Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association

Mary Jensen, PhD


Department of Professional Studies in Education

Mary Jensen greatly advanced the field of special education statewide and nationally through her teaching, grant writing, research, and program creation, thereby improving the lives of countless individuals with disabilities.

Prior to her 18-year faculty career at Chico State, Jensen spent 15 years as a teacher and psychologist in public schools in Los Angeles, Chico, and Paradise. This experience was invaluable to her understanding what standards were needed in special education, and how to best train teachers to uphold them.

In 1994, Jensen initiated an experimental credential program that combined general and special education content and methodology. It later evolved into the present-day credential pathway, the Concurrent Program, in the School of Education.

The program became a model for many other CSU teacher preparation programs and has won state and national awards for excellence. Jensen also led the development of a regional special education intern teacher program and a master’s degree in special education. Once these new programs were instituted, Chico State’s special education course enrollment more than tripled. Hundreds of additional new teachers completed these Chico State programs and currently serve in K–12 settings.

Jensen was principal investigator and director of U.S. Department of Education project awards that totaled more than $20 million in state and federal grants. In addition to her prodigious grant writing, she gave more than 40 national and state level presentations, and published more than 15 articles and seven books or book chapters. A more light-hearted publication was Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe, Jensen’s memoir of her travels with her late husband, Rudy. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the best books of 2018, and it garnered three national awards for excellence.

Among the many ways Jensen sought to give back to Chico State was philanthropy. Together with her husband, she established two Chico State scholarships: the Mary and Rudy Jensen Scholarship for students pursuing a career in special education; and the Mary and Rudy Jensen Music Recruitment Scholarship, supporting incoming students studying classical music.

Jensen earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Loyola Marymount University. She received her PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Oregon.

Portrait of Mary Jensen, PhD