The Position


Reporting to the vice provost for student affairs (VPSA), the dean for student wellbeing advances the Gonzaga University ethos of cura personalis, or care of the whole person, and prioritizes student wellbeing and flourishing as a foundation for student success. The dean serves as a leading advocate and advisor through strategies designed to meet the ever-changing needs of an increasingly diverse generation of students. They demonstrate expertise while working collaboratively with others across the university and the Spokane community to advance university initiatives and student affairs goals for student learning and success.

The dean provides direction and oversees approximately 40 staff responsible for responding to issues critical to students’ educational experiences and holistic development. The dean addresses inequities in access to student support services by developing policy and practice solutions, and leads, advocates, and supports the design, development, implementation, assessment, and continuous improvement of programs and services that promote student wellbeing and flourishing. The dean’s administrative portfolio includes budgetary management of almost $2.5 million and oversight for the following areas: center for cura personalis (student outreach and support), student health, counseling and wellness, and the resolution center for student conduct and conflict. In addition, there is a newly created associate dean position that may oversee student care, advocacy, and resolution. However, this position’s scope of responsibilities has been intentionally left open for consideration by a new dean.

Additional responsibilities of the position:

  • Provide identity-conscious and culturally competent approaches in supervision and mentoring for direct and indirect reports, adjusting leadership style to achieve the best results.
  • Oversee university processes for threat assessment, behavioral intervention, and crisis support and develop optimal case management processes; serve on emergency management teams, including as a critical incident coordinator as needed.
  • Serve as a consultant and thought leader regarding managing response to student incidents of complexity and crisis; provide training for managing student crises and emergencies.
  • Work with students, faculty, and staff to provide vision, planning, and successful strategies to execute student wellbeing initiatives utilizing data, socioecological framing, and contemporary practices; promote innovation, effective praxis, and an ethos of cura personalis.
  • Synthesize, integrate, align, and provide direction, leadership, and evaluation of student wellbeing programs and services.
  • Research and deliver innovative and culturally relevant wellbeing services and programs customized to Gonzaga’s increasingly diverse student body.
  • Establish, review, and update compliance and practice-based policies, including evidence-based solutions to support student wellbeing and flourishing.
  • Advance and support systems and processes for addressing student conduct and conflict, including the student code of conduct; may serve as an appellate officer when needed for student conduct processes.
  • Oversee and monitor assigned some student affairs compliance activities; work closely with general counsel and risk management to review policies, assess risk, and advise the VPSA on issues critical to the wellbeing of Gonzaga students.
  • Oversee budgets and fee structures and develop budgetary plans to provide optimal wellbeing support for all students.


A master’s degree in health, counseling, wellness, student affairs administration, higher education, or a related field and significant and progressive relevant leadership experience with a track record of success are required. The successful candidate must demonstrate expertise in serving a complex and diverse student community, experience articulating and implementing collaborative models of care, and a strong commitment to creating equitable and inclusive campus environments, systems, programs, and policies.

Additionally, stakeholders indicated the following as essential characteristics and attributes for the dean of student wellbeing:

  • Fosters a welcoming, inclusive environment for students, staff, and university colleagues.
  • Meets targets, develops innovative solutions, and continuously improves programmatic, service, and operational efforts; able to align practices with intention, influence implementation, and empower staff.
  • Experienced in managing and overseeing crisis response, addressing and supporting mental health issues, and establishing proactive mechanisms to improve student flourishing and retention.
  • Actively builds relationships and demonstrates a commitment to collaboration and inclusion.
  • Works with colleagues, direct and indirect reports, and students in ways that support institutional cultural fluency, recognizing that feeling valued and respected is critical to meeting the needs and expectations of a diverse student body.
  • Addresses and resolves conflicts promptly, fairly, and equitably.
  • Communicates regularly with all team members through multiple channels and mechanisms.
  • Mentors staff for career development; engages with staff as thought partners and collaborators.
  • Demonstrates mutual commitment to our shared project by holding themselves and others responsible for actions, providing clear and consistent expectations, and aligning activities with ethical and professional standards.
  • Models wellbeing, understands and has experience in areas under their supervision, and proactively encourages staff to practice wellbeing.
  • Invested and engaged in current research, trends, and best practices; able to bring multiple perspectives to discussions.
  • Culturally competent regarding wellbeing and how this may look different for diverse populations.
  • Flexible, adaptable, strategic, and a relational leader, excited and balanced, able to bring people along.


