The CSU’s Critical Role
On May 24, with the celebratory events of Commencement weekend fresh in mind, I joined several of my fellow CSU presidents and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed in Sacramento to meet with Governor Jerry Brown. We had been invited to talk about the state budget situation and how it was affecting our campuses. He wanted to know how we were coping with the massive reductions in state General Fund support we have been facing and to tell us about his plans to support higher education if his budget proposals were endorsed by the legislature.
Chancellor Reed began the meeting by emphasizing the critical role that the CSU plays in supporting the economic prosperity of the state, especially through providing a significant portion of the state’s educated workforce. The governor acknowledged this argument but quickly shifted it. He cited some essays he had been reading that emphasized the responsibility of higher education to develop the moral character and civic values of students.
The governor called upon his own Jesuit education and other spiritual and philosophical influences that have shaped his personal values and political agenda. When he asked for comments, I referred him to an article I had once read by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, in which she acknowledged those who had helped shape her view that the goal of education is not just to prepare students to make a living, but also to make a life. I noted that among those influences was John Henry Cardinal Newman, a 19th-century Roman Catholic cardinal beatified in 2010, with whom I knew the governor was familiar.
What ensued was a brief conversation between the governor and me on what we are doing in the CSU every day to develop students who are oriented to community service, civic engagement, social justice, altruism, sustainability, and other habits of the heart and responsible citizenship. I think he was surprised—and pleased—with this exchange, and we continued it after the formal meeting had ended.
The feature on our alumni teachers in this issue underscores why it was so easy for me to have this conversation with him and to provide assurance of the quality and kind of education our students are receiving at Chico State. For these stories—stories of dedication and engagement, imagination and inspiration—were formed in classrooms and conversations on our campus, where service and civic responsibility are not just abstract concepts. They provided a framework to develop the skills of an effective schoolteacher and to understand the goals of a good education in a democratic society.
These stories, of course, are myriad, and every issue of Chico Statements contains them. But among the Commencement Week events I most enjoy every year is the ceremony that honors our newly credentialed teachers. In fact, Matthew Clough, one of the teachers highlighted in this issue, was the keynote speaker at this year’s event. Like Matthew, these brand new teachers are making a commitment to service at a time when the profession they are entering has been under intense scrutiny and criticism. Yet, this does not dismay them. It motivates them. Their answer to Governor Brown and our state is in the eloquence of their commitment and the boldness of their confidence that they will not only touch the future, but also shape it. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.
—Paul J. Zingg, President