Office of Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement Spotlights

Chico Open Source Consortium

This week, Civic Engagement would like to shine the spotlight on Geoff Lawson and Kevin Buffardi, co-founders of  the Chico Open Source Consortium (COSC). Geoff Lawson is a Software Engineer at and Kevin Buffardi is a professor of Computer Science at CSU Chico. The two of them founded the COSC in 2014 to foster collaboration between Chico State students and local software professionals. Each semester, Lawson and other software engineers have mentored students as they work on software development team projects in their classes. After graduation, some students have gone on to join Lawson at

Over the three years of collaboration, there have been several dozen students contributing to the BossyUI project. BossyUI ( is an open source toolkit that makes it easier for web developers to integrate common components, such as calendars or automatically validating text fields for email or phone numbers, on their websites. Buffardi found that by working side-by-side with professionals, students on the BossyUI project get a unique experience and pick up the jargon and work habits of the professionals. After a semester of working with software professionals, students tend to feel more confident transitioning from a classroom environment to being a real software developer. In addition, a couple of past students impressed the mentors enough that they were offered (and accepted) employment to work with those mentors professionally.

At the end of the semester, the Chico Open Source Consortium hosts a Tech Showcase where teams show off their projects and compete for prizes. The Tesh Showcase is open to the public and will take place from 11-12pm on December 6th in Colusa 100A. Professional mentors and judges will attend to rate BossyUI and other projects, and award prizes. COSC

Project ESTEEM 

This week Civic Engagement spotlights a partnership with educators in eight counties in our region. Project ESTEEM (Elementary Science Teachers: Educating, Elevating and Meliorating) held its final teacher/principal workshop of the two-year project on October 18, 2017. Project ESTEEM is a professional learning project that focused on helping elementary educators at rural school districts in Region 2 make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards.  As the teachers learned more about the new standards, teachers and principals in cross-district, grade-level teams designed and implemented science units. One of the features of the October 18 workshop was for teams to present science activities and unit information to colleagues on other teams. The session also included a series of activities to help educators expand NGSS-aligned science at their own schools. Science units can be accessed at More units will be added as the project comes to close at the end of 2017.  
Students working with balloon
Project ESTEEM served 63 teachers and 12 principals from eight of nine counties in Region 2. The project was operated by 22 School of Education faculty and K-12 teachers and principals and managed by the staff of the College of Communication and Education grants office.  Project co-directors are Ben Seipel and Mike Kotar, faculty in the School of Education. 

Hamilton City Elementary School Mural Project

This week Civic Engagement would like to shine the spotlight on the youth engagement efforts by Melissa Stearns and Rebecca Shelly in Hamilton City. Melissa Stearns is a Health Education Specialist that works with the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State. She currently oversees Nutrition Education programs in Glenn County, and has been working with Hamilton City Elementary School for almost 5 years now. Beautification of the campus has been a top priority for Hamilton City Elementary, a school who is made up of mostly low income families and receives very little resources. Melissa Stearns came into contact with Rebecca Shelly, who was teaching Art classes at CSU Chico at the time, to collaborate on a beautification project at the school. Melissa and her team used their Nutrition Education programming to engage a group of students in thinking about “What does health mean to you?” Melissa’s team then shared these findings with Rebecca, who created a mural design that encompassed all of the different themes that arose including gardening, harvesting, rivers and playing soccer. Rebecca broke up the mural design into different grids, one for each of the students chosen to work on the project. With the help of Rebecca, each student got to paint their grid of the mural.

woman painting

The final masterpiece proved to have major impact for the students of Hamilton City Elementary and the surrounding community. Located right outside of the cafeteria, students are reminded of their visions of living out a healthy lifestyle. These beautification efforts have empowered students to get involved with their school and increase respect on the campus. The mural also serves as a symbol for the time, energy and resources that have been invested into making the campus look and feel more welcoming. The families of Hamilton City Elementary showed great appreciation and excitement over the mural.

