CSU, Chico News

CSU, Chico Makes Civic Engagement a Strategic Priority

Date: 12-14-2015

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico is adding civic engagement as one of the top priorities in the “Strategic Plan for the Future (PDF)”, the document that expresses the mission, vision and values of the institution.

“Believing in the importance of civic engagement for both individual fulfillment and the institutional commitment to serving the public good,” the new priority states, “we will educate generations of civically engaged, informed, and active students. We will engage students, faculty, staff and community members through curricular and co-curricular experiences that actively involve them with the communities and the issues of the North State and beyond.”

The process to add the civic engagement priority concluded last month, with approval by the Academic Senate. The Strategic Plan was last amended in 2006, with the addition of a priority on sustainability and environmental literacy.

The Strategic Plan, first written in 1995 and updated twice since, will now have seven priorities, including the latest on civic engagement.

Numerous actions will be taken as a result of the new priority, including

  • Develop a civic dimension in classes across general education and disciplinary majors.
  • Emphasize the opportunity for all departments and programs to include a focus on civic engagement.
  • Create infrastructure to support the facilitation of work between campus and community.
  • Encourage the formation of interdisciplinary teams of students, faculty, staff, and community members working together on civic engagement.
  • Support the dissemination of civic work throughout the North State and beyond.
  • Ensure the civic mission of our campus is a priority in advancement efforts.
  • Develop financial resources devoted to expanding and managing our current civic engagement efforts.

“We’ve been working on how to increase our emphasis on civic engagement,” said Ellie Ertle, CSU, Chico director of civic engagement. “Adding this to the Strategic Plan says, ‘This is a priority of the University. It’s part of the Chico Experience.’ That is hugely important.”

Ertle added that it was equally important that the new priority include implementation steps. “We are being extremely explicit about civic engagement and how we plan to engage students and the community,” she said. “We want to send a message to prospective students.”

The new priority will also make a difference in the recruitment of faculty to CSU, Chico. "The civic engagement plank is critical for the future of faculty at the University,” said Zach Justus, interim director of faculty development. “It will attract civically minded faculty to Chico and improve our region in the process."

In his column in the newsletter Inside Chico State, CSU, Chico President Paul Zingg emphasized that campus has a tradition of service and civicmindedness that dates back to Chico founder John Bidwell’s gift that established the school. “Giving back and paying forward, of course, are integral elements of the University’s service roles and responsibilities,” said Zingg. “And they, too, find expression in our Strategic Plan.

“Civic engagement, though, builds on the value of service, yet goes beyond it,” Zingg said. “It particularly focuses on the obligations of service and opportunities to improve the quality of civic life as engaged, informed members of one’s community—in fact, communities, for we are all members of local, regional, national, and global communities.”

Along with Zingg, Ertle and Justus, the committee crafting the new priority included Deans Bill Loker and Angela Trethewey; faculty members Laurie Browne, Renee Renner and Thia Wolf; administrators Susan Anderson and Michael Polsan and community members Farshad Azad and Jovanni Tricerri.

Starting in March 2015, the committee met with campus and community members to receive input on the new priority. Along with the Academic Senate, the groups and organizations consulted included the Council of Academic Deans, Student Academic Senate, Staff Council, Chairs Council, Cross-Cultural Leadership Center, Chico City Manager’s Office, Chico City Council, Chico Chamber of Commerce, Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center.

CSU, Chico has received numerous awards and national recognition for its enduring and innovative commitment to civic engagement. Here is a short list of accomplishments:

  • Earlier this year, campus received a reaffirmation of its Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. CSU, Chico was among an elite group of 74 schools to receive this designation for the first time in 2006.
  • One year ago, CSU, Chico was notified it had once again been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. It was the seventh time in eight years that the University received this designation.
  • The University has received funding from private foundations and the CSU to establish new courses and civic engagement opportunities, including the U-Course, launched in 2014, which focuses students on public issues through highly interactive, interdisciplinary curricula.
  • CSU, Chico’s successful and highly regarded Town Hall Meeting and Chico Great Debate programs engage hundreds of students each year in public-sphere, democratic participation along with members of the community.
  • Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE) will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year by once again providing about 60,000 hours of student volunteer service through 20 different programs.
  • CSU, Chico’s other trail-blazing service program, the student-run Community Legal Information Center (CLIC), marked its 45th anniversary this year.


Caption: The annual Chico Great Debate is a hallmark of Chico State's First-Year Experience Program, which introduces public sphere pedagogy to freshmen. At the 2015 debate, which included a civic expo, students Dylan Peters, left, and Frank DeLuca discussed housing law and student legal services issues. (Jessica Bartlett)