Feb. 13, 2017Vol. 47, Issue 4

Adulting 101 Celebrates First Birthday

Instructional workshop series readies for another successful year

In March 2016, alumnus and Bay Area reporter for ABC 7 Michael Finney came to speak to students about how to negotiate large purchases.

Buying a car without getting fleeced. Healthy cooking on a shoestring and a two-burner hotplate. The real deal on pet ownership.

Those are just some of the topics being presented this year in Adulting 101, a new series of life skills workshops for CSU, Chico students and recent University alums who need help on the sometimes bumpy journey to independence.

The program has branched out big-time during its first year, led by its mascot—a wise-looking cat wearing glasses and a tie, with a calculator and a coffee mug nearby. About 1,140 students attended the program in 2016, organizers said.

The free program, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, is resonating on campus and beyond. A total of 16 Adulting 101 workshops will take place this year, the same number held in 2016.

The University series to help students gain life skills nearly ended up on the Today Show in October, while a county library in Kentucky requested information to help it develop its own “adulting” program, said Mary Wallmark, program coordinator for Student Life and Leadership, which hosts the series in conjunction with the Chico State Career Center and the Chico State Alumni Center.

The life skills program “has been great because we know we are giving students tools—tools that we think they need. And, based on attendance, these are tools they really want,” said Wallmark. “This is a perfect complement to the academic experience and a great example of what makes Chico State so unique.”

The workshops routinely draw sellout crowds of about 80 students and young alums. So many students showed up for the evening sessions that the staff began handing out admission tickets on a first come, first served basis. Even so, some workshops still had people standing at the back of the room.

Freshman Shady Makar, a business major, said that he attended nearly all of the adulting sessions.

“The way I looked at it was, they were [presenting] interesting topics and I wanted to know more,” he said.

Makar, an avid runner, said the session on food shopping was particularly relevant. The topics included planning meals, strategies for using coupons, and the importance of reading food labels.

Other topics covered in the Adulting 101 series also had appeal, Makar said, pointing out the workshop on Car Smarts, led by alum Bernie Knaus, president of New Autos Inc. in Chico.

For example, Knaus (BS, Business, '90) told the group that auto dealers derive most of their profit from extended car warranties rather than on the sale of the car.

“You try to lower the price tag of the car, and then don’t buy any extended insurances, [so] you will come out with a fair bargain,” Makar said.

While not planning a car purchase right now, Makar said that whenever he does, he’ll still have insights from that session “in the back of my head.”

Senior Bailie Reinhardt attended the workshops to get help with time management and learned how to schedule her busy college life.

Senior Bailie Reinhardt attended the workshops to get help with time management and learned how to schedule her busy college life.

The adulting series evolved from an earlier program, started in the fall of 2015, that focused on traditional leadership curriculum but never drew much of a crowd.

So, Wallmark jettisoned the old-school series, reshaping the sessions to instead present “life skills in a trendy way. We went from the Leadership Speaker Series to Adulting 101. I sure know which workshops I’d want to go to,” she said.

Out went the prior approach of paying industry speakers thousands of dollars to keynote the student leadership sessions. Instead, Wallmark contacted Chico State alums to lead several workshops, including Natasha Beehner (BA, Communication Studies, '12) and Jaci Phelps (BS, Recreation Administration, '16) from Golden Valley Bank, who outlined the ins and outs of personal finance, including how banking fees work and how credit scores are developed and maintained.

With the money saved from not having to pay presenters, the program began offering free food and prizes for attendees, including gift certificates to purchase organic vegetables from the Chico State Organic Vegetable Project farmers market.

Student groups also began to benefit. If two or more people from the same group attend one of the life skills sessions, their association receives $25 toward food from the Associated Students catering services or toward services from the University’s print shop. Some professors even give extra class credit to students who attend the sessions. 

Perks aside, Wallmark said the adulting series aims to address day-to-day realities that leave students struggling.

“There’s a lot of stuff that people just expect students to know and learn, but we don’t,” said Chico State senior Bailie Reinhardt. “I think college is an important time to learn those things because we’re going to be out in the world, being adults, pretty soon.”

For example, Reinhardt said, effective time management had been a challenge. One adulting workshops she called “super-helpful” focused on how to set up electronic or paper planners to keep schedules orderly.

“Now, I have everything written out for my whole semester on my phone, on that calendar, so I stay on track of things,” Reinhardt said. 

Tom Rider, executive chef for the Associated Students, shows students how to cook simple healthy meals.

Tom Rider, executive chef for the Associated Students, shows students how to cook simple healthy meals.

Socializing is another benefit of the workshops, said Reinhardt, since students sit at round tables, getting “to meet a ton of new people and talk about what you’re learning with them, which I think is cool.” All that meeting, greeting, and socializing counts as a mini-leadership lesson, according to Wallmark.

New topics are on tap for this year, sessions that were identified by focus groups convened in May with people across campus who work in departments that service students the most.

One suggestion was to hold a workshop on housing, featuring a Match.com-like “perfect roommate” questionnaire (“How do you prefer to approach borrowing items?” and “Are you still friends with most of your former roommates?”). That session will also feature a panel of Chico-area property owners to explain what it means to have a cosigner and other rental-related issues.

Yet another new session this year will focus on pet ownership because, Wallmark said, “students get a pet, but they don’t really know what that will mean to their lifestyle. [We hear] that one roommate’s cat peed on another person’s stuff, or that nobody changes the cat litter box, or that one person got the pet, but the other person ends up having to feed it all the time.”

A session on tax filing is on tap, as are talks on negotiation skills and a workshop to foster students’ understanding of loans, credit scores, and credit cards.

The first Adulting 101 of 2017 kicks off on Thursday, February 16 with Politics 101, a primer about the United States Electoral College, how ballot measures and petitions work, and how people can contact their elected officials.

Men carrying hardhats exit the concrete structure of the Hoover Dam.

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