Photo of North State schoolchildren enjoy local produce thanks to the Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion.

Reaching Out to Our Region

“The North State Initiative Task Force will broadly focus on serving the North State through the arts, research, civic engagement, and service learning; increasing the college-going population; and improving the health and well-being of North State residents.” —President Paul J. Zingg

Each month, 30,000 North State schoolchildren get the chance to discover how much fun it is to eat their vegetables—trying broccoli or sugar snap peas or butternut squash grown just miles from their school. They are learning that health can be delicious and fun, thanks to the Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion (CNAP), a CSU, Chico center that promotes nutrition and physical activity in Northern California.

Through this program, CSU, Chico students lead fun games designed to encourage physical activity or teach schoolchildren how to prepare healthy food. Local farmers share their personal stories with schools to teach the importance of agriculture and to help children understand where their food comes from.

CNAP programs serve 86,000 residents in the University's service area and partner with 21 school districts and more than 30 county and community agencies in making the North State a healthier place. In the process, 150 CSU, Chico students each semester get unique, hands-on practice in public health—service learning that reinforces their classroom learning. The center also serves as a fertile ground for research for 14 faculty members from eight academic departments.

CNAP is just one of many ways CSU, Chico reaches out to its community. Construction management students build transitional housing (see video) for battered women, North State's most rural residents can access the news through KCHO radio, talented nurses serve small towns through a preceptorship program—all part of the University's commitment to serving its Northern California service area.

Regional outreach has been a part of the University's mission since the establishment of Chico Normal School in 1887. “[It] began with the simple proposition that a normal school in Chico would serve the needs of the entire North State; it would touch the future through well-prepared elementary teachers,” says Paul Zingg. From that “simple proposition,” the school expanded its curriculum and grew into a full State College and then a university committed to student success and regional stewardship. CSU, Chico serves the largest area of any CSU campus: 12 counties, 32,000 square miles, about 21 percent of the state—much of it rural.

After 125 years as the university of the North State, CSU, Chico is entering a new phase in regional outreach with the North State Initiative. Zingg created a task force in spring 2012 that has produced a comprehensive inventory of the University's engagement in its 12-county service area.

The task force, led by chair Debra Barger, dean of the Center for Regional and Continuing Education, is creating a searchable online database documenting the University's reach into the region. “We want, as a regional, comprehensive university, to have an impact on the region's culture, arts, health, and welfare,” says Barger. “This inventory will help see how we do that—and how we might do it better. It will also allow people in the region looking for services to easily find them.”

The next step, says Barger, is to ask these stakeholders what their strengths are, what they are excited about, and how we might build more opportunities to collaborate. “We plan to leverage the community involvement in the 125th anniversary celebration and share the story of our North State engagement with a wider audience,” she says. “Right now, the task force is asking, ‘How do we listen in addition to sharing? How do we engage people to tell us?’ ” By 2013, Barger and the task force will present recommendations about how to increase the University's value to the North State based on the inventory of current activities and community feedback.

“The North State Initiative aims to help the University reaffirm its role in our region and to explore ways in which we can be even more valuable to our neighbors who count on us,” says Zingg. “This task force will help us to look at our orientations and achievements from the perspective of the public and other external constituents. It will help us look at ourselves from the ‘outside in’ not just from the ‘inside in.’ ”

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