As I reflect upon 2020 and all that we have been through, I am grateful for you—staff and faculty—who are making the best of a most difficult time through resourcefulness, collaboration, innovation, humor, and determination. For all of us, life has changed in countless ways. “Mask up” entered our vocabulary and our daily routines. Dining out was replaced with “grab-and-go” and “curbside pickup.” Internet shopping increased tenfold, as did DoorDash deliveries. And Zoom became a lifeline for work, school, and play. As we refrained from large and small gatherings, in some situations, virtual connections became the means to satisfy our social cravings.
With impressive tenacity, we have maintained our sense of community and our Wildcat spirit—both of which are a big part of what makes Chico State unique. It gives me great pride to share how some of our students and colleagues are thriving through adversity, with a can-do attitude and caring for each other.
The Office of Civic Engagement and Student Life and Leadership just completed an extremely successful voter registration effort, setting a record for new registrations on campus. Civic Engagement also joined efforts with Staff Council to recruit masked sign-wavers to direct voters to our on-campus ballot box.
Student Affairs sent 2,313 care packages to first-year students to boost spirits and assuage the disappointment of not having the traditional Chico Experience.
Student Affairs also coordinated a drive-by appreciation event for our outstanding WellCat Health Center staff. What began as a fake fire drill ended with tears and big smiles as staff received well-deserved recognition from colleagues. Our frontline workers—from counseling and health center staff to University police to facilities crews—have served an increasingly vital role during the pandemic. I salute and thank these campus heroes.
Chico State Athletics has been significantly impacted by the pandemic closures. Stopped in their tracks in the middle of successful seasons, our Wildcats were forced to give up opportunities for playoffs and titles. Yet, they continue to train individually and in distanced ways. Student-athletes also collaborated on a social media campaign to encourage peers to “Scratch the Stigma” surrounding mental health.
Peer mentorship and leadership have never been more important, and the Big Cat Peer Mentors, a new program out of Orientation and New Student Programs, meets an important need. The mentors are currently connecting with about 150 first-year students. They connect weekly or biweekly just to chat and keep in touch. Beyond the one-on-one connection, some student mentors have created communication groups with their mentees to expand the connectivity even further.
I had an opportunity to set aside the challenges of 2020 last month when I delivered the Chico State Master Plan to the California State University Board of Trustees for approval. My focus that day was entirely on our future and how we envision a campus that promotes student success, strengthens Chico State’s culture of caring, and deepens our sense of place. The Master Plan passed unanimously and with trustee compliments for all we have accomplished in the face of fire, flood, social unrest, and the pandemic. It was rewarding to be recognized for our collective resilience by the CSU Board of Trustees. A moment to be savored!
For these accomplishments in the face of adversity, and so many others, I am incredibly thankful. As we enter the holiday season and prepare to welcome in a new year, I hope you too will take a moment to reflect upon what you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude is a core value of humanity, but it is also important to our mental health and peace of mind. It nurtures a positive mindset that, in turn, fuels self-resilience that gives us stamina to tackle challenges with confidence, persistence, and grit. If you are not sure about how to express gratitude in your life, here are a few common practices for your consideration:
- Help others with kindness, respect, and patience
- List the good things in your life that you are most thankful for and moved by (health, family, friends, etc.)
- Walk or sit outdoors and observe the beauty of nature with humility
- Practice positive self-talk, affirmations, and visualizations
- Exercise, sleep, and eat foods that are healthy and nutritious
- Express yourself through creativity such as music, art, dance, theatre, and play
Looking ahead to 2021, there is hope for a better year despite the persistence of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that safe and effective vaccines soon will be available for mass distribution. Until then, we must not give in to pandemic fatigue, nor let our guard down. We must continue to find ways to stay motivated and disciplined while adhering to COVID-19 safety practices.
Our pandemic experience has inspired us to invent and improve. Although not perfect, we are honing our skills and abilities, and laying tracks for a more technologically inspired and connected Chico State. Recent improvements to instruction, service, and scholarship will enhance our in-person offerings, expand our virtual repertoire, and strengthen our Wildcat community.
Albert Einstein said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” History will show that Chico State took advantage of the challenges found in 2020 to improve our practice and elevate our institutional reputation to prominence. Together, we thrive.