New Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson’s energy has been infectious since the accomplished former professor and dean returned to the University this month.

She’d spent more than two decades excelling in various leadership and instructional roles at Chico State before heading to a new post as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at CSU, Channel Islands in Southern California. After three years there, officials tapped Hutchinson to become Chico State’s chief administrator and top advocate. Her first official day on the job was July 5.

What makes this dynamo tick and what are her plans for the University? Chico State Today recently caught up with Hutchinson to find out.

Chico State Today: You weren’t gone from Chico State terribly long, but what did you miss the most about campus and about this part of the state?
Gayle Hutchinson: I missed the people — my friends and colleagues. I also missed the rural beauty of the North State, along with experiencing the changing of the seasons that we see here.

CST: For folks who may not be exactly sure what a university president does, can you please describe your job?
GH: I serve as leader, champion, advocate, collaborator, spokesperson, and steward of this outstanding university by working hand-in-hand with students, staff, faculty, alumni, benefactors, industry, and the community.

New President Gayle Hutchinson walks across a bridge around campus to greet staff on her official first day of work on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

New President Gayle Hutchinson has a long history at Chico State, serving as a former faculty member and dean for more than two decades here.

CST: When you returned to campus after a few years away, what single change stood out to you the most?
GH: The campus. It is more beautiful than ever.

CST: What is shaping up to be your top challenge during your first year as president?
GH: I am conducting a 100-day listening tour asking folks to tell me the University’s strengths, areas needing improvement, and areas in which to invest. We will also work together to improve the campus climate and build up our trust in one another.

CST: Once you’re off the clock, what do you like to do?
GH: I enjoy going out to breakfast, reading, swimming, golfing, surfing, and going to the movies.

CST: Please share the one word that describes you the best.
GH: Genuine.

CST: What would you say contributed the most to making all the parts of your career fall into place?
GH: I have a passion for helping students and all people strive toward their potential. I make certain I set goals for myself and work hard to achieve them. I’m willing to take risks and have an unwavering commitment to learn new things. I also am grateful for the teachers and mentors who believed in me and helped me along the way.

CST: If someone made a film about you, who would you like to see play you?
GH: Wow, I’ve never thought about that before! I’ll say Sigourney Weaver.

CST: Who is the one person who had the most impact on your life and how?
GH: My high school basketball coach. She taught me that you can achieve all that you put your mind to.

New President Gayle Hutchinson (left) meets with Interim Provost Mike Ward (right) on her official first day of work on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

Hutchinson meets with Interim Provost Mike Ward on her official first day of work on July 5, 2016.

CST: What’s on your reading list?
GH: I recently read Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. Right now, I am reading our Book in Common, My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. Next, I will be reading, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I think it is important to read books about people’s experiences in the world, how they work to overcome personal challenges and struggles and how they strive to overcome social injustices and educate others for a more inclusive society. I also think it is important to read books of adventure. Reading a variety of topics helps to inform us about the world and pushes all of us to think outside of ourselves.

CST: We’re going to have nearly 3,000 first year students join our campus community in August. What is your advice for them?
GH: Do well with your studies. As soon as possible, find ways to get connected with students, faculty, staff, and student groups on campus. Chico State’s faculty and staff are committed to your success, so don’t hesitate to ask us for help. Lastly, savor your time here – it will go by fast.