Daffodils on the Chico State campus.

(Ashley Gebb/University Communications)

I love that spring in Chico begins in February. On my drive to campus in the morning, I scout the landscape for daffodils. In the afternoon, when building shadows lengthen against a setting sun, I count additional minutes before darkness settles in.

Spring represents renewal. It is a time when we watch our surroundings come alive again. Orchards bloom and ducklings waddle by the creek, reminding us of youthful potential. Driving to work today, deep in thought about how we will position Chico State for renewal and unleash our full institutional potential, I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with Dan Giustina.

Dan is a wonderful friend of the University. In 2013, he established the Bell Family Presidential Scholarship in the College of Agriculture with a $2 million gift to honor his longtime friends.

“I grew up with the Bell family,” Dan says, “[and] Tom Bell was a big mentor for me.”

Last fall, Dan added $1 million dollars to his original gift. His generosity expanded the Bell Family Presidential Scholarship to enable five, first-time freshmen majoring in agriculture to receive $6,000 annually for four years. Dan is an owner of Giustina Resources, a large forest products company based in Eugene, Oregon.

Our conversation took place over breakfast by a river in Eugene, where we watched ducks navigate the cold currents of winter. Ducks have emerged as a theme in this article for a very good reason. Dan is a Duck. He earned both his BS and MBA from the University of Oregon. His love for Chico State grew out of the love that family friend Tom Bell, his wife, and his sisters held for the Wildcats.

During our conversation it became clear to me that Dan loves more than the agriculture program at Chico State. He loves our University mission to provide students with a high quality education that is accessible, affordable and practical. He asked about my vision for the future of Chico State. I told him that our academic rigor and exceptional student activities were second to none. And, that my vision for the future was to take Chico State to the global stage as a premiere community-based, comprehensive university. He wanted to know more.

My explanation morphed into an enthusiastic dialogue about the possibilities that lie ahead for Chico State. I believe Dan will watch carefully as we engage in the planning needed to renew our values and reimagine ourselves as a contemporary and nimble university whose graduates thrive in a constantly changing global community.

Dan asked me, “How will you accomplish this vision?” I am sure you are asking the same thing.

President Gayle E. Hutchinson delivers her State of the University speech to the campus community. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

President Gayle E. Hutchinson delivers her State of the University speech to the campus community. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

I offer you two words: “strategic planning.” The next strategic plan will be different from previous ones because we will finally move from concept to action, and we will measure action in ways that hold us accountable. We have been dreaming of this moment for years—to change our culture to one where decision-making is evidence-based. Moreover, we will leverage the WASC process this spring to help us.

We will take advantage of the accreditation review by using its evaluation criteria to collect evidence that substantiates our strengths and identifies our weaknesses. We will examine effectiveness and determine whether the University engages in a genuine process of continuous improvement.

This semester, campus will be invited to review a draft of the institutional report and provide feedback, thereby helping us finalize the report before the WASC deadline of September 25, 2018.

In the process, we will renew our commitment to our signature strengths—academic excellence, civic engagement, service learning, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion—and we will explore innovative and creative ways to unleash potential.

I hope you will embrace the task and join us in strategic thinking and planning as we shape the future of this great University. I encourage you to use the inclusive process implemented by your peers and administrative colleagues to think critically about how well we help students learn and prepare for the future. And, lastly, I ask you to think deeply about where we shall invest our resources as a campus over the next 10 years.

This is my clarion call for action. As I rallied at the State of the University address, “Together, we WASC!”

Perhaps on your drive or bike ride to the office, you will find yourself searching for daffodils and ducklings. I hope you will be inspired to ponder the potential of Chico State as well, and watch for opportunities to be a part of strategic planning, WASC, and the process of renewal and growth.

I wish you all a successful and inspired spring.

Gayle E Hutchinson - signature