A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
May 10, 2007 Volume 37 / Number 7

President Paul Zingg

From the President's Desk

Quiet Affirmations

As our academic year winds down, I have been reflecting on some of the achievements during the last nine months that have defined what kind of learning environment we have created for our students and what kind of community we have shaped.

Some of these have been on a University-wide level, such as the national record-setting Up ’til Dawn fund-raising effort for children’s cancer research at St. Jude’s Hospital and the recognitions we have received from both Campus Compact and the Carnegie Foundation for being among the top 1 percent of colleges and universities in the country for civic engagement and community service. The same can be said for the acknowledgements of our comprehensive commitments to, and leadership of, the higher education sustainability movement from such diverse groups as the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the National Wildlife Fund, and the Campus Climate Change Commission.

Numerous college and individual accomplishments underscore, too, our institutional direction and distinction. These range from Troy Jollimore’s National Book Critics Award to the opening of our organic dairy, from a ninth Pacemaker Award for The Orion to another first-place performance by our engineering students in the annual WESTEC competition.

As wonderful as these achievements (and so many more in all of our colleges and divisions too numerous to mention here) have been, I have been equally struck by quieter affirmations of our quality and our values. Two such events occurred recently, and I had the privilege of participating in both.

On April 25, Allan Bee, director of our Educational Talent Search Programs, and I attended the graduation ceremony of the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) at Gray Avenue Middle School in Yuba City. PIQE is an organization devoted to involving parents in their children’s education, and it is focused on schools that serve predominantly low income populations. The Gray Avenue Middle School fits this profile perfectly as its students are overwhelmingly from Hispanic-speaking households, many composed of new immigrants and migrant workers who have experienced little success in higher education. This occasion marked the “graduation” of the parents (and some grandparents) from the six-week PIQE program, and I had been invited to be the graduation speaker and to present them with a certificate from Chico State acknowledging their “determination to help your children be successful in their educational and career goals.”

It was one of the most moving events I have attended since coming to Chico. One by one, the graduates—and for many, this was their first educational graduation of any kind—came forward to receive their certificates. These are parents who deeply care about their children’s future and well-being and who recognize how important education is to their success. Allan and I were there to assure them that our University shares their hopes and is a partner in encouraging them.

Two days later, on April 27, I joined several University colleagues and members of the Mechoopda Tribal Community for a quiet ceremony that also focused on promises and commitments. This event took place alongside Chico Creek in the vicinity of the original lands of the tribe. The event marked the fulfillment of a pledge that had been expressed in the October 2005 memorandum of understanding between the University and the Mechoopda to repatriate extant human remains, burial artifacts, and other objects of cultural ancestry now housed on campus. Guided by Greg White, director of the Archaeological Research Program, this effort has been under way for some time, but this was an important milestone in the enactment of the guiding principles of the MOU.

What tied the PIQE and Mechoopda events together was a commitment to partnerships predicated on trust and respect. The parents of the children of Gray Avenue Middle School trust that our encouragement of their efforts is true, that higher education—even Chico State—is an attainable aspiration. We respect both their efforts and our responsibilities to respond to them. The Mechoopda trust that our words are true, that our communities—tribal and University—share values and land and that we will work together to forge something exemplary and lasting.

As we all know, sometimes the little gestures and the quiet affirmations of values mean more than the grand events that mark our passages. The same is true for a University.

—Paul J. Zingg, President