she decided that the name had to change.
She sought help in renaming the program from the CCP offices, the offices for Well-Being and Healthy Living, and Health and Counseling Services.
and Healthy Living, and Health and Counseling Services.
“I asked them to come up with a clever name and education program and they created ‘Zags Help Zags,’” Biggs Garbuio said.
“Zags Help Zags” has become one of the most popular phrases on campus, and it assures all GU students that everyone else has their back if they need it.
“I am just grateful that the students take this seriously because it has literally saved a lot of student’s lives,” Biggs Garbuio said.
Biggs Garbuio played an important role in reprogramming the First-Year Experience program. When Biggs Garbuio arrived at GU in fall 2013, first-year orientation was run by five students, planning all aspects of orientation weekend.
Biggs Garbuio realized that this was a massive responsibility for only students to be organizing, so she hired Kelly Alvarado-Young and Justin Gambone to plan all the activities for first year students.
“While I appreciate the incredible leadership opportunity this is for our students, I also realize that orientation is the only time a university can welcome not only students but families into the unique nature of a GU student experience,” Biggs Garbuio said.
GU still hires students to GUide Core to assist Alvarado-Young and Gambone in planning and executing first-year orientation weekend.
The search to fill Biggs Garbuio is underway, lead by committees created by the provost’s office from different areas of the university. Some areas include Student Development, Mission and Ministry and the Gonzaga Student Body Association.
The search for potential hires will be done through a contracted national search firm.
“A national search for a position is frequently based on a timeline that allows a university to locate the best possible candidates, interview them both preliminarily and then in full-fledged campus interviews as I anticipate will be the case for this position,” said Deena Gonzales, provost and senior vice president.
GU has contracted these firms when looking to fill other positions in the university, including finding deans for schools, provost positions and other vice president positions throughout the school.
Since the process to find a new vice president of Student Affairs is a lengthy process, GU will have an interim vice president.
“We can also seek interim internal applicants for an established number of months, with the full-time, interim leader arriving early in the spring semester of the current academic year,” Gonzales said. “This is still under discussion,”
What GU is looking for in a new hire will be outlined by the committee that will be formed to find a new vice president of Student Affairs.
“This process is very detailed and extensive,” Gonzales said. “A national search for a senior leader requires time, diligence, resources and the dedication of all of members of the community.”
The number of programs that Biggs Garbuio has enacted at GU has impacted the university in more positive ways than imaginable, and she is excited to bring the lessons she learned here at GU to Washington D.C. with her at Catholic University.
“It’s the Catholic University of America, it’s the only one like it in the United States,” Biggs Garbuio said in an interview. “I’m excited to really lean into what that means.”
One of Bigg Garbuio’s personal greatest achievements at GU was helping the staff work throughout different places at GU achieve higher education degrees, something they might not have considered if they had not come to this university.
“There are so many staff that are now either graduated with their advanced degree or are in the process of doing so, and that was not the case when I first came here,” Biggs Garbuio said. “It’s investing in the staff that can then provide an exceptional student experience.”
Biggs Garbuio will miss GU’s culture of community and Spokane’s natural beauty the most in her departure.
“The near perfect nature here is great,” Biggs Garbuio said. “I’ll also miss the people and the grounds of Gonzaga, no matter the season it’s just beautiful.”
Biggs Garbuio will leave GU on Dec. 16, leaving her six years of transforming the campus into what students love about it today and continue her journey at Catholic University beginning spring semester 2020.