NSE/Chico State Alumni Still Learning

Photo of Brian PetersonBrian Peterson is an avid supporter of Chico State and all it has to offer. Over several decades, Peterson has attended Chico State numerous times earning multiple degrees and participating in the “Chico Experience” in a variety of ways. But, Chico State is not his only alma mater.

Born and raised in Orland, Peterson wanted to go away to college after high school to “experience the world.” He attended the University of California, Berkeley (BA, History, '96).  But his roots in the North State pulled him back home.

His next educational step was to enroll in Chico State’s history master’s program. Growing up, he fondly remembered the quad village and the Pioneer Days parades, and this sense of local connection drew him to Chico State. In his first semester, fall 1996, he attended what became the final Chico State football game against Sonoma State (which the Wildcats won). 

It was high-caliber history faculty like Carl Peterson, Joanna Cowden, Dale Steiner, and Laird Easton, plus William Ramsey, Ying Yeh, and Warren Pinckney, Jr. of the music program that defined his “amazing” experience in the master’s program. Peterson describes his then-mentor Jeff Livingston as an “incredible historian whose prowess in critical analysis, knowledge of historiography, and eye for new scholarship helped me so much as a new teacher fresh from CSU, Chico.”

When he completed his master’s degree, Peterson was not done learning. After four years of teaching at Mercy High School in Red Bluff, he was admitted to the Graduate School of Education at Harvard and finished his master’s degree in education in 2004. By then, he was already on a path to be a life-long learner and was ready for his next venture into the educational forum.

In 2009, hungry and wanting to grow further as an effective teacher, he returned again to full-time study at Chico State to pursue degrees in music and Spanish.

Photo of Peterson with Luyirika-Sewagudde Jr“In order for Chico State to be the best regional service institution,” Peterson said, “I urge it strongly to resume enrollment for candidates eager to complete a second bachelor’s degree.  Their expanded skills and abilities yield an immediate, direct benefit to our local communities.”

Peterson, exploring options after the organ music program was discontinued at Chico State following the retirement of David Rothe, ventured into the National Student Exchange (NSE) office in 2012. The NSE provides Chico State students with the opportunity to participate in exchange programs in over 170 institutions in 45 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. There, he met James Luyirika-Sewagudde, Jr., the NSE coordinator, who helped him design his next educational adventure. 

Through NSE, Peterson was able to attend the University of Massachusetts, Boston, for two semesters where he studied with Bálint Karosi (pipe organ) and David Pruett (American music).

“NSE was invaluable. James was awesome and took me seriously,” Peterson said. “Because of his assistance and advocacy through NSE, I was able to spend a year in Boston studying musicology and applied organ.” 

Peterson teaching pianoPeterson has cultivated his second language skills in Spanish in order to be more congruent to the community he serves in Glenn County. The student population of his high school in Orland, for example, went from approximately 13 percent Hispanic to 62 percent, and he knew he needed to be able to communicate not only with the students, but with their parents as well.

His most recent degree at Chico State only increased his enthusiasm and appreciation for the faculty who shared their knowledge and insight with him.

“Denise Minor (Spanish) is an unrivaled master teacher: truly an example of the best in higher education,” Peterson said. “How fortunate we are to have her here at our university. Her excellence in teaching, innovative research, and passion for helping students reinforces how essential this campus is to the ongoing vitality of the North State.”

Also of great encouragement to him has been Char Prieto, Spanish professor, who champions students in study abroad experiences with “effective invitation and sound guidance.” Peterson received a Bix Whitcomb award for immersion study in Madrid, Spain.

A meaningful part of Peterson’s Chico Experience was working at the Student Learning Center (SLC), under the “outstanding, student-centered” leadership of Christine Connerly. 

“It was very fulfilling to see the SLC make a real difference by inspiring and motivating students consistent with the fundamental mission of the university,” Peterson said.

Peterson playing pinaoWhile back east in the summer of his NSE year, Peterson worked in a linguistics research position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has presented at the National Council for History Education, the Society for American Music, multiple state music teachers’ conferences across the nation, and four times at the International Country Music Conference in Nashville, including a paper in 2014 on the career of Chico’s country music legend, Moriss Taylor.

After three university degrees and a California teaching credential, is Peterson done? Evidently not. He was recently admitted to the Divinity School at Yale University for fall 2016 with an emphasis on sacred music and Spanish.

“It was wonderful being at Chico,” Peterson said. “I gained valuable knowledge that helped me expand my awareness and world perspective.”

Brian Peterson is presently a teacher of Spanish, music, and English as a second language (ESL) teacher at the Glenn County Office of Education.