Sept 8, 2015Vol. 46, Issue 1

Changing the Face of Journalism

Journalism professor Dave Waddell has pioneered diversity recruiting on campus, having brought more than 50 students of color from around the state to CSU, Chico in the last decade. 

About 10 years ago, journalism professor Dave Waddell was wondering what to do about the problem facing his department: a lack of diversity among its students.

The feeling for Waddell, others in the department, and even the journalism department’s accreditation board was simple: a university in the country’s most diverse state must have a diverse journalism program.

These conversations led Waddell to take a sabbatical leave in spring 2006 to make a serious effort in recruiting. That first semester, he visited 36 high schools and community colleges across California to speak to students in underserved communities about CSU, Chico, its journalism program, and its award-winning, student-run newspaper, The Orion.

Now almost 10 years later, Waddell has traveled thousands of miles up and down the state speaking to thousands of students at high schools and community colleges. He’s seen 45 students from more than a dozen schools come to CSU, Chico to become leaders in the Department of Journalism & Public Relations and, most importantly, earn their college degrees.

Waddell’s mission didn’t go unnoticed; he soon received funds from MediaNews Group and Rowland "Reb" Rebele, former owner of the Paradise Post, and used those funds to create internships, award scholarships, and subsidize student visits to the campus 

After his sabbatical was over, Waddell continued to teach full time and returned to his role as advisor to The Orion, which he held for 15 years, the longest in the paper’s history. But he never stopped recruiting.

Waddell, who semi-retired in 2012 and, this semester, was named professor emeritus of the Journalism & Public Relations Department by Chico State President Paul Zingg, has seen significant changes come to the University’s journalism department. In 2005, before he started his mission, 7 percent of the department’s students were Hispanic/Latino; today, that number has climbed to 27 percent and is continuing to grow, thanks, in part, to his efforts.

His recruits have gone on to receive lucrative scholarships, competitive internships, and their bachelor’s degrees. Many also have served as editors at The Orion and held leadership positions at Tehama Group Communications, the University’s student-run public relations firm. His recruits have found work and become leaders at daily newspapers and in other industries throughout California and across the country.

The program’s biggest success has been the relationship that’s been established with Southwestern College and its student-run newspaper The Sun, with more than half of Waddell’s recruits coming from that program. A community college tucked away in Chula Vista, a city 10 miles north of the US-Mexico border in San Diego County, this journalism program was filled with students Waddell was after: smart and talented.

"The relationship with Southwestern College is the highlight of my whole career. They continue to come and do amazing things.” –Dave Waddell

This relationship began during Waddell’s sabbatical at a national collegiate journalism convention in Portland. Waddell had set up a table promoting CSU, Chico and The Orion. It was here that Waddell met Max Branscomb, the advisor to The Sun, which frequently rivals The Orion in national award competitions.

“I knew about Chico State's amazing journalism program and its great newspaper, so I was honored to meet the guy who was the advisor of The Orion,” Branscomb said. "Before we knew it, we were going up there to visit and sending students to Chico. It was all kind of serendipitous, really.”

Since that first meeting in Portland, Waddell has gone to visit Southwestern College every fall, only ever missing one semester, to speak to students about the wonderful opportunities available at CSU, Chico. 

When Waddell walks into The Sun’s newsroom, a point of pride for him is seeing the CSU, Chico banner hanging in a packed classroom of eager students waiting to listen to a man who has changed so many students’ lives. 

"The relationship with Southwestern College is the highlight of my whole career," Waddell said. "The connection I have with all these people is pretty special. They continue to come and do amazing things.”

While visiting each fall is important in establishing relationships, Waddell and Branscomb move heaven and earth to get a group of Southwestern College students to visit CSU, Chico each spring.

Many students from The Sun come from families with strong cultural ideals that include a pressure to never leave home, Branscomb said. That annual spring trip is special because it often illuminates the possibility of calling CSU, Chico “home.”

Once potential new students get here, Waddell deploys every tool in his arsenal to familiarize students with Chico, including campus and community tours, presentations from former recruits, and even a stop at the Madison Bear Garden. This is when Waddell calls in his back up.

His previous recruits eagerly swarm the patio at the Bear for a chance to talk to the next group of students. Phone numbers are exchanged, friend requests are made on Facebook, and advice is given. Here is where the comradery between “Dave’s kids” is born. Conversations start with simple exchanges like the best Mexican food in town or their passion for journalism, before they move on to more serious questions like, “How did you tell your family you were moving away?” or “Weren’t you scared?” or “How can I be successful at The Orion?”

Among the students always ready to welcome new "Sunistas" was Almendra Carpizo, one of the students from the first Southwestern College cohort. Carpizo, who was The Orion’s editor-in-chief in fall 2011, went on to spend several years as a reporter at the Chico Enterprise-Record and is currently a reporter at The Record in Stockton. Carpizo admits she was reluctant about moving nearly 600 miles away from home. She said there was a lot she loved about CSU, Chico including the small classes, the one-on-one relationships with professors, and the local community—but Waddell was really the driving force that led her here.

“Chico was far, I didn’t know anyone and it was scary, but knowing that Dave was invested in helping us succeed and knowing that he was there to help us along the way, that’s what sold it for me,” Carpizo said. “He’s so open and welcoming to not just me, but all his recruits. He is a friend, he wasn’t just a professor or advisor, and a lot of us needed that.”

Success stories like Carpizo’s are why Branscomb continues to remind his students that there are good opportunities waiting for them at the campus he calls “a jewel” in the California State University system.

"It's a rare and wonderful gift that Dave has given to so many students from our community, where he doesn't even live,” Branscomb said. “It amazes me. He just embodies the best things in humanity: he's generous and kind and loving. He just keeps on giving and giving. I wish we had more people like Dave Waddell on this planet."

Public Affairs Intern Ernesto Rivera was recruited by Dave Waddell in 2013 from Southwestern College. In fall 2014, Rivera served as editor-in-chief of The Orion; he’ll graduate this fall with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.



Retired WREC staff Wayne Murray was the recipient of the 2014 Staff Safety Award. Plus, faculty and staff achievements since spring 2015. Read more.



We asked our social media followers how they've been molded by Chico State as part of a Forbes’ campaign. Here are a few of our favorites. See Storify.