Gussin Spiritan Division of Academic Programs

A first-year experience for students qualified through the admissions process

The Robert and Patricia Gussin Spiritan Division of Academic Programs or Gussin Spiritan Division (GSD) is a comprehensive network of academic programs, support services and faculty that help a select group of students strengthen their skills to become successful learners within their chosen programs of study while at Duquesne University-and beyond!

As a GSD student, you spend at least your first academic year enrolled in the program. 

You join the hundreds of students who have built a foundation of academic success with the skills learned with the GSD to graduate not only with a degree, but also with competencies that improve their entire futures. Many have also continued to pursue graduate studies.

Division students are bolstered from the beginning with exceptional resources, such as immersive support from the Michael P. Weber Learning Skills Center.

You also find friendships and a community of support with other GSD students that can last a lifetime.

Questions? Check out our FAQs at the bottom of the page!

Program Information

Minimum first academic year, including mandatory summer session prior to fall start.



Required Credit Hours


Explore all Spiritan Division & Learning Skills Center Services

GSD Student of the Year Award Winners

Owen Michener at podium

I believe that attending Duquesne and joining the GSD is the best decision I’ve made in my life.”

2023-2024 GSD Student of the Year, Owen Michener '25, Computer Science and Cybersecurity
Owen's Journey
John Sparber at podium

The Division gave me a chance to deepen my academic understanding, hone my leadership skills, and get involved in the campus community.”

2023-2024 GSD Student of the Year, John Sparber '25, Business Finance
Why Gussin Won Out

Gussin Spiritan Division Leadership

Judith Griggs Ph.D., M.A., B.S.

Director, Gussin Spiritan Division and Michael P. Weber Learning Skills Center

Dr. Judith Griggs

Meet Our Dedicated Team!

Dr. Uhuru Hotep

Dr. Uhuru Hotep

Associate Director

Vicki Bush

Vicki Bush

Associate Director of Counseling Services, Academic Advisor/Student Success Coach

Tamia Pringle

Tamia Pringle

Office Manager

Ameya Ranade

Ameya Ranade

Assistant to Director of Retention and Evaluation

Josephine Rizzo

Josephine Rizzo

PA Acts Advisor, Reading Specialist

April Wade

April Wade

Assistant Director

Our Benefactors

Dr. Robert Gussin, P’59, GP’61, understands the difficulties many students face in the transition from high school to higher education.

A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Scott Township, he faced obstacles when he first came to our Bluff.

His personal experience moved him and his wife, Dr. Patricia Gussin, to establish two generous endowments for Duquesne’s Spiritan Division of Academic Programs.

He persevered through undergraduate and graduate pharmacy school, going on to a successful career and retiring as corporate vice president of Johnson & Johnson.

Gussin benefactors

Dr. Gussin:

“As with many young folks coming out of high school, I think I was not really well prepared for college,” Gussin said. “I struggled through the first two years without any extra help.”


Being a GSD student is its own special experience.

The Gussin Spiritan Division is an initiative that allows first-year students and students new to the University to grow and develop at their own pace. The Division’s faculty and staff are selected for their dedication to helping each student achieve the highest level of academic success possible.

Follow the standard Duquesne University admissions process and the admissions staff will make a determination based on your application. If you qualify, the admissions team will notify you.  

Admission to the GSD means that you are admitted to Duquesne so long as you enroll as a GSD student for at least your first year.  

The GSD uses intellectual potential as the overriding criterion for University admission.

After the summer bridge portion of the program, students are fully matriculated in the fall semester and become Duquesne University students.

The only distinction is that you will be in the division for at least one full academic year and will transfer to the respective college that houses your major once the requirements for the division and the school/college are met.
The summer session is a total of 5 weeks residential program.

For the 2024-25 academic year, the summer 2024 session begins Sunday, June 30th, and ends Friday, August 2nd.

The move-in and the Parent-Student Orientation is scheduled on Sunday, June 30th. Classes begin the following Monday, the 1st of July and end on Friday, August 2nd.

The closing ceremony will be hosted on Thursday, August 1st.

Retention Data for Freshman Classes: 

First to second year retention from 1997 (inception of the division) – 2022

  • 80% = GSD compared to
  • 86% = university at large freshman class

Note: The fall 2023 to spring 2024 retention for the GSD freshman class is 94%. 

Graduation Rate for GSD & University at large:

  • 53% = GSD (4 - year undergraduate degree) to
  • 67% = University (4 - year undergraduate degree also includes GSD undergraduates)
  • 47% = National

College and Schools Graduation Rates:

Students who began their courses of study at Duquesne as GSD students have graduated from every school of the University.

The following is based on 636 graduates as of spring 2023.

45.4% = Liberal Arts College, 38.7% = Business, 9.7% = Education, 1.9% = Natural and Environmental Sciences, 2.2% = Nursing, 0.5% = Music, 0.3% = Health Sciences, 0.3% = Pharmacy, 0.3% = Leadership

Gussin students benefit from a number of services that empower them as lifelong learners. 


  • Personalized advisement
  • Early registration 
  • Small classes 
  • Free and unlimited tutoring throughout undergraduate studies: individual, small group, workshop, and seminar
  • Reading specialists 
  • Computer and writing labs 
  • Quality Point Average projection 
  • Service-learning opportunities 
  • Book discussions 
  • First-year electronic portfolio reviews 

 Review and Support 

  • Weekly meetings with academic advisors 
  • Attendance tracking with outreach if needed 
  • Academic progress reports on all students 
  • Academic intervention committee meetings 
  • Three faculty meetings per semester


  • Individual 
  • Small group 
  • Personal adjustment 
  • Financial 
  • Career 


  • Individualized prescribed services based on diagnostic testing 
  • Fall and Spring assessment and review 
  • Student assessment of faculty instruction 
  • Faculty assessment of Division services 
  • Division exit interview 

Additionally, all GSD staff members are Certified Academic Life Coaches.Academic Life Coaching
In general, once you complete the GSD curriculum, you may declare your major and complete an internal transfer to the college / school where you have been admitted that houses your major. 

If you have not completed the GSD curricular requirements and/or the internal transfer requirements of your school of major, i.e. minimum QPA, you will remain in the GSD until you are able to transfer.

Check with the GSD Academic Advisor/Senior Student Success Coach for clarification.
Yes, as a GSD student you take the same courses as other first-year students, and these courses count towards your degree, either as BRIDGES or elective courses.

The only change in your curriculum requirements involves the mandatory Field Observation course that spans both semesters, along with the required summer coursework. 

You will take the same number of credits during your first year, but they will be spread out to include the summer session, therefore making the fall and spring courseload a bit more manageable.
The GSD operates as a cohort model, and you will be with each other in a series of “anchor” courses.

These are University BRIDGES courses and are taught by faculty hand-selected for their dedication to and experience in working with students within the framework of the Division’s philosophy, which is to provide the broadest possible support so that the student can be academically successful.

The remainder of the freshman courses, including introductory courses in the intended major, will be with the general University population.
Perhaps! Most majors require you complete 120 or more credits to be eligible for graduation—no matter how many years it may take to earn those credits.

It is critical, however, that those credits be in courses listed by your school as satisfying the requirements for the major and degree. Some programs, such as Pharmacy, Nursing, and Health Sciences, require more credits and generally cannot be completed in four years.

Staying in touch with the GSD Academic Advisor/Student Success Coach will ensure you stay on track in your academic program!

Contact Us!

Gussin Spiritan Division