“Believing in the value of service to others, we will continue to serve the educational, cultural, and economic needs of Northern California.”
—CSU, Chico Strategic Priority #4
On a sunny weekend in September 2007 when President Paul Zingg stood with a group of 40 faculty and staff beneath the dramatic white spires of the Sundial Bridge in Redding, he was ushering in a new era of commitment to the University’s Northern California service area. Zingg’s North State Road Trip was the first time faculty and staff made a formal tour of the region the University serves. They visited the Vina Monastery, an elementary school in Corning, Shasta Dam, and Pit River tribal representatives to learn about everything from water issues to North State cultural heritage.
“We want to understand, better and firsthand, the needs of the communities we serve, as well as assure residents of our interest in them,” says President Zingg.
One of the trip’s organizers, Greg White, noted Zingg’s eagerness to reconnect the University with the North State. “The president has come up with the idea of this trip to honor and reinvigorate the University’s long tradition of North State service,” says White, former director of the campus’s Archeological Research Center. “This is a wonderful idea and will put a number of the University’s key members on the ground and talking with individuals whose vital interests will be shared and given a great deal of thought as we rethink our role in our service region.”
The University’s service region comprises 12 counties and 32,000 square miles, about 21 percent of California and the largest service area of any CSU campus. A commitment to this area is nothing new. In the 1950s CSU, Chico (then Chico State College) President Glenn Kendall asked, “What does Chico State need to do to improve the quality of life for people of the North State?” In President Zingg’s inaugural address of April 18, 2005, he celebrated this “University of the North State” and “a service mission that is focused on being more than a presence in the North State, but being a positive force for economic development and the improvement of the quality of life for all who live and work here.”
That force is illustrated by organizations such as CSU, Chico’s Center for Economic Development, which for 22 years has been providing assistance, training, data, and support to Northern California small-business owners, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and government officials (see charts). Since 2003, the center, now called the Northeastern California Small Business Development Center, has been the lead Small Business Development Center in Northern California, overseeing the six regional centers at community colleges in Redding, Chico, Marysville, Auburn, Sacramento, and Stockton.
CSU, Chico’s reach also extends to the health care available to Northern Californians. The University graduates about 80 new nurses a year, many of whom choose to remain in the region. The University also recruits nurses from all over California into North State positions through the Rural California Nursing Preceptorship Program (RCNP). The program gives student and graduate nurses the chance to work with a preceptor in a rural area, gaining valuable clinical experience and developing the personal relationships with patients that characterize rural health care. Some of these nurses find that rural nursing is their calling, such as nurse-practitioner Liz McGee, who decided to stay in the North State after an RCNP placement in Bieber (population 600).
CSU, Chico also recognizes the unique cultural heritage of the North State. In 2005, a Guiding Principles document was signed by the University and the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria, descendents of the original Maidu inhabitants of the land on which the University is built. The principles acknowledge that the University and the Mechoopda “seek to consult and work cooperatively to protect, preserve, and manage cultural resources that may be identified on campus lands.” The document calls for both to work on developing a cultural resource plan to effectively manage those resources, and encourages contractors, partners, and auxiliaries of the University to follow suit.
CSU, Chico students have the unique opportunity to make an economic, cultural, and educational impact on the North State by virtue of attending college in such a large service area. They can serve as legal advocates for the poor with the University’s Community Legal Information Center or as Boys and Girls Club volunteers with CAVE (Community Action Volunteers in Education). They can explore the Northern California wilderness through Adventure Outings or help keep communities throughout the region informed and entertained as interns at Northstate Public Radio KCHO/KPFR.
In fact, as Zingg wrote in the fall 2006 Chico Statements column “Serving the Needs of the North State,” “through the range and spirit of the services we provide, we affirm that regional stewardship is not just a task or a stand-alone project. It is an orientation.”