CSU, Chico Town Hall Meeting Encourages Civic Engagement Among its First-Year Students

Date: 11-01-2017

CONTACT: Sean Murphy
TEL: 530-898-6492
Ellie Ertle, Political Science and Criminal Justice Department
TEL: 530-898-4965

Approximately 740 students are expected to discuss important current topics and policies this week, as well as learn strategies to take civic engagement to new heights. The 11th annual Town Hall Meeting, part of California State University, Chico’s First-Year Experience program, takes place Thursday, Nov. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium. 

Free and open to the public, the Town Hall Meeting is a twice-a-year event embedded in a political science general education class. As part of the class, students select current policy issues to research, then discuss them with other students, faculty, administrators and community members in a public arena.

Coordinator Ellie Ertle reports that students who participate in the Town Hall Meeting are typically more academically engaged and civically engaged—habits they can carry with them through college and continue post-graduation.

“Students report a sense of efficacy after Town Hall and deeply appreciate the opportunity to talk with community members about the issues they care deeply about,” Ertle said. “Students see the relevance of the course and their engagement in community work.”

This year’s students have chosen important policy issues that affect the Chico community, like homelessness, sexual assault and student safety, roads and streetlights, water issues and more, Ertle said. Additional timely topics like firearm policy, drug policy, gender discrimination policies, and infrastructure and transportation policies will be discussed.

Ertle noted that no matter the year or topic, students continue to come away with a healthy sense of satisfaction and understand how to engage in civic discourse. A new aspect of this year’s event is the addition of an action symposium, which will allow students the opportunity to engage with consultants on strategies and best practices for taking action on their issues.

“Town Hall provides an opportunity for students and the community to work together to come up with ideas for positive change, and the new action symposium will give everyone real tips and steps for engaging and advocacy,” Ertle said.

The Town Hall Meeting was started by FYE director Thia Wolf in November 2006 with approximately 180 students participating. Since then, other higher education institutions, including CSU San Marcos, Cal State LA and Tarleton State University (Stephenville, Texas), have used CSU, Chico’s event as a model for increasing civic engagement among their students.

This year’s Town Hall Meeting marks the final year that Wolf will be part of the Town Hall Meeting, as she retires in December. Kate McCarthy, interim dean of Undergraduate Education, will acknowledge Wolf’s longtime and valuable contributions in her opening remarks.

“Thia works tirelessly to support students, faculty and staff, reminding us that public work is central to the academic and identity information of first-year-students,” Ertle said.

For more information on the Town Hall Meeting, visit www.csuchico.edu/fye/thm/index.shtml.


About California State University, Chico

California State University, Chico is the second-oldest campus in the 23-member CSU system, the nation’s largest public university system. Founded in 1887, Chico State enrolls approximately 17,500 students and offers more than 230 graduate and undergraduate programs through its seven colleges and five schools. The campus is consistently ranked as one of the best regional public universities in the Western United States and is the only CSU campus to have earned a favorable rating in all five categories of the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, which rates universities on affordability and value. Its mission includes a broad commitment to environmental sustainability, public service and community engagement throughout the 12-county North State region, where the campus is located. The University became a federal Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2015.