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Chico State

We Made It: 2018-19 in Review

President Gayle Hutchinson shares a somber hug with someone as light shines through smoky air inside of Laxson Auditorium at a Camp Fire meeting.
Photos by Jason Halley/University Photographer

President Gayle Hutchinson hugs some one from the community during a public community meeting in Laxson Auditorium as the Camp Fire continues to impact the air quality as smoke is carried over campus on Saturday, November 10, 2018 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico)

Every academic year brings us new opportunities, milestones, and challenges. What we experienced over the past year, both in the classroom and in our lives, made for an experience none of us will soon forget.

Nobody would call this past year “easy,” but we have made it through together. Our Wildcats showed their characteristic compassion, persistence, and bravery in the face of unprecedented challenges and continued to embody the joy and resilience that are the spirit of Chico State.

Let’s take a look back at some of the key moments of the 2018–19.

Creating Curious ’Cats

Faculty co-presenters Jennifer Malkowski and Stephen Caldes
Faculty Jennifer Malkowski (left) and Stephen Caldes (right) were featured speakers for EDXCHICO, which gave a lesson in a public space on the first day of classes.

We kicked off 2018 with our annual series of Wildcat Welcome events designed to greet new and returning in style, including the famed “Big C” photo for the incoming class. This year’s turnout, again, was a record. This year also introduced EDxChico, an open-air teach-in featuring eight short presentations from University professors. The short talks included musings on medieval monsters, the interactions between hip hop and sustainable engineering, what we can learn from coral reefs, and understanding the physics of throwing a hammer.

“Exploring these big, important, challenging questions,” said physics professor Nick Nelson, “is a labor of joy and wonder.”

Physical Sciences Building Takes Shape

A cable moves a large steel beam over scaffolding and a steel frame as construction workers prepare to put it in place.
The steel beams for the framing are installed as construction continues on the new physical sciences building.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new physical sciences building was held early October, with a ceremonial golden shovel full of dirt to officially kick off construction of the state-of-the-art, $101-million facility. By spring, no one on campus needed to peek through the chain-link fence surrounding the job site anymore—the building’s steel frame now rises above the area between Meriam Library and Big Chico Creek and is set to open in fall 2020.

Honoring a Community Member

A group of several people somberly pay respects with notes and flowers in front of a brick pillar by Kendall Hall.
Campus and community members attend the vigil in remembrance of the tragic death of Linda Blacksten, a longtime member of the Butte County community.

It is no secret we also experienced a significant number of challenges over the past year. In late October, a member of the Chico community, Linda Blacksten, was found dead in front of Kendall Hall, the victim of an after-hours assault. Though she had no ties to campus, the Chico State community gathered in her memory at a community vigil the next week, sharing poems, prayers, and a moment of silence.

The Camp Fire

Trinity Hall amid a glowing orange sky.
Heavy smoke creates an orange glow in the sky over Trinity Hall as the Camp Fire raged in November.

“I have never experienced a more difficult time in my life. At the same time, I have never been more proud of Chico State and my community than in the days, weeks, and months that followed the Camp Fire.”

—President Gayle Hutchinson

Nearly 1,000 students, faculty, and staff were evacuated or displaced by the November wildfire that raged through Paradise and its surrounding communities, and 310 lost their homes. Campus initiated an emergency closure for 15 days as Butte County experienced some of the worst air quality in the world and our community grappled with the physical and emotional effects of the fire’s devastation.

The fire’s wrath was matched only by the North State’s community spirit and Wildcats were, and continue to be, at the forefront of relief and recovery efforts. Countless campus members and alumni volunteered in the community, providing medical care, organizing donation drives, and helping at animal shelters. On campus, the University opened its doors to house first responders during the closure and initiated the Wildcats Rise Fire Recovery Fund, which raised more than $700,000 from 5,200 donors to aid more than 500 students and employees impacted by the fire. Chico State also hosted Thanksgiving Together, in partnership with World Central Kitchen, providing a holiday meal for thousands of displaced residents and emergency personnel.

’Cats Give Back

President Gayle Hutchinson and Willie the Wildcat, the mascot, cheer with dozens of students to celebrate Giving Day.
President Gayle Hutchinson leads a cheer with a group as they celebrate a record-breaking Giving Day effort.

The second annual Giving Day set a high bar for a single-day fundraising event, with support from more than 2,400 Chico State alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends. Our Wildcat family gave 3,029 gifts for a total of more than $320,000, all going to 142 departments, programs, and causes that directly benefit the campus community. The featured fund in 2019 was the Chico State Fund, supporting University excellence and innovation, and it blew past its $25,000 goal to the tune of $59,525, a testament to our culture of philanthropy.

When It Rains, It Pours

Dozens of students walk through the pathway in front of Meriam Library, the ground free of water despite a large storm the night before.
A view of the south gauntlet north of Meriam Library just a day after a flash flood inundated the area with standing water. University staff worked to clear the area and resume instruction within hours of the flooding.

In early April, a thunderstorm hammered the North State with more than 4 inches of rain in a single evening, causing flooding over parts of the region and deluging parts of campus. Despite standing water in several buildings, University staff worked through the night to keep facilities intact and open for instruction, another example of Chico State’s enduring dedication to its mission of educating our students.

Time to Choose Chico!

Two students smile and hold a round sign that reads "I chose Chico State" during Choose Chico.
Jessica Daly (left) and Ally Chichizola enjoy Choose Chico!, where prospective and admitted students visited campus. (Jessica Bartlett, University Photographer)

The annual spring event for admitted students and their guests, Choose Chico! saw a record turnout, with 1,450 prospective students and more than 2,500 of their family members and friends in attendance for a campus visit in early April. Choose Chico! included academic showcases for students to learn about their majors and meet faculty, a tour of campus and residence halls with information about securing housing, and the opportunity to meet with student support representatives. We look forward to welcoming many of these students as Wildcats this fall.

Transform Tomorrow Takes Off

A large crowd of people dance in front of strobe lights and a smoke machine on Kendall Lawn.
Chico State President’s office and the University Foundation Board invited the public to join in celebrating the public launch of Chico State’s capital campaign.

In late April, the University celebrated the public launch of its first capital campaign, Transform Tomorrow, with a community celebration on Kendall Lawn featuring desserts from local vendors, dancing and music, and demonstrations from multiple campus colleges and departments. The University has set a lofty $100 million fundraising goal to invest in its people and programs, build cutting-edge facilities, and empower student success. It was announced that the campaign had already raised nearly $76 million at the time of the public launch.

As we reflect on 2018–19, there is much to celebrate. Together, we reached milestones, both academic and personal. We set and achieved new goals. We also navigated unexpected tests and engaged our resiliency and compassion. Looking toward our future, the spirit that carried us thus far will continue to drive us to even greater heights.