Town Hall 2.0

Students become more engaged scholars and gain confidence about their capacity to do meaningful work when they have an opportunity to share their research in public dialogues with interested others. The bi-annual CSU, Chico Town Hall Meeting provides students with a public arena for discussing current policy issues with other students, faculty, and community members. Students research and prepare talking points for topics such as immigration, freedom of speech, and homelessness, and receive feedback on their ideas from community consultants. Afterward, they write an action plan based on their conversations at the event.

This activity has shown to have such positive impacts for Chico State students that we want to share this opportunity with communities in our region. Town Hall 2.0 was an idea hatched by Karyn Cornell, a student in the Masters of Public Administration program. The goal is to enlist college students to mentor high school students in other communities in the North State, using all of the civic engagement skills they had learned as participants in the Town Hall meeting. Along the path of researching and developing a project proposal, Karyn was introduced to Amy Rhoades, an undergraduate in Social Work working on her honors project. Amy attended Salisbury High School, a Red Bluff continuation school, many years ago as a teen mom. She credits the staff at the school for seeing her potential and helping her graduate high school. At the time, Amy didn’t think college was an option for her. Now, for her honors project, Amy wants to return to her home community and support more students from Salisbury in getting to college.

Karyn and AmyWhen Karyn and Amy met to discuss their shared interests, they decided that Town Hall 2.0 should make its stage debut at Salisbury and the principal of the high school, Barbara Thomas, agreed. Town Hall 2.0 is designed to provide young people from North State communities and Chico State students the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. The goals are to provide all student participants with skills in collaboration, research, and community engagement, and potentially encourage more young people to attend college and then return to their communities to continue their civic work. The hope is that Town Hall 2.0 will be coming to other North State communities in the future.

North State Together

Civic Engagement shines the spotlight on Kevin O’Rorke, CEO at North State Together, an initiative that supports community collaborations in rural areas to increase educational options in the North State. The McConnell Foundation awarded North State Together $2.5 million dollars to create a “Cradle to Career” partnership where leaders from education, business, philanthropic and faith communities join forces to improve education for every child.

North State Together partnerships focus on increasing educational opportunities at all levels, which ultimately impacts the overall economic health of communities. North State Together will provide direct funding to rural counties and serve as “backbone support” to collaborations like Reach Higher Shasta and Expect More Tehama, providing funding and resources to help them run smoothly. The newly formed partnership between North State Together and Chico State serves as a model hub for the Rural Schools Collaborative. Through this collaboration, we are able to support regional teachers in using place-based education in their classrooms.

Kevins spotlight photo

Ember Swan and Linda Swayne, primary teachers at French-Gulch-Whiskeytown, being awarded a $750 Grants in Place award by the Chico State-North State Together hub to be used for a native plants and butterfly garden for their outdoor classroom. Also pictured, Ann Schulte, Sharron Strazzo, Kevin O'Rorke and Kate Mahar. Learn more here!

For more information about how Chico State is partnering with the North State, see our Rural Partnerships page or Contact Ann Schulte, Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships

Expect More Tehama

Last week Civic Engagement shined the spotlight on Kathy Garcia, one of the founders of Expect More Tehama (EMT), a community initiative supporting educational attainment. Kathy was raised in Red Bluff and Dairyville, but didn’t come to appreciate Tehama County until she spent time attending colleges and working in Sacramento, Portland and Long Beach. She rediscovered Tehama County and hasn’t looked back.

spotlight on Kathy Garcia

Rural areas have a lower percentage of residents with higher education, and those that do go to college often seek jobs elsewhere. Expect More Tehama was started over a cup of coffee in 2009 by a group who wanted more for their students beyond just a high school diploma. As the discussions grew larger, a movement was born. EMT became a community collaboration to transform the county by partnering with stakeholders to energize and motivate people to take action to improve resources, civic engagement, opportunities, and a brighter future. Kathy Garcia has truly carried this movement to where it is today, and has made a major impact in the North State.

For more information about how Chico State is partnering with Kathy and Expect More Tehama, see our Rural Partnerships page