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Chico State

President’s Column: 6 of My Favorite Moments from 2023

President Perez shares a laugh with a group of students on the first week of school after asking them their majors and what made them choose Chico.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

It’s that time of year when “best of 2023” lists begin popping up, ranking everything from TV shows and movies, to books, and even social media moments. Even though I’ve only had the privilege of serving as Chico State’s president for half of the year, the end of the semester is a great time for reflection. So, here are my favorite moments from my first six months on the job.

1. When my wife, Tanya, and I moved into the Warrens Center to make it our home, we wanted to host an open house. We were excited to share the historic home (designed by Julia Morgan) with faculty, staff, and our new Mansion Park neighbors—getting acquainted at the start of the semester seemed like a great idea. Local media apparently agreed and shared news of the event. However, instead of reporting that we had invited the “campus community,” they extended an invite to the entire Chico community! Despite some concerns from my staff about the potential fire code violations, it was a delightful afternoon with a lively but manageable crowd. We met many campus colleagues and new neighbors. Everyone enjoyed a Wildcat spritzer on a warm, September evening. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Tiffany Drobny shakes the hand of Steve Perez (right) during a fall President open house event.
President Steve Perez greets Tiffany Drobny of Printing Services during his open house event. (Matt Bates / University Photographer)

2. Another one of my favorite things has been hosting students in my home for lunches and dinners. Learning about their unique stories and experiences at Chico State helps me understand the challenges students face and what they truly appreciate about their time with us. I have had amazing conversations with the President’s Scholars, Associated Students officers, PATH Scholars, and Dream Center students. I look forward to hosting more gatherings in our home, meeting our remarkable students, and learning about their lives and studies at Chico State.

A large group gathers inside the living room a residence to chat.
President Steve Perez (center) hears from PATH Scholars during a breakfast event at the Warrens Center. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

3. I had the privilege this fall of accepting two prestigious awards on behalf of our talented faculty, staff, and students from two national organizations, Excelencia in Education and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). Chico State’s Graduate Equity Fellowship Program was recognized as one of four Examples of Excelencia for 2023. The award came from the nation’s leading authority on efforts to accelerate the success of Latinx students in higher education. At the AASCU annual conference in November, I accepted on behalf of the CSU, Chico State, and five other CSU campuses the 2023 Excellence and Innovation Award for Sustainability and Sustainable Development, in recognition of the Chico State-led Teaching Climate Change and Resilience Initiative.

We should be very proud of these awards because they represent excellence on a national scale and highlight the far-reaching impact of Chico State. The Excelencia award is an example of our dedication and commitment to closing equity gaps and promoting student success. The AASCU award exemplifies our faculty and student commitment to sustainability and resilience and their ability to spread that across the system.

Participants of the the Graduate Equity Fellowship Program, Recamier Jauregui Ocampo, Angela Adade, Emily Swanson, Letty Mejia, Ashley Macias, Isabel Araujo (standing, left to right) with Tawny Bolinas, and Stephanie Duarte-Amezcua (seated, left to right). (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

4. Our campus is filled with people who dedicate themselves to uplifting the lives of others. Some of these heroes are celebrated as “’Cats Caught Being Awesome,” a monthly award sponsored by Staff Council. In November, I was on hand to celebrate coaches Dave Taylor and Mark Taylor and the Chico State Baseball Team as the winners of this award. The coaches and players showed up to support a staff member’s son who was bowling in the Special Olympics tournament. The young man, who is a huge fan of Wildcat baseball, was delighted to see the entire baseball team attend and cheer him on. This effort and award is a testament to the dedication of our wonderful student-athletes and staff colleagues.

The Wildcats baseball team gathers on a green field as the university president congratulates the coach for being named 'Cats Caught Being Awesome.
Photo courtesy of Staff Council

5. This holiday season, University Diversity Officer Joseph Morales and I joined Chico State’s MEChA students in their annual toy drive in Hamilton City. Partnering with the Hamilton City Fire Department, Family First Car Club, The Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton City, and others, we followed a parade route down every street in town to hand out toys. Approximately 600 children gleefully came out to meet us. It was wonderful to see the smiles on their faces. It was a heartwarming event that exemplified the impact our students have on local communities.

6. And, lastly, what just might have been my favorite weekend of the year: Wildcat Weekend and  Wildcat Preview. This event exemplifies everything I believed about this University when I applied to be your president. On a gorgeous October day, faculty, staff, and students welcomed more than 1,000 prospective Wildcats and their families to campus. Along with alumni, parents, and current students, we showcased our academic programs and our campus, providing tours, music, good food, and lots of information about what a life-changing choice Chico State can be. We can all be proud of the way we represented ourselves. I heard from parents and alumni who were so impressed with not only our beautiful campus, but also our community. I know from experience that choosing Chico is a brilliant idea.

President Steve Perez (left) shakes the hand of from Marie Patterson (right) as she is about to give him Construction Management Department stickers to place on his black vest, which is covered in stickers.
President Steve Perez receives Construction Management Department stickers from Marie Patterson as new applicants, prospective students, and their families engage with programs and offices during Wildcat Preview. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

As this chapter draws to a close, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to serve this remarkable community. These moments signify not just events, but narratives that define our ethos and set the stage for an inspiring story ahead at Chico State.