"Good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience."
Paul Persons - Advisor of the Year - 1998
Department of Political Science
Thumb through the notebook containing support documents by colleagues and former students of Political Science professor Paul Persons and it's easy to see why the Faculty Recognition and Support Committee has selected him as the Outstanding Academic Advisor for 1998. Writes a student who once served as administrative director of the Community Legal Information Center, "Paul taught the interns to read between the lines, to look beyond the obvious issues, and decipher the truth." And there's this: "Paul is a very down to earth person; he does not flaunt his achievements or intimidate his students. It is his creed to be respectful, fair, and generous."
Less easy to understand is how Persons stays on top of a schedule that includes teaching a minimum of two classes per semester, supervising three internship programs (Workers Rights at CLIC, Environmental Advocates, and the County Jail Law Program) as well as all the non-CLIC legal studies internships, advising students in the Pre-Law program, attending conferences and maintaining active membership in a number of professional organizations, while also practicing law, coaching soccer, and spending time at home. Juggling his many responsibilities means that he must occasionally turn away clients, something he does with reluctance. "We're in a crisis right now, more so than any time in my lifetime, in terms of the number of people who just don't have access to justice," he said. He praised the work of CSU, Chico interns who assist the public in various administrative contexts. "We have a jewel of a resource combining the best of two worlds - academics and practical experience with community service. Each of these students puts in a minimum of 120 hours a semester for three units, and some put in a lot more. It's incredible. "
Persons graduated from Chico State in 1973 and attended the New College of Law in San Francisco, where he worked as a Vista volunteer in the Western Addition legal services office and also received a Reggie scholarship from Howard University to assist low-income people. He returned to Chico in 1979. "I thought maybe I'd teach for a year, and I'm still here," he said, sounding a note of mild surprise.
That he enjoys teaching and advising comes across clearly when he talks about some of the students and programs he has been instrumental in supporting. In the file compiled by the Advising Office, in fact, is a letter from the director of admissions for a Sacramento law school thanking him for recommending a particular student.
"There's an incredible need for good attorneys willing to do public service work," he said. "And they can still make a decent living. I try to teach people how they can be community service attorneys and still survive. A law firm is not the only option out there."
The FRAS selection is step one in a process by which Persons is also nominated for an award from the National Academic Advising Association. "I try to provide options that enable students to determine what is best for them, despite the many strings pulling them in different directions," Persons wrote of his advising philosophy.
Comments from Inside Chico State April 30, 1998