What might the world look like if rather than wondering about some distant future, we took daily action toward the tomorrow of our dreams?
For generations, our Wildcats have been doing exactly that. Chico State students dare to pursue the life of their dreams and graduate ready to take on the challenges awaiting them with energy and enthusiasm. We hold true to our motto, “Today Decides Tomorrow,” and whether in their undergraduate studies or various stages of their careers, our students, alumni, faculty, and staff are taking purposeful action in the present moment to influence the future, both through their work ethic and their ethical work.
Here, meet those who do and dare in their daily lives. You’ll find they share common Wildcat traits—they are natural leaders, socially conscious, intellectually curious, and ready to make an impact and drive positive change in their industries and communities.
(Business Administration, ’04; MBA, ’09)
In 2015, John founded his company Xytogen to research stem cells’ natural therapeutic power by studying how they communicate. After sourcing cells from liposuction waste across California, scientists in his Chico laboratory use a proprietary process to trigger them into creating healing proteins, which they’ve used to make anti-aging products—a line of regenerative serum, anti-aging cream, and eye and eyelash cream sold under the brand name FactorFive. But John always knew they could do more. When the coronavirus pandemic gripped the globe, the entrepreneur began exploring stem cell use in an inhalant to battle lung infections and now is tapping their potential as a treatment for patients with COVID-19. Stem cells’ potential for human healing is limitless, he says, and he’s eager to discover additional treatments.
An associate professor of mathematics at Smith College, Candice has always found inspiration in the song “To be Young, Gifted, and Black” by Nina Simon. The soulful tune has been a steady aﬃrmation of Black talent and potential. She kept this in mind as a child who loved mathematics, as a math major playing rugby at Chico State, and as she pursued her PhD at the University of Iowa. And it still rings true. In 2016, Candice came together with three other Black female math professors, Erica Graham, Raegan Higgins and Shelby Wilson, to create the website Mathematically Gifted and Black. The site highlights the lives of Black mathematicians, including “rising stars,” to amplify their contributions. Candice has also worked toward creating networks and supporting programs that increase visibility of communities historically excluded in STEM.
“I have often used the phrase ‘You cannot be what you don’t see.’ We all sometimes limit what we believe we are able to achieve when we don’t have evidence that it is possible.”—Candice Price
(Physical Education, ’05)
Alycia is a tennis player, cyclist, and identical twin. She also was born with sacral agenesis, a congenital disability affecting her spine, and has used a wheelchair all her life. After a successful career in technology sales, she recently decided it was time to pursue a more personal passion—inspiring people to believe in their limitless potential. Now working as a full-time motivational speaker and corporate inclusion coach and mentor, she gave her first TEDx talk in 2021—Disabling Ableism: The Modern Pathway to Inclusion. With heart and humor, Anderson uses her own story of learning to love and celebrate her disability to show how social prejudice or discrimination that favors individuals with a perceived “ability” over someone with a “disability” undermines efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive society.
Senior, Music Education
When Daniel holds his clarinet to his lips—whether in practice or performance for the Chico State Choir, Wind Ensemble, or Jazz Band—his mind embraces an escape. Even if only momentarily, he lets go of the stressors and the musings of college life to relish the sound and feel of the music. An aspiring music teacher, he dreams to share that sensation with his students one day. Even if they don’t become professional or hobbyist musicians, learning to play an instrument is about taking risks and discovering your passions in the process. Whether giving a tour for Orientation or mentoring fellow first-generation students, “try new things” is Daniel’s favorite refrain because he knows firsthand what being curious can accomplish.
Professor, Civil Engineering
Professor Cornejo loves to tell how his father immigrated to the United States from Chile with $50 in his pocket, a few musical instruments, and a bag of books. The family narrative resonates with two identities he has long struggled to personally bridge—that of a musician and emcee and that of an academic. Producing music helped him push through his PhD program, and it’s still a place he finds empowerment, healing, and cultural reclamation. In his free time, he performs hip-hop and traditional Latinx songs as part of a music ensemble. In the classroom, he asks his students each semester for favorite songs and then plays them regularly, as well as occasionally offering to perform pieces he has written in English, Spanish, or Portuguese—whatever they like. The music itself may not connect with engineering, but it resonates with his students on a personal level and hopefully inspires them to be themselves in all aspects of their lives.
“Embracing what I feel to be another side of me is stepping into everyday greatness.”
(Media Arts, ’17)
As a child growing up in Fontana, California, Alondra told her father as he watched his morning news broadcast that she was going to be on TV one day. Her forecast was right. She started her career as a bilingual weather reporter as an undergrad at Chico’s Action News Now before becoming the youngest journalist at Philadelphia’s Telemundo 62/WWSI. Alondra chased storms across the nation before returning this spring to Los Angeles as a meteorologist for Telemundo 52/KVEA—the No. 2 media market and No. 1 Hispanic market in the nation. Whether reporting on record-breaking heat events, winter storms, or severe weather, she takes pride in helping people protect themselves from weather conditions in the language they know best.
