Nov. 3, 2011Vol. 42, Issue 2

From the President's Desk


So, first who were they?

photo of Paul ZinggDean Jennifer-Ryder Fox hosted several dozen deans of the nation’s non-land grant public schools and colleges of agriculture. Only two of them, both CSU deans, had been on our campus before.

Vice President for Student Affairs Drew Calandrella hosted the fall meeting of his counterparts from throughout the California State University system. Again, only two of these leaders had previously been on our campus.

Through the good work of Kimi Nomura of our Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Frank Li, director of International Education, we welcomed the Japanese Consul General, Hiroshi Inomata, and the consul and director of the Japan Information Center at the Japanese Consulate General in San Francisco, Midori Yamamitsu.

In our annual Fall Preview Day, about 1,800 prospective students and their parents arrived on the campus to explore first-hand what we offer as they consider their college options for next year.

And, finally, nearly 800 participants, including representatives of more than 20 California Indian tribes, attended the Annual California Indian Conference, conducted for the first time in the North State and at Chico State. In the 26 years of this conference, this was the largest attendance and most ambitious program.

I was pleased to participate in each of these events, with a word of greeting here, or a more formal address there. So, I have many fond memories from each of these visitors and events. These range from talking baseball with the Consul General to having one of our parent-alums tell me how this visit convinced her reluctant daughter, who resisted even looking at her mom’s alma mater, to decide to come here, passing up Stanford and Cal to do so, as a result of the people she met and the welcome she experienced here.

This future student’s story perfectly summarized a common refrain among so many of these visitors. For, as they reflected on the beauty of our campus and the warmth and enthusiasm of our students, faculty, and staff, they went from “we never knew” to “we’ll be back!”  

Of course, some have never left. And it is particularly poignant to reflect on the notion of visitor when talking about the Mechoopda. For we—the University and the city of Chico—are the visitors on their land, not the party with the authority to invite their company. Rather, at long last, we are the party wise enough to want their company and to be honored within it.            

As the recent dedication of Alumni Glen and the co-hosting of the California Indian Conference with the Mechoopda have indicated, we have developed an important relationship together that compels us both to remember and to look forward. It particularly drives us to reach beyond nice acknowledgements of shared space, such as names of buildings and images on banners, and to focus on things much more profound and lasting than material statements, like our shared values. These include the cultivation of a sense of harmony between our built and natural environments; a belief that a commitment to sustainability is a vital step to ensuring the quality of life for those who will come after us; and an affirmation that no partnership, no friendship, can thrive without trust and respect. In other words, it is the spirit of a relationship, so much more so than ceremonies and conferences, that, at the end of the day, at the end of the story, matters most.

One of the sessions at the conference was titled “We Are Still Here: Mechoopda Maidu.”  It is wise for us to remember that, and to be thankful for it. It is also important for us to note that so many who visited us for the first time over these last few weeks will be back. They have high expectations of us now and, yes, we will be here to greet them again and to impress them again.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let me thank all of you—you who serve this University and our students and our community and our stakeholders—so willingly and well. Sometimes we are too close to the story to perceive its full power and beauty. So, our visitors play another role, too, and provide us with another dividend. They remind us of our own story and the gratitude of so many for it. None more so than I. Again, thank you.

Paul J. Zingg