“For Enrique, gratitude is a verb.”

This is how Gary McMahon, director of the Chico Student Success Center (CSSC), describes master’s student Erique Galvan, who he has known since early in his undergraduate career.

“Enrique begins many of our conversations by saying, ‘I just want to tell you how thankful I am.’ He is driven to action with a sense of responsibility for others because of his thankfulness for what Chico State has provided for him,” McMahon said. “He helps others believe in themselves by sharing his journey as a first-generation college student. He reminds us all about how fortunate we are to be part of Chico State. He inspires us all to be better friends.”

This week, Galvan will be honored with the 2020 Chris Hilbert Outstanding Friend Award, one of 10 awards to be celebrated Friday during the virtual Student Leadership Awards ceremony. Recognizing his genuine kindness and dedication to his community, Galvan’s many nominators say that he embodies the concept of a true friend.

After coming to Chico State from the small, rural community of Gridley as a first-generation student, he describes his transition to college as “exciting yet difficult.” He found himself feeling lost and lonely despite not being far from his hometown and childhood friends who were also new to campus.

He would soon find his footing once he connected with the Educational Talent Search office. From there, he found small homes-away-from-home all around campus, including Raising Educational Achievement in Collaborative Hubs (REACH), CSSC, and the International Honors Society in Psychology (Psi Chi).

“It is the friendships in these programs that make me want every other student to also feel welcomed on campus,” said Galvan, who earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in spring 2019 and is now in his first year in the social science master’s degree program.

As a Wildcat, he fills many roles in several programs but he is most involved with Psi Chi, an international honor society in psychology. He has been a member for three years and has even served as the Chico State chapter’s president. Recently, Galvan transitioned into his current position as vice president and treasurer of the club.

“My role as a club officer has allowed me to make close connections with my peers and professors here on campus,” said Galvan. “I have made some of my closest friends thanks to clubs like Psi Chi.”

Enrique talks with a student studying in the library.
Galvan (right) helps Parker Williams and other students with projects during the REACH study jam in October 2019. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

He also leads in other spaces on and off campus. He has served as a REACH peer mentor since August 2017—a program dedicated to support for first-year students. From the moment these bright-eyed students walk on campus for Summer Orientation, Galvan is one of the smiling leaders and friends who is there to greet them.

In the last three years, he has provided supportive fellowship for 30 first-year students, most of whom identify as first-generation and historically underserved populations. With each student he is a peer mentor to, Galvan facilitates weekly meetings to help with any transitory challenges.

“I help with anything from helping them find their classes before the semester starts to connecting them to financial aid advisors or recommending the best burrito shop in town,” he said. “I am here to be a constant support system through this exciting new chapter of their life.”

REACH coordinator Jessica Dietrich said Galvan builds off his natural kindness and compassion to foster true and trusting friendships with each mentee, many of whom have gone on to be mentors themselves.

“These students look to Enrique as a role model, academic mentor, and friend,” she said. “His passion for helping others and his ability to balance school, work, and student involvement is remarkable. Since the day that I met Enrique, I have been captivated with his optimistic and positive outlook on life and more specifically on the opportunity he’s been given to study here at Chico. He walks around with a constant smile on his face because he’s so proud to be a Wildcat.”

His outreach and consistent friendliness extend beyond Chico State’s campus, as Galvan is involved in another on-campus program called North State Roots. Facilitated by Professor Ann Schulte, the mission of the program is to strengthen the connection between Chico State and rural communities in the region. This summer, he will be an ambassador for his hometown of Gridley. He will help provide insight on the small town, allowing pre-credential student teachers to begin developing an understanding of the students they will be student-teaching later this year and in their future careers.

As a student who was educated in those very schools—and intimately knows the advantages and disadvantages rural environments have to offer—Galvan is passionate about being a supportive friend to the next generation and their futures.

“Coming from a Mexican household, my family always taught me the importance of honesty, compassion, and community,” he said. “These are traits that I hold close to me, and I try my best to embody these values every day!”

Whether volunteering together in the kitchen at the Torres Shelter or visiting middle schools to speak with younger students, Schulte continues to be impressed by Galvan’s pride in the communities he has found on campus. From the degree paths that have unlocked his passions to the meaningful work he does with his peers to the changes he is able to influence in his community, his gratefulness is abundant.

“I am amazed at his optimism and consistent cheerful disposition every day that he gets the honor to mentor his less-experienced peers,” Schulte said.

Enrique Galvan and a group of students pose for a picture at a homeless shelter after working in the kitchen.
Galvan and some of his REACH peers volunteered in the kitchen at the Torres Community Shelter to give back to their community.

After completing his master’s degree, Galvan aspires to fill a permanent role on campus motivating and challenging future generations to chase their dreams and grow into their passions—just as was done for him.

That’s why, nominators say, he is the ideal candidate for the Outstanding Friend Award. The scholarship is named for Chris Hilbert, a Chico State student who personified the best aspects of the Chico Experience by building meaningful relationships with his peers and faculty alike.

“Enrique Galvan is a believer. He believes in the potential of our students. He believes in the potential of our University to transform lives,” McMahon said. “He believes that gratitude is unfulfilled unless accompanied by kind and compassionate actions in supporting others.”

Galvan knows firsthand the space that Chico State provides for life-changing growth and learning. For those new to Chico State or facing challenges that accompany the transition to college, he encourages them to not give up.

“Take that chance, embrace your fears, and always know that you’ll have a friend in me,” he said.