In January 2022, student affairs at Gonzaga University reorganized and adopted a “community of practice” model (Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder, 2022), supporting integrated approaches to three pillars: diversity, equity, & inclusion, integrated approach to student learning & development, and student wellbeing & flourishing. Communities of practice are groupings of related functional areas and comprised of staff whose knowledge and skills guide practice for the entire student affairs division in advancing learning outcomes and educational strategies for each pillar. A dean leads each community of practice, guiding efforts to deepen knowledge and expertise. In the fall of 2021, the former dean of student wellbeing accepted a senior student affairs officer position at a liberal arts university in Virginia. The director of the resolution center for student conduct and conflict staff was appointed interim dean to oversee the area during the national search.


Leveraging Gonzaga’s innovative environment and culture of open dialogue and curiosity, consistent with the Jesuit tradition, student affairs is establishing a unique and dynamic vision for their purpose, practice, and impact on students through holistic and learning-centered approaches to community building and student development. Finding a leader who views education as a transformative experience is essential to advancing this exciting strategy.

The dean of student wellbeing position represents an emerging focus in student affairs and reflects the inventive and pioneering style of the vice provost of student affairs. Evidencing the guiding principle of “cura personalis,” Gonzaga seeks to create positive and proactive synergies among the functional areas critical to responding to imbalances in student wellbeing and flourishing; the new dean will be the principal architect of formalizing the organizational structure and positioning Gonzaga as a strategic leader in those areas. Expertise in crisis and routine case management, a broad understanding of relevant functional areas, and deep collaboration across student affairs and the institution are paramount in bringing the vision to fruition. The new dean must appreciate the connection between wellbeing and the functional areas they supervise. They must be energized to advance others’ endorsement and commitment, empowering the community to develop the “whole person.”

The intersections of many complex variables, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a new VPSA and restructuring of the student affairs organization, accelerating student mental health concerns, decreasing student engagement, and higher-than-normal staff turnover across student affairs (consistent across higher education) have created fatigue among the wellbeing and flourishing staff, who are deeply involved with the most difficult student issues. The staff dynamics allow an accomplished leader to reinvigorate and empower the team, improve collaboration, and strengthen staff satisfaction and retention.


At an appropriate interval after joining Gonzaga University, the following items will define success for the dean:

  • Gonzaga University has a clear and well-socialized definition of wellbeing and flourishing; assessment processes and systems are developed and implemented.
  • The dean has strengthened team and individual retention and morale; opportunities for team development and support recognition are in place.
  • Recruitment, onboarding, and retention practices in student wellbeing and flourishing community of practice support the university and student affairs goals of increasing diversity and marginalized populations in the department.
  • Restorative justice and alternative conflict resolution methods have been implemented across student affairs and the institution.
  • Case management processes are optimized across the department and communicated across student affairs and the institution.
  • The dean is known for their commitment to learning and aligning practice with Gonzaga’s mission; they demonstrate the ability to individually and collaboratively leverage the Jesuit tradition of distinctive learning to improve the wellbeing and flourishing of staff and students.

Institution & Location


The division of student affairs at Gonzaga University is responsible for facilitating and supporting learning, living, and thriving outside of the classroom. The professionals who work in student affairs are committed to helping all students create lives of leadership and service for the common good.

Under the leadership of Dr. Kent Porterfield, the division of student affairs underwent a reorganization in January 2022, adopting a “community of practice (CoP)” model to describe three groupings of functional areas. The CoPs are based on three pillars that guide the division’s work; these pillars were selected based on the belief that the skills and experiences they represent are integral to fulfilling a Jesuit education and will support students in maximizing their experience. Each person in student affairs is responsible for infusing the divisional pillars into their work. The three divisional pillars are:

  • Diversity, equity, & inclusion
  • Integrated approach to student learning & development
  • Student wellbeing & flourishing

The three CoP groups are named after the three pillars described above. For Gonzaga, the CoP model acts as a structural organizational tool, cementing the divisional commitment to advance each pillar. Each of the communities of practice is led by a dean who guides the team to deepen their knowledge and expertise in their practice.

Learn more about the communities of practice in student affairs at Gonzaga University here

Student affairs organizational chart


Dr. Kent Porterfield, Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Dr. Kent Porterfield was appointed vice provost for student affairs in July 2020. He oversees the student affairs division and promotes an educational experience that emphasizes the development of the whole student—intellectual, spiritual, cultural, physical, and emotional.

