In a span of five short years, the number of Latinos in the predominately white news-editorial option of Chico State’s journalism major has doubled. This increased their presence to almost a quarter of the option.
These figures are not merely coincidental.
Spring 2006 marked a turning point in the push for diversity in the Chico State journalism department. After a re-accreditation review,
it was suggested that the department engage in a focused recruitment effort in the nation’s most diverse state, said Dave Waddell, professional-in-residence, professor and adviser to The Orion.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “I think our work is reflected in those numbers.”
Shortly after the diversity work began, with the culmination of the efforts of Waddell and David Little, editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record, the department received a grant of $59,000. MediaNews Group gave the journalism department this money over four years to fund diversity recruitment travel, internship and scholarship opportunities.
Waddell spearheaded the effort by taking a hands-on approach and visiting diverse schools with good journalism programs during a semester-long sabbatical. The focus was to establish and build relationships with these schools -- primarily community colleges --
with the hope of increasing a diverse student transfer rate.
“The good thing about community college students, is if you start getting them coming from one school, they already have a family
at the newspaper at the community college,” Waddell said.
A background at a college newspaper prior to The Orion gives transfer students a better sense of security once they get to Chico State,
he said. These students better understand the sense of community that comes along with working on a college publication.
MediaNews Group scholarship recipient and editor-in-chief at The Orion Almendra Carpizo credits Waddell with her transfer to Chico State.
While her adviser at Southwestern College strongly supported Chico State’s journalism program, it was Waddell’s personal efforts that made the difference, Carpizo said.
“He made the transition very easy,”
Carpizo was initially a bit apprehensive about transferring to a school so far from home. But with Waddell’s efforts to keep in touch after his visit and help with scholarship information, she was convinced to make the transfer.
“I try to support them as individuals,
and create opportunities when I can,” Waddell said.
Apart from seeking out diverse students, he looks for a certain type of student during his trips.
“It’s really important to recruit students who can be successful,” Waddell said. “If I recruit a student and they don’t graduate,
then that’s a failure.”
But failure doesn’t seem to be on his radar at the moment. With the first class of diversity cohorts graduated this past spring,
Waddell is only looking forward in regards to his recruitment.
However, moving forward will require more funding. When the MediaNews Group partnership ended in 2010, an individual
came forward and donated $10,000 to help keep the recruitment momentum going for the time.
Now, the department is approaching Hearst Foundation with a $200,000 six-year request to aid the continuation of the already
proven diversity program.
“I think it reflects the success of the program that we’re attracting students in enough numbers that we need the money to
properly serve them,” Waddell said.
Waddell will retire after this fall semester, but plans to stay at Chico State in a part-time position. Though his work as a full-time
faculty member is drawing to a close, he feels his work at Chico State is not quite done.
“One of the big reasons I want to continue to teach here is so that I can continue to do my diversity recruitment,” Waddell said.