Debra Larson Honored by her Alma Mater for her Outstanding Career and Commitment to Educating Students
Chico State Provost Debra Larson has been inducted into Michigan Tech University’s Academy for Engineering Education Leadership for her outstanding academic and private sector careers, and for her passion for developing innovative and hands-on educational opportunities that prepare each generation of graduates for success.
Larson has been the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Chico State since 2017. In this role, she oversees the University’s seven colleges, manages numerous academic programs and departments, serves as president of the board of Chico State Enterprises, and collaborates with faculty, staff, and administrators to enhance student success—both within and outside of the classroom.
Larson grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering at Michigan Tech. She then worked as a civil engineer for more than a decade and overcame biases and shattered glass ceilings along the way. She relies on that experience in her approach to her role at Chico State.
“The unprecedented challenges the world is facing today require educators in every field to build a foundation of gender, social, and culture diversity,” said Larson. “We need more engineers, scientists, and technologists. In order to achieve our goals and develop these professions, we need to be more inclusive and make sure every student has a path to pursue their dreams and interests.”
After earning a doctorate from Arizona State University in civil engineering, Larson began her career in academia. She served as chair, associate dean, and associate vice provost at Northern Arizona University over a 17-year span. After that, she became the dean of the College of Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo from 2011–2017.
During her tenure at Chico State, she has focused on priorities of maintaining student success and furthering the institution’s role in and reputation for research. She provided critical leadership during the adoption of virtual teaching and learning for the COVID-19 pandemic, ensured educational continuity and support services during natural disasters such as the Camp Fire, and championed faculty’s pursuit of external funding for research and projects, which in 2021–22 generated more than $45.9 million in grants and contracts. She has also supported new programming, such as the launch of an online MBA program, and innovative pedagogy, such as faculty-learning communities to integrate sustainability into the curriculum at multiple CSU campuses.
“Provost Larson’s commitment to inspiring faculty, advancing knowledge, and creating pathways for student success has been critical in our rise to prominence,” said Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson. “Her induction into the Michigan Tech Academy for Engineering Education Leadership is just the latest honor in an extraordinary career and further proof of how fortunate Chico State is to have her.”
This accolade is one of many Larson has received during her career, including the Excellence in Civil Engineering Education Leadership Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and two state-level ASCE leadership awards. Additionally, she has served as an ABET evaluator and previously served as vice chair for ABET’s Academic Advisory Council. She also served as a governor for the Order of the Engineer, an organization dedicated to promoting the ethical and humanitarian responsibilities of engineering, and recently served on the executive team for the Engineering Deans Council of the American Society for Engineering Education.
About California State University, Chico
At California State University, Chico, we empower students to Do and Dare in their careers and lives. Founded in 1887, Chico State is the second-oldest institution in the 23-campus CSU, the nation’s largest public university system. Chico State enrolls approximately 16,000 students and serves as the comprehensive university of the North State, the 12-county region where the campus is located. A 20-time US News & World Report “Top Public School in the West,” Chico State prides itself on its high-quality, high-value education, an active and engaged student body, and strong connection with the local community and state of California. Recognized for its focus on sustainability and community involvement, students expand their possibilities through more than 380 academic offerings and co-curricular programs, and work closely with expert faculty to devise solutions for the unprecedented global challenges of the 21st century.