Feb. 13, 2017Vol. 47, Issue 4

Embracing Activism

Students protest a proposed tuition increase in February 2017.

Grassroots activism starts with the individual. And as Wildcats embark on the challenges of a new semester and changes in their worlds and the world at large, many are wondering how they can get involved in various movements. 

They want to know: How can one college student make a difference in their community, their University, their world?

Fortunately for them, there may be no better place than a college campus to take such a crash course—and Chico State has many outlets willing and eager to support them in their journeys and to help them remember it is called "grassroots" activism for a reason.

“We are really looking into providing those safe spaces but also creating those opportunities to help equip students to feel empowered and use their voices to challenge anything they may be concerned about," said Katie Peterson, program coordinator for the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center (CCLC).

Civic engagement is one of the University’s strategic priorities, with acknowledgement that that engagement extends beyond volunteerism into actually getting involved in one’s community. The CCLC is making efforts to support the recent spike in activism, guiding students toward opportunities to be involved.

In the first week of the semester, the CCLC held a comprehensive activism workshop, Activism 411. The turnout included over 200 students, staff, faculty, and community members all keen on learning about diverse methods of practicing activism and inclusivity on and off of campus.

The CCLC also offers participative events such as the bimonthly “Talk about it Tuesdays” that started January 24 to provide a safe space to process and discuss things happening in the community and nationwide, and the center provides a number of programs where students can work as ‘paraprofessionals’ who enhance cultural awareness, provide community education, and have a direct impact on Chico State.

“Students can get involved by coming into the CCLC, Gender and Sexuality Equality Center (GSEC), Office of Diversity and Inclusion and many other student organizations that are focused on creating positive change,” said CCLC program coordinator Egypt Howard. “The first step in engaging is learning about the issues and then being able to go out and advocate for the issues you are most passionate about. Anyone can be an activist, it just takes time and energy.”

But where do you start, really? What does it even mean to be an activist?

“One of the most important ways we can support students is by getting them to believe and advocate for themselves. In a system where our students are often taught to follow and not lead, I think one of the best gifts we have to offer as staff is the one-on-one mentorship we can give to students, during those times are when they often find their spark or light and become passionate enough to advocate for themselves and their peers,” Howard explained.
Students engage in an informative Activism 411 session.

Students engage in an informative Activism 411 session.

She too identifies as an activist and says it influences her life every day.

“As a black woman in America, I walk out of my home every day and I am very aware of my blackness,” she said. “We know our system doesn’t work for everyone. Change needs to happen and activists are the people who create change.”

Recognizing the push for change, the student-run nonprofit organization the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center is also offering methods for students to get empowered and get involved. As a student leader, Director Rachel Ward says that activist organizations “have continually stressed the validity of my voice, my needs, and my desires.”

“Not only have I had my own experiences validated in this way, but I have also undergone an incredible journey of self-discovery and self-reflection,” Ward said. “We’re fortunate to have organizations like the GSEC, CCLC, and others as well as faculty and administrators on this campus continuing to work with an activist lens every year. Regardless of if they self-identify as an activist, the nature of their work tends to fall in that category. I think one silver lining to this current climate is the way folks, particularly students, are beginning to feel motivated to pursue activist work, finding different ways to bring about positive change in their own lives and communities.”

Ward often reminds other students that they can get involved in a variety of ways. There is something out there for everyone, whether it be peer education, self-education, volunteering, interning, or protesting.  

“I think some of the most challenging parts of getting involved are getting in touch with your vulnerability and openness to different ideas and difficult conversations,” Ward said.

Men carrying hardhats exit the concrete structure of the Hoover Dam.


Rob Davidson, English, and Tom Patton, Art and Art History, collaborated on a gallery show entitled Spectators featuring photographs paired with flash fiction. Read more.

Activism 411 tag

Embracing Activism

Students learn what it means to be an activist. Read more.