As the president and CEO of The McConnell Foundation, alum Lee Salter (BS, Business, ’67) is helping to shape the educational future of the North State. The Redding-based foundation is dedicated to “helping build better communities through philanthropy.” The core of its philanthropic work is in developing partnerships and broad-based community support. The foundation collaborates with organizations throughout rural Northern California, awarding grants in the areas of arts and culture, community vitality, recreation, social services, and the environment.
Access to education for residents of Modoc, Siskiyou, Shasta, Trinity, and Tehama counties is a key part of this mission, making The McConnell Foundation and CSU, Chico natural partners, says Salter.
“I know Paul Zingg is very much committed to that partnership and expanding the role of CSU, Chico in the North State,” says Salter, who was a member of the University Advisory Board from September 1999 to June 2007. “We want to encourage as many students as possible to go on to seek higher education or additional education after high school.” And then, he adds, those students often stay in or return to the North State, as he did, to contribute their skills and knowledge.
The effort to provide higher education access includes College OPTIONS, which was created to foster a “college-going culture” in Shasta and Siskiyou counties. The program is a partnership between Shasta College, College of the Siskiyous, Simpson University, National University, and CSU, Chico—funded by The McConnell Foundation and a grant from UC Davis. College OPTIONS counselors advise high school students on “all aspects of being able to attend college,” says Salter.
College OPTIONS grew out of a 2001 Higher Education Needs Assessment sponsored by The McConnell Foundation, based upon input from community leaders and higher education representatives including CSU, Chico. Researcher Patricia McDonough, a UCLA professor, found three major obstacles to college attendance in the North State: cost, geographic distance, and lack of college prep courses in high school.
To alleviate the issue of geographic remoteness, CSU, Chico and The McConnell Foundation have worked together to enable students to complete a CSU degree at Shasta College, at the new University Center in downtown Redding, and online. Programs in business administration, child development, liberal studies, and nursing, as well as an MBA program, are available. The Foundation has committed $1 million to the project, says Salter, who hopes this is just the beginning of higher education options for residents of the rural North State.
Salter explains why he loves living in Northern California: “There are friendly people. It’s a very good place to have raised children. It’s just a great place to be. The only thing it needs is more access to higher education.” President Zingg agrees. And, working with Salter and The McConnell Foundation, he is ensuring that access will only increase.