Since the beginning of her tenure at California State University, Chico nearly three years ago, President Gayle Hutchinson has expressed her commitment to help cultivate an inclusive environment for all college-going students. Today, the California State University (CSU) is giving her the opportunity to further champion the cause.

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White has appointed Hutchinson to serve as the CSU’s Presidential Advisor for its Native American Initiative. She will succeed outgoing advisor Lisa Rossbacher, who is also retiring as president of Humboldt State.

“It is my honor and privilege to accept this appointment,” President Hutchinson said. “I intend to continue to build on the accomplishments of President Rossbacher, and I look forward to the opportunity to engage with and empower future generations of Native American students within the CSU.”

President Hutchinson will continue the work begun in March 2006, when the CSU met with leaders representing 40 California tribes to discuss strategies to build a college-going culture among Native American families. The result of this summit was the Native American Initiative, with the goal to increase the number of students from tribal nations who enroll in and graduate from CSU institutions. Since the initial convening, CSU campuses have developed multiple programs to attract and support Native American students pursuing their higher education goals.

The role of presidential advisor includes:

  • Hosting an annual meeting with representatives from key campuses or community organizations responsible for programming that supports the successful transition of Native American students to CSU institutions
  • Interfacing with tribal leaders throughout the state
  • Identifying and supporting strategies to improve recruitment, retention, and degree completion for Native American populations in the CSU
  • Engaging and supporting faculty, staff and student research on Native American populations

President Hutchinson has been dedicated to bridging the gap between tribal communities and higher education. This commitment is especially meaningful since the CSU, Chico campus sits on the ancestral land of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria. Currently more than 160 Native American students attend CSU, Chico.

In February 2018, CSU, Chico hired Rachel McBride-Praetorius as its first-ever director of tribal relations. Since then, Hutchinson and McBride-Praetorius have been steadfast in increasing communication with tribal partners. Some advancements include increased collaboration with local tribes to invite students to campus; hosting the InterTribal Education Fair in collaboration with the Mechoopda, Berry Creek, Mooretown and Enterprise tribal groups, and Four Winds of Indian Education, Inc.; and hosting the inaugural Youth Gathering of Native Americans (GONA) in summer 2019, a collaboration with Mechoopda, Four Winds and Northern Valley Indian Health. Additionally, in summer 2018, a Native American Student Emergency Fund was established in collaboration with local tribal members of the Maidu dancers.

In September 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria and CSU, Chico was signed. This revolutionary statute requires state and local agencies to now identify any significant environmental impacts of their actions, to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible, and to include the Mechoopda in future decisions in which ground disturbances are involved.

President Hutchinson aims to continue the work she and McBride-Praetorius have accomplished on the CSU, Chico campus, and spread that knowledge and experience to the rest of the CSU.

“Whether it’s her passion for inclusion, her desire to make higher education more accessible, or her uncanny ability to connect with students, President Hutchinson has proven that she welcomes everyone to the table,” said Chancellor White. “With the groundbreaking work she and her team have accomplished thus far at Chico State, I’m confident this role aligns perfectly with her beliefs and I look forward to seeing the results of her engagement and its impact on the CSU.”