A Passion for Activism
A few months before Nicole Walker started her freshman year at CSU, Chico, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Being too far away from her San Luis Obispo hometown to visit often, Walker decided to support her mom in a different way—by getting involved with the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Northern California.
She served three years as captain for Walk It Out Chico, a local fundraiser, and she served as the committee chair for the Yuba City MS walk. “I realized my passion for event planning and helping nonprofits with public relations and promotion,” she said of her community service efforts. Walker wrote about the importance of volunteer work in the college experience on the Tehama Group Communications (TGC) blog.
Walker’s academic plan was designed to launch her career in nonprofit and service-related PR. She is graduating with a BA in journalism, options in public relations and news editorial, and a minor in women’s studies. She was an arts writer for the student newspaper The Orion, PR intern for Cubanabooks Press, paraprofessional for Student Life and Leadership, and account executive for the student-managed PR agency TGC.
“Parallel to my academics, I started interning at the AS Women’s Center the first semester of my freshman year, and that’s when I really started to develop my passion for activism, for feminism, for gender equity,” Walker said. She spent more than two years working with the center, helping with its transition to the more inclusive Gender and Sexuality Equity Center.
CSU, Chico provides amazing career development opportunities for students who get involved, noted Walker. “It was really great being able to work with staff and faculty on a closer level than I think I would have gotten at a bigger school. It is awesome that I can sit in on meetings with faculty and staff as the only student and still feel like an equal. I feel like my opinion matters. I definitely grew as a professional.”
After graduation, Walker will be exercising these professional skills in public relations at Wound Care Advantage. She says she is looking forward to working for a company dedicated to helping people.
When Ian Ruddell came to CSU, Chico as a freshman, he was prepared to make change. The organizer of the first gay-straight alliance at Atascadero High was already a seasoned activist, used to making things happen.
But he may not have anticipated that he would leave such an indelible stamp on both the University and the CSU—changing the way CSU, Chico supports LGBTQ students and voting on issues that directly impact the CSU’s 437,000 students.
Ruddell was the youngest-ever director of the AS Women’s Center; co-founder of the Chico State Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Leadership Conference; co-president of the PRIDE/Safe Zone student organization; and a committee member for Conversations on Diversity. He received a stipend from the University Honors Program for his plan to expand the Women’s Center into the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center. The multicultural and gender studies major received the 2010 William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Ruddell has also been affecting policy on the systemwide stage. He is a member of the California State Student Association. For the past two years, he has been a student trustee on the CSU Board of Trustees. As a trustee, he helped make critical decisions for the CSU—from who to hire as university presidents to whether to raise tuition during a budget crisis. He has appeared on event podiums with Governor Jerry Brown and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
“The Board of Trustees is responsible for governing an institution that holds empowerment and progress at its very foundation,” Ruddell said. “I am proud to be even a small part of a system that changes the lives of so many. In a sense, sitting on the board has become a new form of activism in my life.”
The thoughtful confidence Ruddell brings to his many roles has won him mentors and supporters including President Zingg, Chancellor White, and Ruddell’s fellow CSU board members. “The single word that characterizes Ian is courage: courage to seek to understand students and other CSU members’ positions on issues, courage to be himself even under potential great pressures,” CSU, Chico alumnus and Board of Trustees Chair Bob Linscheid said. “It is courage that garners respect from all who are involved in the CSU.”
Michael Bluing came to Chico as a freshman, sight unseen, on the recommendation of high school teachers who were Chico State alums. “I heard their stories; I saw the brochure, saw all the trees, and thought ‘Hey, I like trees,’” he said, laughing.
The experience turned out to be much more than he expected. “I have gained so much knowledge and so many skills, especially through my job experience,” said Bluing, who ended up pursuing both undergrad and graduate degrees at Chico.
In addition to achieving scholarly success, Bluing has embraced many extracurricular job and service experiences. He has tirelessly advocated for multicultural inclusion across campus—as a resident advisor, panelist for the “It’s Because I’m Black” Conversation on Diversity, student diversity training contributor, Upward Bound tutor, and EOP paraprofessional advisor.
Bluing is especially passionate about integrating diversity awareness into the learning process. He works as one of the few non-English writing tutors in the CSU, Chico Writing Center. (Find an essay by Bluing about the benefits of interdisciplinary writing tutors here.) He also put together a group writing program for multicultural students. His lessons include presenting the basics for students who may have had limited writing instruction in high school.
“I help them see the structure of a piece of writing, give them the tools to put the pieces together themselves,” he said, adding he has learned from the group, too. “I am now much more aware of different learning styles—and this has made me a much better tutor.”
Bluing’s ability to make connections and work across boundaries extends to his academic life. He designed his own graduate program, a blend of applied computer graphics, psychology, English, and education. One of his projects has been to bring his computer and literacy skills together in designing a 3-D storybook for children with ADHD. He is considering starting a business focused on these kinds of educational products after working in Africa as part of the Peace Corps.
– Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications