Waddell's Mission to Diversify Chico

By: Joserolando Bravo

In a sunlit room with blank walls and limited space, a man sits behind his wooden desk, laughing and using his fingers to count. Chuckling to himself, he struggles to remember all the names of the students he has recruited to the California State University, Chico Department of Journalism and Public Relations.

Dave Waddell, a Chico State professor emeritus, continues to teach as a faculty member of the journalism and PR department. With 40 years of experience in journalism, the Fresno, California, native chose Chico, a small town with a university known for its accredited journalism program.

In his years at Chico State, Waddell has taught many journalism courses, including a diversity/journalism/leadership class he started himself. He also advised the award-winning student newspaper, The Orion, along with a club he helped found, Journalists United for a Stronger Tomorrow (JUST). But his job didn’t stop there.

For many years, Waddell made the effort to help students make their way to Chico State, through support and mentoring, all while trying to diversify a program he’s been a part of since 1996.

Waddell explains that he feels that diversity is important at a university— whether it is diversity of ideas, race, ethnic backgrounds, or economic differences.

Dave Waddell: Profile
Professor Waddell teaching a journalism class.
Since 2006, with the help of a four-year $59,000 corporate grant from MediaNews Group Inc., Waddell embarked on his mission to reach out to prospective student-journalists from diverse backgrounds and help them through their journey to Chico State.

Going above the call of duty, Waddell takes it upon himself to recruit for the department on his own time, which is not common for faculty members.

“The money I raised for the University was mostly used for scholarships and internships for journalism students,” Waddell said.

Waddell uses his connections to recruit students from various community colleges. By creating a welcoming environment and experience, he motivates students to make the decision to attend Chico State. Waddell used funds from the grant to fly students up to see the campus, provide them with a place to stay for the night, and even take them out for a bite to eat.

“My strategy when I started was to go to diverse communities with good journalism programs,” said Waddell. “And I think it worked out.”

To say Waddell’s mission “worked out” is an understatement. According to statistics from the Chico State Office of Institutional Research, the percent of Hispanics in the news option major doubled between 2005 and 2010 from 12 to 24 percent.

With seven Waddell recruits currently enrolled, Waddell has recruited a total of 34 students from communities spanning from San Diego to Oakland.

Ernesto Rivera, managing editor at The Orion, is one of those recruits. He knows firsthand the lengths Waddell takes for the benefit of the students.

“Dave is the main reason why Chico became an opportunity for me,” said Rivera. “He opened up doors I would’ve never known were there.”

As a former Southwestern College (SWC) student from Chula Vista, California, Rivera first met Waddell on one of his trips down to The Southwestern College Sun, SWC’s collegiate newspaper.

“I think Dave has done an incredible thing by trying to diversify this department,” said Rivera.

As described by Rivera, SWC has a very diverse community with a large Hispanic population. Waddell has recruited 18 students from SWC, more than any other college.

In 2012, Waddell earned the Conversations on Diversity Lifetime Achievement Award for his student recruitment and retention efforts.

While funds from the previously mentioned grant are no longer available, Waddell continues to visit community colleges every fall with support from faculty and the department.

“I have felt a lot of support from administrators all the way up,” said Waddell. “We’ve been able to do it every year, one way or another.”

This year, he is currently working with journalism department Chair Susan Wiesinger to obtain another grant that would contribute to his mission of bringing diversity to the department and adding to his long list of success stories.