Basketball Team Prompts Gonzaga's Growth Spurt

Mar 22, 2013

Gonzaga University’s name is seemingly everywhere this month – including the covers of magazines and newspapers, and mentions on NPR. Paige Browning explains that, while the basketball program gets more name recognition, the school is on a growth spurt.

  “When I was a senior in high school I really started following them, you know watching every game,” says Doug Chesney, the senior class representative for the student section group the Kennel Club. Chesney grew up outside of San Francisco, but says when he was accepted to Gonzaga he felt part of something bigger.

This is no unique story to Julie McCulloh, the school’s Dean of Admission.

McCulloh: “In fact you can hear stories now sometimes from the student body about students who first heard about Gonzaga through basketball… The first run was in 1999 and we noticed that our inquiries began going up.”

Since that year Gonzaga has added more than 3,000 students, marking a growth of 70 percent from 1999 to 2012. By comparison, Washington State University’s enrollment increased by about 7 percent during that time span.

McCulloh says while basketball gets the school attention, her office must convince students why the academics are great too. She mentions the 75 undergrad programs, the law school and doctoral program in nursing.

For people who don’t live in Spokane, she talks up the online programs.

McCulloh: “And then that the community is a community ... that really encourages one another to be their best.”

Doug Chesney could probably talk basketball all day, but in his senior year he’s reflecting on the community, too.

Chesney “It’s just been such a wonderful time here at Gonzaga," he says. "Being at the games, jumping up and down with 1,200 students, there’s honestly just nothing like it in the nation.”

McCulloh: “And it’s so fun because both the men and the women have expressed such gratitude to the Spokane community. You hear repeatedly how grateful they are for the support.”

With 7,600 students, McCulloh expects the school to keep growing steadily.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio