Office of Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement Spotlights

Stepping Forward with Rich Harwood

Richard Harwood

Rich Harwood, founder and president of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, has spent 30 years working in communities and has steered civic leaders through emotional issues that threatened to tear their communities apart. He has worked in all 50 U.S. states and 40 countries, and he has engaged with some of the world’s largest nonprofits and foundations.

Richard Harwood speaking to group

As our community begins to rebuild after the most devastating wildfire in California’s history, we face challenges around lack of housing, overcrowding, and creating sustainable economic development. Rich addressed these challenges and more at a recent speaking event presented by Chico State University and the Butte County Library. He commended the resiliency of Butte County and celebrated the noticeable, powerful, and authentic civic pride he had experienced here in the North State. Community members and campus staff in attendance sought inspiration, new perspectives, and insight into how to continue to heal and strengthen the community on the heels of an unprecedented natural disaster like the Camp Fire. This event was part of Rich’s two-year, nationwide campaign to discuss how we can bridge divides, come together, and get things done. This path is outlined in his new book, Stepping Forward: A Positive Practical Path to Transform Our Communities and Our Lives.

Learn more about Rich Harwood and his work(opens in new window) 

Book in Common Achieves Unprecedented Local Visibility

For the first time in history, on March 13, 2019, Chico State’s Book in Common lecture will be available via streaming video to all of the County Libraries in Chico State’s 12-county service area. All They Will Call You, by Tim Z. Hernandez, is the harrowing account of “the worst airplane disaster in California’s history,” which claimed the lives of thirty-two passengers, including twenty-eight Mexican citizens—farmworkers who were being deported by the U.S. government.

Book cover for All They Will Call You

After discussing the idea with the Book in Common committee, Meriam Library Dean Patrick Newell reached out to the County Librarians to ask of their interest in this year's book. With enthusiastic support by the County Librarians, and approval by the author Tim Hernandez, University Public Engagement worked with the campus Creative Media and Technology unit to arrange to stream the presentation. As a result of this effort, several of the County Librarians worked together to gain grant funding to bring the author to present at their libraries. Hernandez will visit them before and after his visit to Chico State. This is a great example of collaboration and shared resources across the region.

For more information, contact Dean Patrick Newell at

Investing in North State Education

The purpose of the Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE) program at California State University, Chico is to provide a new generation of teachers for middle and high schools in the region and state. Program directors hope to recruit and retain teachers and to develop and sustain partnerships with rural districts. The residency program includes early coursework that addresses the needs and strengths of rural communities and requires candidates to conduct an in-depth study of their placement community. In particular, the community study assignment aims to have preservice teachers examine their understandings about rural places, to create a connection to the place where students live, and to promote place-based pedagogy.

Dillion with a chicken

Student feedback suggests the assignment is a promising practice for teacher preparation. A rural-focused curriculum and a strong understanding of the community creates conditions that support both the recruitment and retention of teachers in rural schools. These student reflections(opens in new window) are excellent examples of this process.

North State Teachers Benefit from Place-based Professional Development

The focus of the California Science Project (CSP) is to provide area teachers with high-quality, standards-based professional development in science. The California Science Project of Inland Northern California, one of 18 CSP sites across the state, is a collaborative partnership between regional K-12 schools in northern California and California State University, Chico. Two summer institutes will be offered for North State teachers that involve community partnerships. The Sacramento River Floodplain Ecology Institute is a partnership with the Department of Water Resources, the Water Education Foundation, The Sacramento River Preservation Trust, Army Corps of Engineers, Chico Creek Nature Center, Sacramento River Discovery Center, USGS and Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. The summer institute includes a one-day float down the Sacramento River where teachers will learn about the ecology of the river and support projects, such as this group who worked to remove invasive rattlebox that was overcrowding native vegetation.

summer institute at the Sacramento River

Best Practices in Environmental Education (EE) and Stewardship is sponsored by the California Environmental Education Foundation, and is a partnership with the Plumas County Office of Education to introduce rural teachers to the Next Generation Science Standards through environmental education. This institute will be held in the historic Taylorsville School House in Plumas County and will explore the role of the Feather River in the State Water Project. The CSU Chico Latinas in Action (featured in a previous Spotlight) will be involved by helping classrooms implement stewardship projects during the Fall of 2018.  

More information about these summer opportunities can be found on the CMSE  website(opens in new window) or contact Anne Stephens in new window).

Socially Engaged Art in Corning

An MA candidate for Interdisciplinary Studies: Art and Education, successfully defended her thesis titled  Building Community: Socially Engaged Art and Arts Education. Through her thesis, Bobbie Rae Jones studied how art education and Socially Engaged Art (SEA) act as bridges toward community building and are effective methods to unite various populations of people in a multicultural and globally connected region. She analyzed qualitative data from Northern California educational partnerships and community meeting sites.

In her thesis, Bobbie explored the roles art education and SEA can play in supporting mental and physical health in communities, and in connect­ing people together in social contexts. Bobbie writes, “When I moved to a remote and rural mountain town 20 years ago, I was drawn to the community of artists, the people that purport to bring arts to small-town life. With effort, they made the time to be immersed in arts as they continued to partici­pate in the mundane events of daily life, sometimes in a cruel and harsh environment, amidst the consumer mentality of our capitalist society.”

Enrolled in both a course on Rural Education (EDUC) and a Public Murals (ARTS) class, Bobbie participated in, and conducted a case study of, the partnership that spanned these two departments and the rural community of Corning. In the Rural Education class, students engaged in a dynamic discussion about current socio-political topics prevalent in the contemporary education world and in the larger political sphere of the nation. All of these topics were then related to the rural com­munities in the region. Such topics included the current government’s impact on education, arts education, immigrants, migrant workers, environmental issues, gender equality, and use of public resources. Bobbi

The characteristics of place and community informed the production of the subject matter in each mural designed by the Arts students. The final image chosen for the Corning Library site was designed by  Corning native, Ryan Ramos(opens in new window). The population of Corning is composed of a high concentration of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, a large Mexican community work­ing in the olive farming industry, and a majority white population established from early European settlers. While Bobbie worked to create large-scale works of art with her team members, a theme arose as she interviewed students, families, and community members. They all agreed on the same point: they all want more arts in their communities. Bobbie believes art can be a source of interaction that artists can use to build authentic and meaningful relationships, strengthening the ties of the people in the US who desire to create an ethical and moral democratic paradigm. Using art as a source of community building can be a successful, peaceful, and powerful method of a nonviolent protest.

Latinas in Action 

Latinas in Action (LIA) at California State University, Chico is an organization made up of young aspiring women who believe in the importance of environmental awareness and education especially for those in the underserved communities. Latinas in Action provide bilingual educational conservation programming for youth to learn about important topics such as plastic pollution, tree mortality, as well as access to information about higher education and career options in STEM fields. LIA

In the summer of 2017, Chico State Latinas in Action club members (LIA) collaborated with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the California State University, Chico department of Recreation, Hospitality and Parks Management to develop and present Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) programs throughout the state. This effort focused on increasing access to public parks and lands by supplying fourth grade students and their families with Every Kid in a Park passes. EKIP passes provide admission for fourth graders, and accompanying family members, to federal lands and waters that normally charge admission fees. Latinas in Action created hands on activities and conducted outreach activities to connect underserved communities with their local parks and lands. During the 4-month program delivery period, Latinas in Action distributed approximately 4,000 EKIP passes to California fourth grade students and their families. Latina in Action engaged in statewide collaboration with community based organizations (CBO) for program delivery and engagement. A significant number of the fourth-grade students came from Latino communities, reflecting the origins of the Latinas in Action members themselves. 


There are about 30 active Latinas in Action members with a variety of majors from Criminal Justice to Animal Science. Those who are interested in more information can contact Latinas in Action President, Isabel Perez Meza at in new window) or club advisor Jamile Balli at in new window).


South Campus Neighborhood Project: Over 12,000 Hours of Applied Student Work

The South Campus Neighborhood Project (SCNP) is an award-winning neighborhood improvement planning effort coordinated by the Resilient Cities Initiative (RCI) at California State University, Chico and the Public Works-Engineering Division at the City of Chico, CA. The project is focused on the public rights-of-way in Chico, California’s South Campus Neighborhood. Immediately adjacent to both downtown Chico and the University, it is Chico’s oldest residential neighborhood and was laid out by the town’s founder, John Bidwell, in the 1860’s. About the project, President Hutchinson says, “Chico State strives to be an engaged and collaborative neighbor; the South Campus Neighborhood Project has taken our relationship with the City of Chico to a new level. This project gives students the chance to leave their mark on our city in an exceptional manner, shaping its future for the better, and impacting generations of students and citizens for decades to come.”

Over the past three years, the South Campus Neighborhood Project engaged 13 faculty across eight departments in four different colleges. It has been a three-year endeavor that aims to assess existing conditions and to develop and refine neighborhood improvement concepts to address a range of identified issues. The neighborhood improvement planning process is focused on concepts for complete streets and public works that will enhance public health and safety, quality of life, sense of place and environmental sustainability. The project connects real-world community sustainability projects – identified and funded by partner agencies – with faculty expertise and student innovation, scaled for impact, from departments and disciplines across the University’s academic colleges. Partner agencies are able to harness incredible momentum to ‘move the needle’ on pressing community projects by focusing a broad and coordinated cross-section of the University’s academic resources on them. The project directly engages hundreds of CSU, Chico students each academic year, providing impactful opportunities for them to put theory to practice in their own community and region.

More information can be found at


Local Tribe Receives Prestigious National Grant

Corning Pledge badgeIn 2016, the US Department of Education announced it would fund six organizations for Promise Neighborhood grants. One of the recipients of those awards was the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, the first tribe to be awarded the grant. The purpose of the funds is to support more access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support.

“Promise Neighborhood is the pre-school to career pipeline,” says Tony Cardenas, a champion of the grant’s outcomes who describes himself and others involved as servant leaders. The funds primarily will be used to support existing organizations to amplify and expand their services. “We’re building upon the strengths that we already have,” says servant leader Matthew Russell. “If you’re going to create sustainability, you really need to have the different partners own it.”

For Cardenas, the real payoff is seeing community members gathering to address hard issues such as a higher than average dropout rate, substance abuse, and low academic scores. The Promise Neighborhood funds will infuse the Corning community with 15 million dollars over five years in programs as diverse as professional training for pre-school teachers, academic and therapeutic counseling for students, dual credit college classes for high school students, and expanded services through public health.

There are meaningful opportunities for the university to support the Corning community in reaching their goals, as well as to learn from their successes. Partnerships with the School of Education and Geographical Information Center are already underway.

Chico Open Source Consortium

This week, Civic Engagement would like to shine the spotlight on Geoff Lawson and Kevin Buffardi, co-founders of the Chico Open Source Consortium (COSC). Geoff Lawson is a Software Engineer at and Kevin Buffardi is a professor of Computer Science at CSU Chico. The two of them founded the COSC in 2014 to foster collaboration between Chico State students and local software professionals. Each semester, Lawson and other software engineers have mentored students as they work on software development team projects in their classes. After graduation, some students have gone on to join Lawson at

Over the three years of collaboration, there have been several dozen students contributing to the BossyUI project. BossyUI ( is an open-source toolkit that makes it easier for web developers to integrate common components, such as calendars or automatically validating text fields for email or phone numbers, on their websites. Buffardi found that by working side-by-side with professionals, students on the BossyUI project get a unique experience and pick up the jargon and work habits of the professionals. After a semester of working with software professionals, students tend to feel more confident transitioning from a classroom environment to being a real software developer. In addition, a couple of past students impressed the mentors enough that they were offered (and accepted) employment to work with those mentors professionally.

At the end of the semester, the Chico Open Source Consortium hosts a Tech Showcase where teams show off their projects and compete for prizes. The Tesh Showcase is open to the public and will take place from 11-12 p.m. on December 6th in Colusa 100A. Professional mentors and judges will attend to rate BossyUI and other projects, and award prizes. COSC

Project ESTEEM 

This week Civic Engagement spotlights a partnership with educators in eight counties in our region. Project  ESTEEM ( Elementary Science Teachers: Educating, Elevating and Meliorating) held its final teacher/principal workshop of the two-year project on October 18, 2017. Project  ESTEEM is a professional learning project that focused on helping elementary educators at rural school districts in Region 2 make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards.  As the teachers learned more about the new standards, teachers, and principals in cross-district, grade-level teams designed and implemented science units. One of the features of the October 18 workshop was for teams to present science activities and unit information to colleagues on other teams. The session also included a series of activities to help educators expand NGSS-aligned science at their own schools. Science units can be accessed at in new window). More units will be added as the project comes to close at the end of 2017.  
Students working with balloon
Project  ESTEEM served 63 teachers and 12 principals from eight of nine counties in Region 2. The project was operated by 22 School of Education faculty and K-12 teachers and principals and managed by the staff of the College of Communication and Education grants office.  Project co-directors are Ben Seipel and Mike Kotar, faculty in the School of Education. 

Hamilton City Elementary School Mural Project

This week Civic Engagement would like to shine the spotlight on the youth engagement efforts by Melissa Stearns and Rebecca Shelly in Hamilton City. Melissa Stearns is a Health Education Specialist that works with the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State. She currently oversees Nutrition Education programs in Glenn County, and has been working with Hamilton City Elementary School for almost 5 years now. Beautification of the campus has been a top priority for Hamilton City Elementary, a school who is made up of mostly low income families and receives very little resources. Melissa Stearns came into contact with Rebecca Shelly, who was teaching Art classes at CSU Chico at the time, to collaborate on a beautification project at the school. Melissa and her team used their Nutrition Education programming to engage a group of students in thinking about “What does health mean to you?” Melissa’s team then shared these findings with Rebecca, who created a mural design that encompassed all of the different themes that arose including gardening, harvesting, rivers and playing soccer. Rebecca broke up the mural design into different grids, one for each of the students chosen to work on the project. With the help of Rebecca, each student got to paint their grid of the mural.

woman painting

The final masterpiece proved to have a major impact on the students of Hamilton City Elementary and the surrounding community. Located right outside of the cafeteria, students are reminded of their visions of living out a healthy lifestyle. These beautification efforts have empowered students to get involved with their school and increase respect on the campus. The mural also serves as a symbol for the time, energy and resources that have been invested into making the campus look and feel more welcoming. The families of Hamilton City Elementary showed great appreciation and excitement over the mural.

