A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
October 7, 2004 Volume 35/Number 2

Page One Stories

BSS Interim Dean Still Happy in First and Only Job

Thirty years on, Byron Jackson calls his career at CSU, Chico his “first and only job,” but that job has taken him from assistant professor of political science in 1974 to interim dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences this year, with quite a few interesting side ventures.

Jackson came to Chico, he recalled, because “I liked the lay of the campus. It represented a true college town.” Chico reminded him of Collegeville, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, where he attained his B.A. in political science at Ursinus College before getting his master’s and doctorate at UC Berkeley.

“Also I liked the teaching emphasis that prevailed,” he said. “There was not such a demand for publication, which wasn’t my interest. I wanted to teach.”

Despite that, Jackson managed to write three books after he became associate professor in 1980. With CSU, Chico professor emeritus of political science Earl Kruschke, he co-authored The Public Policy Dictionary (1987) and Nuclear Energy Policy: A Handbook for Reference, Research, and Information (1990). In 1999, he published The Encyclopedia of American Public Policy, a textbook that School Library Journal called “clear, concise and readable,” covering major areas of domestic political activity since 1789.

Jackson served as coordinator of the Public Administration program for 15 years, with responsibility for faculty and curriculum in the Master of Public Administration program. He also served as special assistant to the dean of the Graduate School (1983–1986) and associate dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (1996–1998).

As vice provost for Academic Affairs and dean of Undergraduate Education (1999–2002), Jackson had responsibility for the first-year experience programs, called Freshman Introduction to University Life. He led the original Book in Common program, initiated by Provost Scott McNall, for the entering freshman class of 2000.

It was Jackson who proposed the controversial Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser, the 2002–03 Book in Common, which was debated hotly in classes as diverse as history, economics, accounting, ethics, and agriculture.

Jackson returned to teaching in the fall of 2002, as chair of the Department of Political Science. His teaching areas have included public administration, public management, American government, and Canadian politics.

Jackson was the fourth African American tenure-track faculty member at CSU, Chico, joining Bob Sherrard (Ethnic and Women’s Studies), Marion Epting (Art), and George Wright (Political Science), all hired in 1969. He called this distinction “important only in that we were establishing a presence.” However, Jackson said, “things have not changed that much” since then. “Over the years there have been as many as 13 African Americans on the faculty at one time,” he stated, “but now there are only five or six.”

Jackson has always made himself available to recruitment committees, but recruiting African American faculty to Chico has been a problem, Jackson said, mainly because Chico is a non-metropolitan area. “There are no resources to offer to scholars,” he said. The homogeneity of the general population of students and faculty perpetuates the problem, in Jackson’s opinion.

Jackson anticipates, as interim dean, a possible consolidation of departments, while preserving departmental quality. His goal is to “build the confidence of faculty and staff and prepare us for the next five years.”

Jackson’s new Butte Hall office affords a view of the trains passing through Chico. A train buff, Jackson has a room in his garage devoted to his O Gauge model railroads, and many faculty and staff children have had the pleasure of seeing him don his conductor’s cap for his annual Christmas Open House train display.

Jackson’s wife, Joan, is a food columnist for the Chico Enterprise-Record. They have two sons.

What does the future hold for Jackson after 30 years in Chico? His strong interest in the failure of U.S. nuclear energy policy may prompt archival research in Washington, D.C. He is also keenly interested in seeing the United States adopt a “reasonable” health care system and may devote time and energy to research on adapting the Canadian model to U.S. requirements.

—Francine Gair



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