Director, Advanced Laboratory of Visual Anthropology (ALVA)
Dark, damp places deep underground don’t deter Professor Brazeal. Neither does the criminal underworld. Since 2007, the founder and director of ALVA has traveled to nine countries, including Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia to study the global mining and gemstone trading industry. This spring, he’s headed for Sri Lanka, with support from a Fulbright US Scholar Award, where he hopes to record the country’s inspirational approach to mining for rubies and sapphires. Unlike many countries, it has laws that uplift the local population and has continued its millennia-old environmentally sustainable mining practices. Sri Lanka’s gemstone industry also presents a model of inter-religious and inter-ethnic cooperation, with Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus working side-by-side to mine, treat, and trade stones. As an anthropologist who teaches and studies religion and an award-winning documentary filmmaker, Brazeal is excited to share their stories—from the miners to the smugglers—with the world.
Coach, Men’s Soccer
Felipe assumed his first official leadership role at 12 years old, coaching his brother’s soccer team. The reward of guiding others led him to coach soccer throughout his undergraduate days, graduate school, and his PhD. Mentors encouraged him to become a professor, but he couldn’t give up on the sport and since 2008 has been leading the Chico State men’s soccer team. He cares about the team’s success off the pitch as much as on it. In his recent leadership course through the Student Success Center, Felipe inspired first-generation and historically underserved students to reimagine what they are capable of. Through his background in critical ethnography and multicultural education, he worked with students who have struggled with adjusting to college for a variety of reasons and gives them focus, urging them to look at their identity and how it shapes who they are while also having the courage to be a better version of themselves.
“At the end of the day, our work together can make our lives and the world a better place.”—Felipe Restrepo
Junior, Agricultural Communication and Leadership
Michelle was stunned when, one day in an elementary classroom, the entire class of children told her with certainty that chocolate milk came from brown cows. Misconceptions about agriculture, however innocent, set her career path in action, and now, she’s the first student enrolled in a new major—agricultural communication and leadership. Michelle worked with faculty in the Colleges of Agriculture and Communication and Education to develop the curriculum and is now perfecting her skills in public speaking, interviewing, and journalistic writing. She’s excited to be a liaison between producers and consumers and share the fascinating stories of where food comes from.
(Political Science, International Relations, ’20)
Graduate Student, Public Administration
A talented high jumper and javelin thrower, Nadia cares deeply about student-athlete well-being—on and off the
field. In 2020, she initiated and led the Scratch the Stigma multimedia campaign to address mental health and wellness. Now a grad student, she continues to provide fellow Wildcats with resources to better handle the present while preparing for their post-college future. As the Chico State Athletics leadership and engagement graduate intern, Nadia organized ’CatsSkills, an online program to help foster the complete student-athlete through leadership, personal and professional development, and community engagement. She’s also using her graduate studies to focus on student-athlete development and career preparedness and behavioral tendencies, with consideration toward a career in intercollegiate athletics after finishing her master’s degree.
(Nutrition and Food Science, ’08)
Lucas believes we can all do our part to address hunger and malnutrition—whether advocacy and fundraising, developing new technologies, or working directly with nutrition programs. Putting that belief into practice, he began working with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in 2015. As a roving nutritionist in South Sudan, he coordinated nutrition interventions in conflict areas and then scaled up interventions for emerging crises as a nutrition emergencies specialist. He supported Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, internally displaced populations in northeast Nigeria, and, most recently, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under 5 years old in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. He is now fighting malnutrition as the head of nutrition for the WFP’s Myanmar Country Office. No matter where he goes, Lucas’ goal is simply to help people. He draws from his experience in the US Navy, his work in community nutrition at Chico State, and with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua that regardless of the differences among people and cultures, we all have the capacity to help one another.
“We have the collective knowledge and resources to end hunger in our lifetimes.”—Lucas Alamprese
(Civil Engineering, ’94)
Julia admits she has a tendency to “geek out” when she sees earthmoving equipment and foundation construction in progress. As a geotechnical engineer, she sees a symphony in how a piece of land gets planned, designed, and transformed into a new neighborhood, school, or community. Although it was a specialty she knew little about when graduating, her passion grew daily, especially connecting the dots between schooling and hands-on work at ENGEO, an award-winning international engineering and environmental consulting firm. She was the first female to be named a principal of the firm, where she enjoys mentoring and collaborating on projects ranging from master-planned developments to transportation, mixed-use, and community projects. Literally moving mountains, she has been the lead geotechnical consultant for several master-planned communities that have collectively moved more than 75 million cubic yards of earth; constructed more than 100 miles of roadway and utilities; and incorporated amenities ranging from bridges and water tanks to golf courses and fire stations.
