Shaping the Transformative Cougar Experience at Washington State University
Mary Jo Gonzales, Vice President of Student Affairs
As a low-income, first-generation college student, Latina, and single mother, Mary Jo Gonzales has dedicated her life to leading efforts with energy and enthusiasm which help individuals achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals. In fact, she is known for leading groups through singing the Cougar fight song at meetings or yelling “Go Cougs!” to students passing her in the hallway.
An accomplished alumnus, Gonzales returned to WSU as the vice president of Student Affairs in 2017. Serving as a system vice president, her leadership of student development extends to six campuses, guiding a myriad of units in providing top-notch, specialized services that support every WSU student.
Gonzales oversees 22 departments on the Pullman campus whose services encompass four major areas pertaining to campus health and safety; facilities and essential services; student leadership and engagement; and community, equity, and inclusive excellence. She also leads the University’s Campus Culture and Climate initiative to create a more inclusive and welcoming community at WSU campuses statewide and works in collaboration with President Kirk Schulz on the Drive to 25 initiative.
Additionally, Gonzales works to accomplish a number of strategic initiatives for the division including increasing senior leadership engagement with students, aligning the division to the Student Affairs Models of Practice and increasing fundraising and alumni engagement.
Before coming to WSU, Gonzales served as the assistant vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students at the University of Rhode Island (URI). She also served as the interim vice president where she supervised a comprehensive student services portfolio. Before her work at Rhode Island, she was the associate dean of students at Iowa State University and director of the Academic Success Center at Dickinson State University.
Gonzales is respected across the nation as a student affairs professional. She received one of the profession’s highest honors in 2018 when The Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Foundation selected her for a “Pillar of the Profession” Award based on her outstanding contributions to the field.
She is currently serving a two-year term on the NASPA Board as the director of the Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Division and previously held positions as the inaugural director of NASPA’s Escaleras Institute, chaired the NASPA National Excellence Awards Committee from 2013-2016, and co-chaired College Board’s Prepárate: Educating Latinos for the Future of America national conference from 2012-2015.
While working as associate dean of students and director of the Academic Success Center at Iowa State University in 2013, Gonzales was honored with an award of “Women Impacting ISU” for her role in mentoring and cultivating a community focused on student success. She also received a Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award from Washington State University for her efforts to advance diversity, inclusion, and equity as a graduate student.
Gonzales earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from San Jose State University, and her master’s degree in communications and Ph.D. in education from Washington State University. She is thrilled to be back home with her Cougar family and lead a team of dedicated, committed Student Affairs professionals. As a WSU graduate, she is honored to support her fellow Cougs as they learn, prepare to head across the stage at graduation, and go on to become amazing alumni all over the world.
In her personal time, Gonzales enjoys traveling and spending time with her daughter Lucinda who recently graduated from the University of Rhode Island. She also enjoys cooking and believes in sharing meals with friends, family, and colleagues as a way of bringing people together.