A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
March 30, 2011 Volume 41 / Number 5

 

From the President's Desk

The Celebratory Season

This is the celebratory season. For the next several weeks, including Founders Week and culminating with Commencement week, we will witness many occasions that acknowledge the achievements of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We will recognize those students who have excelled both in the classroom and beyond at the annual campuswide student awards reception and at many other individual college and department events. We will congratulate our faculty who receive the good word from the provost about their promotions and tenure. We will honor faculty and staff who are retiring after their years of service to our University and particularly acknowledge those among our retirees who are being inducted into our emeriti hall of fame. We will welcome this year’s class of distinguished alumni back to the campus for a gala in their honor.

Although we have these events every year, we especially need them when critics of higher education, as they are doing more aggressively than usual this year, accompany their attacks with massive reductions to our budget and disparaging questions about our performance. It’s very easy to be frustrated, even angered, with all of this. Because, contrary to the baseless accusation of some of our critics that we are cloistered places of privilege, unaccountable to anyone, we have long since moved beyond a time—if it ever existed—when we expect resources to flow our way because we are intrinsically worthy.

The simple truth of the matter—as inconvenient as that truth may be for these critics—is that our work every day is centered on our students, grounded in strong performance measures, open to public scrutiny, committed to serving the needs of our communities and state, and focused on the future. We are no more affirmed in this work and purpose than when we celebrate the goodness and generosity of our students.

Although there are so many students worthy of praise, I’d like to focus on one small but highly representative group, in particular, who underscore the best intentions and successful expressions of our work. These are the recipients of the University Advisory Board’s Outstanding Student Service Award.

This award started six years ago when Judy Sitton was chairing the board. The award is a page from her own book, for it acknowledges students who are in good academic standing and who have demonstrated exemplary altruism and volunteer service. The Advisory Board seeks nominations from faculty and staff and then has the happy task of reviewing the letters of support, all of which, it seems, begin with something like, “It gives me great pride….”

And no wonder. Consider this year’s recipients:

  • Nicole Kantor, Construction Management, nominated by Jim O’Bannon. While maintaining a Dean’s List GPA, Nicole served as this year’s project manager for the successful January Blitz Build at Catalyst Domestic Violence Services. Her volunteer engagements include dozens of on- and off-campus agencies and causes, leading Professor O’Bannon to write that she is “what is excellent about our University.”
  • Kerrie Lorie, Sociology, nominated by Janja Lalich. A transfer student to Chico State in 2008, Kerrie has since made the Dean’s List every semester she has been with us. Volunteering at the Jesus Center, the Chico Peace and Justice Center, and LeapingStone, serving as an intern at Catalyst, and providing leadership for the AS Women’s Center, Kerrie is a woman with a conscience and a purpose. She is, says Professor Lalich, someone dedicated to the advancement of humanity.
  • Elizabeth Hurd, Agriculture, nominated by Audrey Denney. “I have never met someone with more of a desire to serve others,” writes Professor Denny. Elizabeth’s record of service to the Peg Taylor Center, which supports senior citizens with serious health conditions and disabilities, her work as a counselor at the Ronald McDonald Camp for youth with debilitating health issues, and her contributions to the University as an Ag Ambassador and Up ’Til Dawn worker underscore this judgment.
  • Koudougou Koala, Business Information Systems, nominated by Ray Boykin. Hailing from Burkina Faso in West Africa, he has set his course in life to help his homeland. In particular, he has established a nonprofit organization, Feeding Nations Through Education, that has raised both funds and awareness to support farmers in his country. As Professor Boykin has noted, Koudougou is an “amazing” individual for whom “pay it forward” is a calling and a destination.

We will celebrate much as we conclude this academic year. Yes, we will talk with pride and conviction about our mission and the values that support it. They are compelling and they do nourish us. But nothing strengthens us more as a place of noble purpose, nothing sustains us more now and into the future, than the inspiration and satisfaction we discover in the stories of these students. We single them out because they are deserving of recognition—but, just as importantly, because they are representative of so many more, who, individually and collectively, contribute to the story of whom we are and what we will yet become. These are the faces of our larger institutional narrative, and we could not be better portrayed than through these servant leaders.

Paul J. Zingg, President