As a first-generation college student, Porterfield experienced the transformative power of higher education. He appreciates having mentors who believed in him and helped him grow. This support inspires his work today; he believes his purpose is to help students to find their purpose, voice, and passions and to prepare themselves for lives of significant meaning, devotion, and fulfillment. Porterfield strives to foster a climate at Gonzaga University where every student feels respected and valued and has a deep sense of belonging. He calls on the student affairs division to cultivate an educational experience where students will come to know themselves better, learn about the views and experiences of others, and take action that builds just communities; he envisions student affairs as the place where life and learning unite.

Porterfield’s career in higher education spans three decades, including nearly 23 years as a senior student affairs officer. In his previous role, Porterfield served as vice president for student development at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit, Catholic research university in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to Saint Louis University, he served as vice president for student affairs at Northwest Missouri State University. Porterfield is a national leader in the student affairs field, having served as president of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) from 2014-2015. He is also a past president of the Missouri College Personnel Association, and a recipient of ACPA’s Annuit Coeptis Senior Professional Award, Diamond Honoree recognition for outstanding contributions in the field of student affairs, and the Outstanding State Division President Award.

Porterfield’s professional presentations and publications have engaged a range of student affairs topics, including leadership; diversity, equity, and inclusion; rethinking student affairs practice; student learning; retention; and student success. In his career, he has overseen many areas of student life, including athletics, campus ministry, campus recreation, cross-cultural center, career services, dean of students office, health and counseling services, housing and residence life, international services, multicultural affairs, service and community engagement, disability services, student union/center, student academic success, student conduct, student involvement, parent and family programs, and auxiliary services.



Gonzaga University is a private liberal arts university established in 1887 in Spokane, Washington. The university is rooted in its unique identity grounded in a Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic tradition, where students, faculty, and staff seek to serve the common good. The Gonzaga mission encourages an experience that fosters a commitment to the dignity of the human person. The Jesuit-inspired, liberal arts-based tradition of reflection and action ensures the development of the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. Gonzaga offers 75 undergraduate majors and programs, 26 master’s degrees, and several PhD programs to over 7,200 enrolled students. Gonzaga calls students to live, learn, and explore, centering community as the cornerstone of the student experience.

Mission Statement

Statement of Affirmation

Strategic Planning


Thayne McCulloh, President

Dr. Thayne McCulloh holds a BA from Gonzaga (1989) and was awarded a PhD in experimental social psychology from Oxford University, England (1998). He began working at Gonzaga in 1990, and from his roots in student affairs, has remained fundamentally focused on students. He is deeply committed to a broadly based liberal arts education that prepares students to be critical thinkers, outstanding professionals, and living exemplars of the Jesuit imperative to be men and women with and for others.

McCulloh’s tenure has been marked by initiatives related to community engagement, institutional sustainability, and an increase in institutional prestige and recognition. More than $200 million in new construction and campus improvements have been completed since his inauguration in 2010, including major projects such as the Boone Avenue retail center (2013), the John J. Hemmingson Center (2015), the Stevens Center for Tennis and Golf (2014), the Volkar Center for Athletic Achievement (2017), the Woldson Performing Arts Center (2019) and the Della Strada Jesuit Community (2017). Gonzaga University launched its most ambitious fundraising effort to date, the $250 million “Gonzaga Will” campaign, in October 2015. Gonzaga closed the campaign in 2018, raising $355 million from more than 40,000 donors to support student scholarships and academic and student programs, as well as significant campus improvements.

A committed leader in Catholic and Jesuit higher education, McCulloh currently serves as vice chair of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), is vice chair of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), and has been recognized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators as Region V and VI president of the year for his unwavering commitment to students and their development. Recognizing the symbiotic relationship between Gonzaga University and the local Spokane community, McCulloh has been actively involved in the University District Public Development Authority and Development Association, has served as a member of the Providence Health and Services board, and is a member of the Nazareth Guild board of directors, among other organizations.



Total enrollment (fall 2021): 7,295

Male: 46%

Female: 54%

Retention rate: 94%

White: 66%

African American: 1%

Asian: 6%

Hispanic: 12%

Two or more races: 7%

Race unknown: 3%

Non-resident: 2%


See here for the benefits offered at Gonzaga University.

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position and questions about the status of the search may be emailed to Kara Kravetz Cupoli at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

The salary for this position is $120,000 to $125,000

Visit the Gonzaga University website at  

Gonzaga University is a Jesuit, Catholic, humanistic institution, and is therefore interested in candidates who will contribute to its distinctive mission. Gonzaga University is a committed EEO/AA employer and diversity candidates are encouraged to apply. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to their disability status and/or protected veteran status.

Diversity affirms our faith-inspired commitment to an inclusive community where human differences thrive within our living, working and learning environment.