Case Study: Gonzaga Is for Real

Before I was a graduate student in the School of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, I was an employee at Gonzaga Law School. I was hired as the marketing and communications manager, a job which covered everything from social media to magazine production to digital advertising to graphic design to … (you get the idea). Though my “tenure” lasted less than two years due to an unexpected career opportunity I couldn’t pass, I will forever cherish the time I had, the friends I made, and the work that was done.

One of my favorite memories relates to the Jimmy Kimmel “feud” of 2019. For those uninitiated, here is a good recap of what went down. In short, ABC late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel brought up Gonzaga’s annual presence in the NCAA March Madness tournament, joking about how Gonzaga probably wasn’t even a real place anyways. The small quip turned into a big deal.

The Zag community responded in full. As the MarCom rep for the law school, my job was to keep up. All “to-dos” were postponed until the Jimmy Kimmel storm cleared. Main campus’ MarCom felt the brunt of it, and for once I was thankful not to be included in all their fancy meetings. Back at the law school, however, we soon got word that Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General (AG), would be stopping by GU Law to throw his support behind the school—and potentially film something with the Dean.

We had four hours notice. I tried to loop in my MarCom colleagues for support, but they were all swamped with their own projects and initiatives.

“Can you come help? This could be huge!”

“Sorry, I have a video shoot with the mayor.” And so on.

So the law school brainstormed. It was the Dean, my assistant, some professors, and myself. We proposed some ideas, sent notes to the AG’s communications representative, got feedback, and then gathered the troops (the students) to meet in the courtroom at noon. The core team went back and forth, deciding on costumes, cameras, phones — what should be said, what should not be said.

In the end, the AG swore on a Bible that Gonzaga “existed,” as I filmed on an iPhone (which I took from a random person in the crowd because it had the best camera available). The filming was electric. I had never had so much fun as a communications professional in all my life. We posted to social media, the main GU channels shared it, and it went nuts.

Later that night, Jimmy Kimmel responded, once again, to Gonzaga’s insistence that it was indeed a real place. Kimmel didn’t show the main campus video with the mayor, or the four other projects that the university came up with that day. He showed our crazy, shaky-iPhone courtroom scene, complete with a Dean, an AG, and a crowd of passionate Law Zags.

Why am I telling you this story? Because opportunity is what makes Gonzaga special, and I’m proud to have helped capture this frenetic, unexpected moment. I think this energy is built into the Zag culture. Think big, act fast, and go with your gut. The world is waiting for you to hit play.