Inspirational Alumni

Jimmy Lillard (BA, Media Arts, ’04) has loved filmmaking and storytelling ever since a video production class in high school. He knew then he would make a career out of it but never imagined the path it would take. When he attended Chico State, he worked at the NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates, cutting commercials and producing local talk shows; spent countless hours in video production labs checking out equipment and learning to edit; and even starred in a one-act student play. Today, he’s an assistant editor at Pixar Animation Studios, where he’s worked on Toy Story shorts, the Oscar-winning film Inside Out, and the summer blockbuster Finding Dory.

Keely Bosler stands in front of the columns of the California state capitol building.

In 2016, Keely Bosler (BA, Agricultural Business, ’97) began serving as Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet secretary—his staff’s second-in-command and to whom state agency secretaries report. A 2016 Distinguished Alum, she has also served as chief deputy director for the Department of Finance and as staff director for the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

Fulbright recipient and alumnus David Simmons (BS, Business Administration, ’12) will spend nearly a year in Belarus, where he will represent the United States as a cultural ambassador, teach English at a university, and implement collaboration between Belarusian and American students in partnership with Chico State professor Julia Kobrina-Coolidge. After Chico, he embarked on a one-year project to travel the world and interview people about life. He’s now using their introspective stories to produce a film and book.

David Simmons sits on the floor giving a thumbs up gesture in front of a group of smiling people also doing a thumbs-up.
Len Jessup headshot

In January 2015, Len Jessup (BA, Information and Communication Studies, ’83; MBA, ’85) became the 10th president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Jessup assumes leadership at a time when UNLV aspires to tier-one status and is launching a new medical school. Jessup, who holds a doctorate from the University of Arizona, has a demonstrated record of success in teaching, research, and fundraising.

Craig Lindsley (BS, Chemistry, ’92), a 2013 Distinguished Alum, is codirector at the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, where he researches treatments for diseases like schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. He has given back to Chico State by establishing the Dave Ball Summer Research Award, funding a post-doctoral fellowship to biochemistry professor Karl Voigtritter, and employing several of our chemistry graduates.

Lena Heffern, in a Chico State tshirt, holds up an electronic component

Lena Heffern (BS, Physics and Mechanical Engineering, ’13) is part of a scientific team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that was selected as one of five finalists for a possible NASA Discovery Program mission to explore a metallic asteroid. If selected, it will be set to launch around 2020.

Andrew Gazdecki (BS, Business Marketing, ’10) started Bizness Apps as a student, and the mobile app platform has been ranked in the top 100 of Inc.’s “500 Fastest-Growing Companies” for the last five years. In 2016, he made his company’s services free to all current Chico State students.

Paula Scheider headshot

Paula Schneider (BA, Costume Design in Theater Productions, ’79; Credential, ’85) became the new CEO of American Apparel and is working to turn the company around after the ousting of its former CEO. A longtime clothing executive, she won the National Organization of Women Business Owners Inspiration Award in 2010.