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
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
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.