Shaping the Transformative Cougar Experience at Washington State University
Mary Jo Gonzales, Vice President of Student Affairs
Mary Jo Gonzales brings a wealth of experience and an abundance of enthusiasm to her position of Vice President of Student Affairs at Washington State University.
As a System Vice President, her leadership of student development extends to six campuses, guiding a myriad of units in providing top-notch, specialized student services that support every WSU student.
Arriving in February after serving as interim in a similar position at the University of Rhode Island, Gonzales has been laser-focused on helping transform WSU’s campuses into places where each student can thrive and earn degrees that will propel them into their chosen fields and as leaders in their communities.
Raising the bar
Gonzales recently established several key initiatives that will have a significant impact on the transformative student experience at WSU:
- Benchmark and assess current programs and services, including conducting external reviews, ensure efforts meet the contemporary and emerging needs of students
- Reorganize, realign, and consolidate services to maximize staff expertise, improve efficiencies, and leverage resources effectively
- Increase focus on improving the campus culture and climate for diverse students and staff
In addition to transforming support programs and services, Mary Jo has also been instrumental in opening several new state-of-the-art facilities that help foster student success:
Having earned both a master’s degree in communications and Ph.D. in Education at WSU, Gonzales is respected across the nation as a student affairs professional. The NASPA Foundation, a national group dedicated to research, advancement, and sustainability of the student affairs profession, selected her as a 2018 Pillar of the Profession for her outstanding contributions to the field. She previously served as the inaugural director of NASPA’s Escaleras Institute and from 2013-2016 she chaired the NASPA National Excellence Awards Committee.
While working as associate dean of students and director of the Academic Success Center at Iowa State University in 2013, she was honored with an award as “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.
Leading from the heart
As a low-income, first-generation college student, Latina, and single mother, Gonzales has dedicated her life to leading efforts 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.
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’s 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.