Staff Highlight: Nicole Bernabe

Nicole Bernabe, also known as “Nico,” has spent the past six years of her life at Gonzaga University, and she has spent the last four years as both a dedicated student and a loyal employee. Through her involvement with Block Council, Nico was introduced to Residence Life and signed up to be a Residence Assistant during her junior year. During that time, she experienced something truly holistic, where she developed the ability to develop a community within her residence hall that opened her eyes to many different perspectives and provided her with opportunities of growth.

Nico’s employment opportunities also grew. She was an Assistant to the Residence Director (ARD) on the CWAD block (Campion, Welch, Alliance, and DeSmet) during her senior year of college. During that time, Nico applied to the Master of Arts in School Counseling at Gonzaga. When she was accepted to the graduate program, Nico had doubts about staying at Gonzaga. Although she was very involved, she questioned whether there was more room for growth at the place she had done a ton of growing already. Hindsight, however, Nico has no doubt that she made the right decision to stay at Gonzaga, taking on more school work and continuing her work with Residence Life as a Graduate Residence Director. Nico has been in charge of the Kennedy Apartments for the past year, and she is currently in training with her new Kennedy RA staff.

When Nico finishes her master’s program, she is torn between continuing her work in higher education, especially at this institution, saying that “Gonzaga is my soul mate.” If she decides on that day there is life after Gonzaga, she has considered becoming a high school counselor. But for now, she will just spend her time on campus, participating in a book club with Housing secretary Janet Cannon, laughing, watching movies, and Tweeting (@nbernabe). Her favorite Spokane restaurant is Europa, which has a great gluten free option for Nico and a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake “to die for.”


Housing’s Special Initiative

Sensing an ever increasing request/demand to get an “audience” in front of the Resident Assistant staff as part of annual summer training, combined with a growing sophistication of the role of a Resident Assistant and concomitant need to enhance significant training venues, the department of housing and residence life has created “outcomes” for every R.A. training session.  In some instances, these hoped for outcomes were given to presenters in advance of their presentation as guides to content we needed in front of this important portion of our department.

While certainly we will not seek to measure all of them this year, we will make decisions upon which specific ones we wish to “measure” for effectiveness, for how much the information impacted an R.A. skill set, how much the training produced in measurable sensitivities to needs and services students both need and demand.  We will use the information to begin, over the next few years, to focus upon the most critical training for R.A. success, the training that leads to the most results in “action(s)” the R.A. uses to accomplish the requirements of their roles.  We anticipate, over time, this will result in letting some more traditional and longer standing training sessions go in lieu of enhancing others that are getting short-changed yet critical to enhanced performance on the job.

Director’s Corner: Housing and Residence Life


A peek at what “August” looks like for housing and residence life.

Collectively, it is the busiest month of the 12 month cycle for both the Residence Life team and the Housing Office team.  The residence life team is in full training mode, has been since second week in July, which moves to 7 days a week as we enter week 2 of August.  The housing office sends out the confirmation of building and roommate assignments and begins handling many hundreds of parent and student concerns that result from that mailing.   Infringing mightily on Campus Services’ peace of mind (we share a floor with them!) we stage and then deploy our fleet of 85 vacuums we house off campus during summer months, 85 first aid kits for our staff, 85 tool kits of markers, tape, staplers, 3000 brochures for three or more renter’s insurance agencies which need to make it to each student desk in our system, shirts for our staff.  Our copier is busy as staff start production of thousands of door name tags, posters/flyers, etc.  We are also busy moving our summer residents out of Kennedy and Corkery, back to their normal rooms for the year, working with Plant to turn over the apartments they left behind as well as the residence halls recently turned back to us from Campus Services summer conference staff, in time for the 800 expected early arrivals in advance of freshman check in, a process we must manage in the middle of what should be focused training.  As if that was not enough, we are conducting interviews of candidates for a new Business Manager position.

The Residence Life team is building their small teams, and providing training from offices and personnel all around campus and guest speakers on special topics brought to campus from other Universities.  This training also includes planning and staging meals for a group that exceeds 100 on many days when special guests are invited to join.  The residence life professional staff will have pulled off over 100 programs collectively as R.A.s begin to check residents in, when you consider the training sessions they organized and facilitated for their staffs.

-Dennis Colestock, Director of Housing and Residence Life

Updates from the Assessment Committee

Upcoming Assessment Deadlines:

  1. Craft a minimum of (1) learning outcome to give their supervisor by August 15, 2012
  2. Select one or more outcomes to assess for the 2012-2013 year by September 15, 2012
  3. Directors will draft a departmental assessment plan that will contribute to meeting the divisional goal of creating an ethos of inquiry by Friday, November 16, 2012. The plan needs to cover Fall 2012 through May 2014.

*More Assessment Committee news on “Committee” page

Orientation Update

About Orientation Weekend – August 24th – 27th

The theme for this year’s Orientation is “Unite in Tradition.” As this is a very special year for Gonzaga, being the 125th anniversary, Orientation Core chose this theme to challenge students to unite together with their fellow Zags and transform their futures. Gonzaga undoubtedly has a lot of traditions that will make lasting impressions on the new students. So, our focus for this year’s Orientation is to encourage the incoming students to engage in the Zag traditions and grow in mind, body, and spirit.