Town Hall 2.0

Students become more engaged scholars and gain confidence about their capacity to do meaningful work when they have an opportunity to share their research in public dialogues with interested others. The bi-annual CSU, Chico Town Hall Meeting provides students with a public arena for discussing current policy issues with other students, faculty, and community members. Students research and prepare talking points for topics such as immigration, freedom of speech, and homelessness, and receive feedback on their ideas from community consultants. Afterward, they write an action plan based on their conversations at the event.

This activity has shown to have such  positive impacts for Chico State students that we want to share this opportunity with communities in our region. Town Hall 2.0 was an idea hatched  by Karyn Cornell, a student in the Masters of Public Administration program. The goal is to enlist college students to mentor high school students in other communities in the North State, using all of the civic engagement skills they had learned as participants in the Town Hall meeting. Along the path of researching and developing a project proposal, Karyn was introduced to Amy Rhoades, an undergraduate in Social Work working on her honors project. Amy attended Salisbury High School, a Red Bluff continuation school, many years ago as a teen mom. She credits the staff at the school for seeing her potential and helping her graduate high school. At the time, Amy didn’t think college was an option for her. Now, for her honors project, Amy wants to return to her home community and support more students from Salisbury in getting to college.

Karyn and AmyWhen Karyn and Amy met to discuss their shared interests, they decided that Town Hall 2.0 should make its stage debut at Salisbury and the principal of the high school, Barbara Thomas, agreed. Town Hall 2.0 is designed to provide young people from North State communities and Chico State students the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. The goals are to provide all student participants with skills in collaboration, research, and community engagement, and potentially encourage more young people to attend college and then return to their communities to continue their civic work. The hope is that Town Hall 2.0 will be coming to other North State communities in the future.

North State Together

Civic Engagement shines the spotlight on Kevin O’Rorke, CEO at North State Together, an initiative that supports community collaborations in rural areas to increase educational options in the North State. The McConnell Foundation awarded North State Together $2.5 million dollars to create a “Cradle to Career” partnership where leaders from education, business, philanthropic and faith communities join forces to improve education for every child.

North State Together partnerships focus on increasing educational opportunities at all levels, which ultimately impacts the overall economic health of communities. North State Together will provide direct funding to rural counties and serve as “backbone support” to collaborations like Reach Higher Shasta and Expect More Tehama, providing funding and resources to help them run smoothly. The newly formed partnership between North State Together and Chico State serves as a model hub for the Rural Schools Collaborative. Through this collaboration, we are able to support regional teachers in using place-based education in their classrooms.

Kevins spotlight photo

Ember Swan and Linda Swayne, primary teachers at French-Gulch-Whiskeytown, being awarded a $750 Grants in Place award by the Chico State-North State Together hub to be used for a native plants and butterfly garden for their outdoor classroom. Also pictured, Ann Schulte, Sharron Strazzo, Kevin O'Rorke and Kate Mahar!

For more information about how Chico State is partnering with the North State, see our  Rural Partnerships page or Contact Ann Schulte, Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships

Expect More Tehama

Last week Civic Engagement shined the spotlight on Kathy Garcia, one of the founders of Expect More Tehama (EMT), a community initiative supporting educational attainment. Kathy was raised in Red Bluff and Dairyville, but didn’t come to appreciate Tehama County until she spent time attending colleges and working in Sacramento, Portland and Long Beach. She rediscovered Tehama County and hasn’t looked back.

spotlight on Kathy Garcia

Rural areas have a lower percentage of residents with higher education, and those that do go to college often seek jobs elsewhere. Expect More Tehama was started over a cup of coffee in 2009 by a group who wanted more for their students beyond just a high school diploma. As the discussions grew larger, a movement was born. EMT became a community collaboration to transform the county by partnering with stakeholders to energize and motivate people to take action to improve resources, civic engagement, opportunities, and a brighter future. Kathy Garcia has truly carried this movement to where it is today, and has made a major impact in the North State.

For more information about how Chico State is partnering with Kathy and Expect More Tehama, see our Rural Partnerships page