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Chico State

A Second Chance: Mathematics Alumna Calculates Her Own Path to Success

Taylor Anderson Rawlins Award winner
(Jason Halley/University Photogr

In the coming weeks, we will be celebrating the accomplishments and stories behind 2024’s Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipients. The award—one of the largest and most prestigious at Chico State—celebrates scholarship, extracurricular activities, and outstanding academic, and professional accomplishments.

Taylor Anderson (Mathematics, ’23) is the definition of resilience. After high school, Anderson, a first-gen college student, attended a university for the first time and struggled to find her footing. She decided to take a break from her studies and move back to her hometown of Marysville where she got hired at Chipotle and gave birth to a daughter with her high school sweetheart (they are still together, 11 years later).

“I had a support system, but my parents didn’t go to college so I didn’t really know what to do,” Anderson said.

Going back to school was never far from her mind, but it took time. She eventually moved into a managerial position at the restaurant and started taking classes at a local community college. Anderson spent the next few years dropping her daughter off at daycare to work and go to school full-time before hitting another roadblock during the pandemic. With a little grit and a lot of determination, Anderson, now 29, made it to Chico State last spring and graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

Being an older student struggling to create a healthy work/school/life balance isn’t an easy road, but she is able to see her journey with compassion now. “That’s not how I thought it would all go,” she said. “But looking back I realize it helped me to have life experience and a clear vision of what I wanted to do—I just had to follow my own timeline.”

Taylor is currently enrolled in the credential program at Chico State and hopes to land her dream job close to home. “I love the campus and I love Northern California. I will probably never leave!”

What does this Rawlins award mean to you?

I’m flattered and finally feel my hard work is paying off. I also feel recognized and solidified in my journey. I was taken aback, because I was nominated by a professor I didn’t really know well outside of the classroom.

What impact do you want to leave with your future students?

Math gets a bad rap, so I want students to look at it differently. I’d like to mentor other first-gen and disadvantaged students to help them realize their options and get ready for the real world. But overall, I want to create a classroom where students want to be.

What has been your experience as a woman in mathematics?

I think it’s great that we’re getting more women in the field, and I’m grateful that I feel respected and that there is space for me. My eight-year-old daughter already says that she wants to be a teacher, and I’m like, “Yes, awesome!” She’s very good at math and it just makes me so proud.

Do you have any advice for students returning to school later in life?

Take it at your own pace. Don’t get discouraged if you have to put off a class for a semester—just do what you’re comfortable with. And once you decide what you want to do, put your head down and keep going.