A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
Sept. 17, 2009 Volume 40 / Number 1

  Photo of President Zingg behind his desk

From the President's Desk

Students as Partners

As we begin the new academic year, one fraught with great challenges facing public higher education in our state, I’d like to focus this first column on something a bit more uplifting, something that gets to the heart of the matter of our distinction as a learning community. This is the commitment to student success at Chico State that so thoroughly shapes our identity and reputation. From our WASC re-accreditation review, to the high standing we enjoy in such national rankings as U.S. News & World Report and Forbes Magazine, from the steady improvement of our graduation rates and learning assessment indices, to the achievements and loyalty of our alumni, this simple statement of our purpose is a profound affirmation of our performance.

There are, of course, several reasons for this, including the dedication of our Student Affairs staff and the many ways in which they work together and with faculty to support our students. I want, though, to give particular recognition to the dynamic of the classroom—that is, the formal learning environment, and something that I perceive as keenly felt by our faculty, and powerfully exhibited there. As a whole, our faculty seem to have a deeper understanding than most that one of the great joys of teaching is that moment when they and their students both recognize that they are partners in a journey of intellectual and personal discovery. This moment enables us to realize that the difference between teacher and student is not so much a matter of age as it is a state of mind. Each one of us is both teacher and student, giver and receiver. This is what makes teaching such a wonderful human experience—the chance we are offered as teachers to give something of ourselves to our students and to find reflected in their time with us, and beyond, the spark of our example and spirit.

We are particularly gratified when the “lessons” of kindness, decency, civility, and personal integrity and responsibility, which the best teachers provide in abundance, are echoed in the activities of our students. Evidence abounds beyond the classroom that this is the case. Our annual record-setting fund-raising for children’s cancer research at St. Jude’s, the Rebuild New Orleans and Concow projects, the volunteers of CAVE and CLIC, and the community service of our revitalized Greek organizations are just some of the more visible ways in which our students demonstrate their appreciation for the values of our community and pay back the support that they have received.

Another that we witness this fall is the new Wildcat Recreation Center, an extraordinary expression of shared vision and partnership with our students. On one level, the WREC is a partnership between the Associated Students and the University administration, which pledged dollars, expertise, and a lot of time and effort to make this facility happen. On another, it is a compact with the students who engineered the successful fee referendum to provide the basic funding for the center and all those who will enjoy it. Most importantly, though, it is a partnership of high expectations for the transformative potential of the center, not only in its physical location on the southwest side of the campus, but through its ability to attract prospective students to Chico State and to give them another reason to cite how their university understands their needs and supports their well-being.

Time and time again, we find that our job is to provide good examples for our students, to trust that they will rise to our expectations, and, then, to get out of their way. We need their confidence in this partnership more than ever, because the steady increase of their fees and the erosion of state support for higher education could conspire to raise doubts among them about the quality of their educational experience and the effort we put into it.

I see no evidence that this is happening at Chico State. Rather, I see a willingness on the part of our students to be informed, engaged advocates for the California State University and to join our efforts to change the course of public higher education in our state so that excellence, again, is our direction, not mediocrity our fate. The Wildcat Recreation Center is a powerful statement about what good partners can achieve. We need to celebrate and build on this mutual symbol of trust and commitment to distinction..

Paul J. Zingg, President