(Recreation and Parks Administration, ’96)
For years, Debbie watched thousands of exhausted and exhilarated runners approach the finish of the annual Western States Endurance Run—her house sits at Mile 99 of the fabled 100-mile event. A decade ago, the fifth-grade schoolteacher was inspired to attempt her first ultramarathon, and after finishing a 27-mile race, realized she could do more difficult things than she ever realized. This year, she laced up her trail runners and tackled her longest distance amid historic heat. After finishing Western States in 28 hours, 6 minutes, 50 seconds, Debbie returned to the classroom this fall with one more lesson for her students on what it takes to set a goal, work toward it, and achieve it—no matter how grueling it is.
“I’m always in awe at those super-athletes, but you can also be an average person and push through hard things.”—Debbie Booth
Professor, Biological Sciences
Primary Investigator, The Tran Lab
When Professor Tran looks at the symbiotic relationship between corals and algae, she sees a mirror to the human world and the importance of our connections to one another. As a first-generation student and daughter of Vietnamese refugees, she credits the support of other people for where she is today—a college professor working to save coral reefs and educate the next generation of biologists. Those reefs, she notes, are vital to human existence for fisheries, coastal protection, and producing antimalarial and anticancer compounds. To research these cnidarians 200 miles from the nearest ocean, Tran studies Aiptasia, a sea anemone with stunning similarities to coral. Alongside graduate and undergraduate researchers in her Chico State lab, she examines natural adaptations that could counter rising ocean temperatures, marine pollution, and agricultural runoff. Researching the symbiotic relationships that tie us all together can help us learn not only how to preserve the reefs, she says, but how to examine our own relationships.
To some, psychology and neuroscience seem like two very different disciplines. But Professor Bates is confident you can’t study behavior without wondering what’s happening inside the brain to produce particular behaviors. His initial interest was personal—he connects his family history of substance abuse with stress and social contexts. In addition to mentoring students with similar interests in these cranial connections, he researches how psychology and brain function go hand-in-hand. He’s investigating the effects of repeated exposure to psychoactive substances, the intersection with drugs, stress and social environment, and the lasting effects of opioids and psychoactive drugs in youth, including ketamine and anxiety treatments.
“We know that social environments can both contribute to drug use and help someone abstain from it—but we don’t really know what’s happening in the brain. It’s so much fun to ask these questions and look for the answers!”—Shawn Bates
Junior, Concrete Industry Management, Business Administration
Aubrey knew nothing about concrete when she declared it for her major, drawn by its 100 percent job placement rate. But after a field trip to a concrete plant her first semester, she’s poured herself into the industry. She’s completed three concrete-related internships spanning the realms of sales, admixtures systems, and quality control. Her passion for sustainability drove her to initiate a research project on how recycled toothbrush fibers could replace manufactured fiber in manufacturing. And this spring she was part of a team that took first place in the National Precast Concrete Foundation Student Design Competition. For months, Aubrey helped lead the project, developing plans to design, estimate, fabricate, construct, and deliver dual-pedestrian riverwalk bridges for the town of Janesville in Wisconsin. Navigating issues that she one day will encounter on the job, she worked with her partners to create viable solutions for a real-world problem.
Craig, a one-time English major, discovered the solution to his undergraduate struggles in a chemistry class. The idea of using organic chemistry to solve biological problems thrilled him, and today, he is one of the world’s leading chemists, editor of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, and the director of Vanderbilt University’s Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. With a passion for medical chemistry and behavioral pharmacology, he and his team are focused on new drug treatments to prevent and treat serious brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. In his Lindsley Lab, Craig trains postdoctoral students to follow their own interests and instincts. With technology often found only in major pharmaceutical companies, they are outpacing Big Pharma with their discoveries. One of their more promising compounds now in clinical trials could help slow memory loss accompanying cognitive diseases.
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
The growing gap in women earning engineering and computer science degrees weighs heavily on Professor Mustafa. Through example, guidance, activism, and infectious passion, she works daily to reverse that trend—from kindergarteners to college students. In 2018, she helped launch the SheTEACHS afterschool program for K-12 students to build excitement about STEM, and she proudly advises the student chapter for the Society of Women Engineers, which hosts the annual Imagineer Day to engage more than 200 K–8 students in labs and activities. To support those students once they reach college, Mustafa developed a tutoring center on campus where upperclassmen are leaders in helping prevent their peers from failing or withdrawing from difficult classes. And she relishes her own opportunities to shape their futures one-on-one, advising roughly a third of all computer engineering majors.
