Senior Jillian Ruddell spearheaded the transition of the AS Women's Center into the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center.

A More Open Campus

Jillian Ruddell first stepped into the Associated Students Women's Center as a freshman, new to Chico and looking for a community. She found it immediately, signing up as an intern that first day.

The Women's Center was just starting to expand its outreach beyond women's issues, and it organized the first annual Queer Week while Ruddell was an intern. The popularity of the event was a revelation, says Ruddell, herself an openly gay student looking for an opportunity to expand advocacy and inclusion for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) students. “There was a visible demand for an advocacy group on campus to empower all people across the sex and gender spectrum,” she says—and she founded the campus's first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Leadership Conference in response to that need.

The following year, Ruddell became the youngest director in the Women's Center's 40-year history. As a junior, she helped the center evolve into the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center through a University Honors Program stipend.

“The new center is more open and accepting of everyone,” says Ruddell, a multicultural and gender studies major. “Women's programming is still very much a part of it, but LGBTQ programming is no longer an afterthought.”

These re-evaluations of campus centers and programs are essential for recruiting and retaining a diverse student population, notes Ruddell. “The fact of the center is attractive, even for people who don't step through that door,” she says. “It changes the campus climate. It makes Chico more welcoming.”

Ruddell has been selected as one of two CSU student trustees and, in 2010, received the prestigious William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. She credits her mentor, foreign languages and literatures professor Sara Cooper, as well as Student Activities director CC Carter and Diversity and Inclusion director Tray Robinson for supporting her efforts to make CSU, Chico a more inclusive place.

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