The theme, “Unite in Tradition,” is echoed in this year’s required freshman read, “They Come Back Singing,” written by Father Gary Smith. Fr. Smith is a Jesuit who helped transform communities by working with refugees in Uganda and encouraging them to find the love of Christ. This year we have made some transformations to help improve Orientation as a whole. Some of these transformations include purposeful activities and being more direct in our appeal to living life as a Zag through our ethos of respect and humility. We invite you to come participate in Orientation Weekend and unite with us in welcoming the class of 2016. If you would like more information about Orientation Weekend please visit our Website at or our blog at

How You Can Help

As you all know, Orientation Weekend is filled with bustling families trying to help their child move-in, activities, resource fairs, and a slew of information. It is our hope that you, as Student Life staff, can help us show students and their families the personal touch that makes Gonzaga special. One way we would love to see you get involved is by having a presence on Friday, August 24th of Orientation. Friday is the day that the majority of students move-in to their residence halls and begin making Gonzaga their home. This is where you could come in, by helping students move-in, answering questions, giving directions, and having that warm and welcoming presence. It would also be a great way for you to connect with students and their families on a personal level. The move-in process on Friday lasts from around 8am – 4pm. We would greatly appreciate it if you could commit at least two hours on that day to help with the above mentioned tasks. Thank you for your continuous support of Orientation.

Thank you,

Orientation Core

VIDEO: We’re Looking Forward to Seeing You

Director’s Corner: The Parent & Family Relations Office

The Parent and Family Relations office is excited to enter their junior year at Gonzaga University this fall. Be sure to drop off goodies on September 15th to show your support and help celebrate the 3rd year of establishment for the office. Beginning over Orientation weekend, the P&F office provides support for parents and families as students embark on their Gonzaga journey. The P&F office guides the parents and families of GU students in the process of “letting go,” and coaching parents to guide from the side. Gonzaga prides itself on community and the P&F office is here to guide and walk with families to fully embrace their GU experience.

Stay connected with the P&F office:

Follow our Tweets:

Read the Newsletter:

Parent & Family Initiative: Gonzaga University Family Award of the Year

Honoring an outstanding parent/family reminds the GU community that families are an essential part of the support network for our students. Their dedication and determination help our students achieve their higher education goals. At GU “family” can be defined as individuals and group members who support their student’s success.  Family members include parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, extended relations, and close friends. The Gonzaga Parent/Family of the Year letter/essay contest is intended to celebrate the supportive role families play in the lives of students and the University community. The Family of the Year Award is one of the P&F office’s favorite initiatives! The parents and families who are nominated are invited to the Student Life awards convocation lunch and awards ceremony in May, where they are recognized with a certificate of nomination! The GU Family of the year receives one $150 bookstore voucher and a congratulatory letter from the V.P. Student Life, Sue Weitz. The Gonzaga Parent Advisor Newsletter proudly publishes the family nomination letter for the GU community to read, engage with and learn from the family’s GU experience!

Staff Highlight: Amy Walker

Meet Amy Walker, director of the Parent and Families Office:

Q: What is the silliest question parents has ever asked you?

A: Will Spike sing happy birthday on for my daughter on the first day of class?

Q: What is the most cherished memory you have witnessed in working alongside parents & families?

A: I think any time when I’ve been able to help parents through a difficult time, like crisis, is something I cherish.

Q: Are you a parent yourself?

A: Yes, I have two kids: Ella, 8 (full of sass), and Noah, 6 (Spike’s best friend)

Q: What is your favorite memory as a parent?

A: When you can see them falling in love with something, or understanding something, or connecting with something in the world.

Q: What is your favorite memory as an undergraduate?

A: Going to football games (GO WSU!), and developing lifelong friendships.

Director’s Corner: Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC)

It hardly seems like the committed staff of UMEC has had time to come up for air since graduation back in May. “Those lazy crazy-hazy days of summer,” Nat King Cole sung about have been consistently “crazy-hazy” for us.  The majority of the summer months have been devoted to juggling workloads with one staff vacancy and absence of cherished assistant Deb Ellis, who works ten months. Dutifully planning activities for 2012-13 and preparing for BRIDGE Summer pre-orientation has been the primary focus.  Coordinating efforts for the entire academic year, while most of the campus community is mentally (and literally physically) on vacation mode, requires tremendous dedication whether its 50 or 99 degrees outside.

In my spare time, a search was conducted to fill the UMEC Assistant Director position. After one candidate withdrawal, twelve Skype interviews, and five on-campus interviews and presentations later, one individual eagerly accepted. He will be greeted cordiality in true Gonzaga fashion his first week – meetings and a stack of projects! (See staff highlight below)

Although the workload hasn’t slowed down much this summer, occasional visitors, postcards and even text messages, I receive from students who are miles away, are inspirational reminders that our efforts are not in vain and reiterates that UMEC helps many find a sense of belonging at Gonzaga.

Throughout the year, don’t forget to check out the UMEC homepage for upcoming events.  Remember to rejuvenate yourselves during the remaining lazy crazy-hazy summer days!

-Tracy Ellis-Ward, Director of UMEC