Sept. 12, 2016Vol. 47, Issue 1

'Welcome Back'

President Gayle E. Hutchinson enters Laxson Auditorium to a standing ovation at the fall 2016 convocation. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

As the month of August winds down and hints of autumn tease our anticipation for cooler weather, students and faculty return to campus with stories of summer adventures and fresh optimism for the new academic year. Simply stated, campus becomes lively again. Enthusiasm abounds, as many of us witnessed at the Fall Convocation. The start of the new academic cycle is truly one of my favorite times of year. To all of you I say, welcome back!

Returning to Chico State to serve as your president is the highest honor of my professional career. I have adored this University since stepping foot on campus some 26 years ago. Chico State continues to be a university that leads in teaching, service, and scholarship; it has been our legacy since our founding 129 years ago. And, with respect, we sincerely thank Dr. Paul Zingg for his contributions and leadership during his 12-year tenure as president. As we turn our attention to the future of Chico State, we will work together this year to establish a bold, progressive new vision and further shape the University strategic plan that embraces our institutional values and strengths.

At the time of publication, we are 43 days into a 100-day listening tour that I am conducting with campus, alumni, and the community. The purpose of the tour is to hear from you about our institutional strengths and challenges, areas where we might invest our time and resources, and your ideas about future directions we may consider as we strive to enhance our reputation as a 21st century institution of higher learning. If you have not yet responded to the survey, please do. I have combined survey responses to date with the results of the recent campus climate survey and identified five common themes. I used those themes to determine five transition goals that will define our first year in working together:

  1. Improve campus climate
  2. Restore shared governance
  3. Foster student achievements
  4. Build diverse and inclusive communities of excellence
  5. Explore opportunities and support innovation
President Gayle E. Hutchinson speaks from the lectern during the fall 2016 convocation. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

President Gayle E. Hutchinson speaks from the lectern during the fall 2016 convocation. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

Part of any administrative transition is a period during which campus and the new president learn to work with one another collaboratively and sincerely. Together, we will forge positive working relationships through a culture of respect and professionalism. We will model consultative processes that are collegial and productive. And, we will approach our teaching, service, and scholarship in ways that embrace cultural difference, interdisciplinarity, sustainability, and innovation—always keeping student achievement and success at the center of all that we do.

We see that commitment reflected in the many top national rankings we continue to earn, such as in a recent issue of Money Magazine, where Chico State ranked No. 8 on the list of “50 Colleges that Add the Most Value.” We were listed ahead of all other California State University campuses and most of the University of California campuses except one. At Chico State, we add value to students’ lives through our strong academic programs, support services, student organizations, and athletics, and we value deeply their success and achievements.

Over the last several years, we have increased student four- and six-year graduation rates and reduced the graduation gaps among underrepresented groups of students—surpassing our initial goals on both accounts. As will be communicated later this fall, we will renew our focus on graduation rates, setting goals to achieve by 2025.

We are one University; we are one campus that celebrates over 40 years of effective diversity efforts. Yet, there is more work to be done in building diverse and inclusive communities of excellence where students' basic needs are met, where students feel safe, and where students are provided opportunities to learn and excel.

Finally, we must pledge to think outside of the box. We must explore opportunities that not only align with our educational mission but that will enhance our reputation as a 21st century institution of higher learning. We will guide our exploration of opportunity when we shape our vision for the future and determine University strategic priorities this academic year that are bold and progressive. We must be transformative in thinking about the future of our University. As we do, I find inspiration in the words of Maya Angelou:

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive;

And to do so with passion,

Some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

I appreciate all that you do in helping our students fully engage in the Chico Experience. Have a wonderful and productive fall semester!


Gayle E. Hutchinson


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