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Chico State

Introducing Kyle Mason: 2023 Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipient

Kyle Mason leans on a wall and smiles
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Kyle Mason, one of the 2022-2023 recipients of the Lieutenant Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award, is photographed on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 in Chico, Calif. Each year, faculty members nominate students based on their scholarship, involvement in extracurricular activities, and outstanding accomplishments. Nominations are based on these standards, along with evidence of students’ sincere intent to complete their education, increase their personal knowledge, and to achieve success in every aspect of their lives. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)

In the coming weeks, we will be celebrating the accomplishments and stories behind this year’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.

Kyle Mason has always dreamt of attending college, studying hard, and earning his degree. When the Camp Fire displaced the Paradise native in 2018, his family lost their home, he stopped attending Butte Community College, and he moved to Las Vegas where he lived with his brother and worked. Eventually, though, Mason felt stagnant and the pull to college returned. He came back to the North State, re-enrolled at Butte College, then transferred to Chico State. Today, the Earth and Environmental Sciences major, who will graduate in spring 2024, is being honored as a recipient of the 41st annual Lt. Merton Rawlins Merit Award. Having taken full advantage of his return to college, Mason has maintained a 4.0 GPA while also being treasurer of the Association of Geological and Environmental Sciences. In returning to higher education, it was important for Mason to honor the opportunities laid down by his parents.

“My parents didn’t have the opportunities to go to school, so they supported me and gave me the opportunity with a stable household—I couldn’t just let the opportunity go to waste,” he said. “I wanted to do something better with my life.”

What does receiving the Lt. Merton Rawlins Award mean to you?

It was a big honor to be nominated by my professors, and to have them acknowledge the hard work I’m putting in. I’m a first-generation college student, so at least getting my bachelor’s degree is a really big deal for me. It feels good to get an award that acknowledges the fact that I really do intend to go on and complete my degree.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your downtime?

I love playing music, I have been playing since the fourth grade. I was originally going to be a music major. I play a lot of instruments. I play guitar, bass, keyboards, trombone, and drums and have been playing a lot of trumpet lately. My original instrument was the bass. Once you start learning a few, it gets easier to start picking more up and being able to play.

Is there a faculty member that stands out for you?

Sandrine Matiasek from the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department is by far the best professor I’ve had on campus. She just goes above and beyond. I took a “Soils and Surficial Processes” course with her and that was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. She’s a phenomenal professor and takes time to get to know every student, and you can tell she puts a lot of time into how she teaches and her method of teaching.