onzaga University is situated on more than 100 acres along the Spokane river, about a half-mile from downtown Spokane. At just over 4,000 undergraduates, Gonzaga is a mid-sized school where students get the academic attention usually reserved for those at smaller college campuses. The school is named after 16th-century Jesuit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and upholds the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole individual – mind, body, and spirit. Professors emphasize personal relationships with students and are committed to their success to the point that, unlike at most other schools, many take attendance and require class participation (students’ grades depend on it). The student body is fairly homogeneous, largely religious, and relatively conservative; politically speaking, current students think that those with more liberal inclinations may feel out of place at the school. Bulldogs basketball is a major draw – students are very proud of the nationally prominent Division I team. Games really showcase their spirit.
Gonzaga—a private, Catholic Jesuit University—has gone
through a lot of changes over the years, giving the school a student body that’s
hard to pin down. One student notes that “the school is Catholic, but it is more liberal than some Catholic schools because it is Jesuit,” and “there's a fair number of both liberals and conservatives, believers and non-believers, Christians and Catholics, on campus.” Another student says that “unless you are a dedicated Catholic, who is only interested in the Jesuit education, this is not the place for you.” Most students agree on the geographical, racial,
and financial makeup of the student body, however. Says a freshman psychology major: “Most kids are the white, Northface-wearing types. Everyone's very sporty and cares about their health. Since Gonzaga is a private school, most students are middle class or upper-middle class. Half of Gonzaga students are from Washington, and at least a fourth are from Oregon and California.” As far
as diversity goes, it still seems to be a struggle for certain
groups to fit into the general populace.
Says this freshman from California: “The campus is opening its doors to being more diverse, and I feel like there is no difference that is really not excepted (though if you are ethnically different, LGBT, or not Christian, you may find it hard to find people like you.)”
Students are very complimentary of Gonzaga’s academics,
which focus on small, intimate sessions with the occasional “heated discussions.” The workload is heavy and occasionally
overwhelming, especially considering the number of core classes Gonzaga requires
of its students. While some comment that
they’re a bit too "heavy," others seem to really appreciate the
liberal arts factor of a Gonzaga education.
“Because there is a focus on well-roundedness…students are required to take one lab science, one math, and an additional class in either science or math. It is an intense core, but the idea is that you leave Gonzaga a well-rounded, intelligent individual, capable of engaging in conversations outside of just your major.“ Though the business program at Gonzaga draws
a lot of students initially, (it is by far the most popular major; a
quarter of the undergraduates are business/marketing majors) many students end
up minoring in philosophy or English or another humanities discipline. Gonzaga also has a well-known seminary
training program for students to prepare for priesthood.
The Gonzaga basketball team is constantly a contender for NCAA
victories - they’ve made the regional finals of the NCAA tournament every year
since 1999 - and the students and Spokane residents come out in droves to support
the “Bulldogs.” The beloved basketball
team gives this rather small university a “big university feel” because of all the fan activity. “There is nothing like jumping up and down with 2000 other screaming fans during a basketball game,” says one student. “When we score, it doesn't matter who you are standing next to, but you are screaming and hugging and high-fiving each other as if you had grown up with them.”
The games also become a kind of “personal”
experience, because “unlike bigger schools, we have classes with players, eat dinner with players, and see them all over campus and at parties. When they're on the court, it really feels like you're cheering for friends.” Many of the campus’ most popular clubs revolve
around the basketball team, including the “Kennel Club,” which is the student
cheering section for the Bulldogs.
“Spokane is not a college town at all,” says one student. “I don't have a car this semester and it sucks because everywhere is soooooooooo far away. I don't mind it so much but it really starts to wear you down.” While many students rag on Spokane’s brand of
others are impressed with the 400,000-person city. People can head into town for a movie, shop
at one of Spokane’s three malls, see a show at the Met Theater, or venture a
little farther north to the ski slopes during the winter. Another
cool facet of Spokane is that people in the town “LOVE Gonzaga students. We get discounts at loads of places, and when you say you go to Gonzaga, people smile and get really interested in you and what you are studying - it is great for networking.”
Gonzaga also has a lot going on on its campus. “If you're interested in activities that don't involve drinking, there are a lot of them set up by Dawgs After Dark, an activity group on campus. You can go play lasertag, rock climb, bowl, go to the mall, have a movie night, go see a movie, run around and be crazy college kids, go to GUTS--our improv comedy group on campus which is REALLY REALLY GOOD AND FUNNY!” Before turning 21, students can hang out in
the dorms with their friends (most students meet their best friends on their
halls during freshman and sophomore year) - “The doors in dorms are always open and everyone is very welcoming. On the weekends you can wander around a dorm and find something to do.”
Finally, Gonzaga has an impressive service requirement for
all its clubs on campus, and most students will tell you how much they
appreciated this community integration. “All clubs on campus are required to participate in some service. Almost all extracurriculars encourage the same from their participants. With well over 100,000 hours of service every year, its hard not to get involved. In fact, in April, hundreds of students sign up [to] volunteer to paint, or do yard work for a local school or child-based organization. It truly is an amazing experience.”