From the President's Desk

Wildcat for Life

University President Paul J. Zingg

In this, my last column for Chico Statements, I want to circle back to some of the first understandings that I brought with me to Chico State when I was announced as the University’s president in November 2003. These notions have guided my work ever since. To be sure, not perfectly and not to everyone’s satisfaction. But I’ve always kept them in mind. Always recognized that just as action without understanding has no meaning, understanding without action has no consequence.

I have been shaped and guided by several understandings, including those that have a definite spiritual influence. None has been more important, and certainly more relevant, than Thomas Aquinas’ assertion that a “university is a place of people and ideas.” 

It is also a place where a certain moral code, certain “right rules of conduct” must prevail in order to accomplish the balance between freedom and responsibility that enables us to succeed as the place Aquinas described. At the heart of this code are reason and respect, civility and community.

As we embrace them, we not only find delight in the company of the people and ideas that make a university vibrant and vital, but we recognize that we teach our students as much through the knowledge we dispense as the example we provide.

Since day one, I also have been mindful that we must aspire to be worthy of the trust that our students and the people of California have in us. This takes shape through two additional understandings: 

First, we have a responsibility as a place of public purpose and service to serve and improve our local, regional, national, and global communities. Yes, we do this through research, curricula, and outreach programs, but especially through preparing students with the attitudes, skills, and habits to participate in our democracy and become useful, contributing members of their communities. Indeed, a principal way in which we serve the public good is equipping our students not only with what it takes to make a good living, but also with what it means to lead a good life. That is, lives of service, meaning, and consequence. 

Second, we both shape and welcome high expectations for our work. High performance is a consequence of high expectations. Moreover, we translate high expectations into the way we serve others—most notably and importantly, our students. In a profound way, we prepare our students to go confidently in the pursuit of their own dreams, and we urge them to enable others to have theirs. 

This is one of the most powerful ways that makes teaching the wonderful human experience it is. It is the chance we are offered as teachers to give something of ourselves to our students, and, as if it were a spark of light, our students will pass it on to their students—and on and on. The human experience is uniquely defined by hopes and dreams, and we have that joy—and responsibility—every day to change the world for the better by fostering hope and encouraging dreams.

So, it is particularly gratifying that my final issue of Chico Statements focuses on some of our faculty, staff, students, and alums who are making the world a better place. This issue’s features include CAVE’s 50th anniversary; a story on Girls on The Run, a physical-activity-based education program for girls in the third through fifth grades; profiles on three alumni who are advancing legislation and policy to address gun violence, protect transgender rights, and mandate epiPens in K-12 schools statewide; and highlights of our 2016 Distinguished Alumni.

You will surely be impressed with the people whom these stories feature. And proud of the University that claims them as its own. These are the people and the stories that underscore why I have anticipated getting to the campus every day for 13 years, because I knew something special, something reaffirming, was always possible that day. It is what I will miss most—and what I will remember most gratefully. Wildcat for life!

—Paul J. Zingg, President