“We count on the media’s presentation of women in STEM and forget that there are a lot of women out there who are working hard every day to make a difference—including many of my female students.”—Hadil Mustafa
(Spanish, International Relations, ’95; MA, Teaching International Languages, ’01)
International Student Advisor, International Education and Global Engagement
Building community and inclusive environments is the heart of Tasha’s work. Twenty years ago, she started her higher education career as the study abroad coordinator at Chico State, and during her 12-year tenure, student participation grew by 300 percent and the program earned national recognition. In 2014, she wrote a grant to renew the Trio SSS program, which she ran for five years to support college students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds. And more recently, she helped launch the First-Gen and Proud Faculty and Staff Association, and co-created a virtual mindfulness-based antiracism program for employees. But she missed making a more personal impact. After much soul-searching, she returned two years ago to where she felt she belonged, advising international students. With kindness and warmth, Tasha often works unconventional hours so she can be available for students overseas, has counseled and even housed them when they are in crisis, and helped launch a new club for international students to provide them with leadership opportunities and make them feel at home.
“In education, we are in the business of loving other people’s children.”—Tasha Alexander
Administrator, Basic Needs
Joe is determined no Wildcats go hungry or lack a safe place to sleep. After research revealed that 46 percent of Chico State students struggle to afford food and one in every 12 students lives in unstable housing situations, he’s made it his mission to reverse the trend. Under Picard’s leadership, the Basic Needs Project has grown annually—last year it rapid-rehoused 50 students experiencing homelessness, made countless campus and community referrals, and provided healthy food for 4,000 students through the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry. Whether innovative partnerships to provide student-grown produce at the pantry or finding a discounted apartment for a student he learns is sleeping in a car, his goal is to support students’ academic success and overall well-being. More than anything, Joe wants to create a welcoming space, where no one is too shy to show up and ask for a bag of groceries to get through the month.
“No one wants to admit that they are struggling. They want to fit in. Part of this project is to say, ‘You’re not alone. We want to help you.’”—Joe Picard
Junior, Multicultural and Gender Studies
Arianna is not afraid to stand up—or take a knee—for what she believes in. At a Black Lives Matter rally in Sacramento last year, she was hit by a rubber bullet and pepper-sprayed while kneeling in a nonviolent protest for social justice. While she embraces peaceful activism, she said what she truly seeks are one-on-one interactions where she can create a connection. Arianna recently added a psychology minor and became a Black Peer Mentor for a new program on campus, reaching out to struggling students to offer help. She’s also taken her passion to the streets of Sacramento, giving out pamphlets about mental health resources in parks with the Anti Police-Terror Project. Next summer, she will be working with an affordable housing developer on a concept to design homes with
mental wellness in mind. Her long-term career goal is to provide affordable mental health services to low-income communities, especially communities of color.
(Musical Theatre, ’10)
When Garrison is not working as a head lighting technician in theater and fashion, implementing lighting for events for Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, and Hermès, you can find him pulling weeds and planting seeds. He started gardening in his Brooklyn neighborhood seven years ago to get to know the community and share his love for growing food. With the support and guidance of local leaders, he took over the old community garden and built it into a hugely productive urban micro-farm that now grows more than 100 kinds of vegetables and herbs all free for the community. He draws on personal gardening experience and his international agricultural work in the Peace Corps to show the community how much can be grown in a small space, which has become a gathering spot for his block. And he gives away hundreds of pounds of produce each year. Neighbors contribute different seeds and techniques from all over the world, making the farm a connected and diverse space that truly reflects the people who cultivate and consume the produce.
(Biological Sciences, ’19; Credential, ’20)
Graduate Student, Wildland Management
As a child, He-Lo spent summers subsisting as his ancestors had since the start of time living off the land along Butte Creek, Big Chico Creek, and the Feather River Canyon. He and his father caught rainbow trout from icy streams, picked wild grapes from the vines, and dug in soft soils to uncover wild onions and potatoes. He now hopes to share that concept with a new generation of children—and in doing so, inspire a passion for conserving the natural world. As a fellow in a new pilot AmeriCorps program, He-Lo is using Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to tackle climate change by educating the general public on food sovereignty, native plants and their uses, and the critical need for pollinators and supporting habitat. He-Lo, who is Mechoopda, also works as the cultural steward and a wildland firefighter at the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, blending his rich personal knowledge and education with his passion for conservation.
“The land itself just needs to be taken care of, and it will take care of you in return.”—He-Lo Ramirez
Senior, Animal Science
Holding a dog’s uterus in her hands during a veterinary surgery in Costa Rica, Vanessa knew her career choice was the right one. Months earlier, she defended her choice to study abroad to her Mexican immigrant parents, who had sacrificed so much so she could get an education in the United States. Vanessa was confident the international experience would challenge her, help her grow, and give global perspective. And the opportunity she found to intern at a small-animal clinic in the town of San Ramon offered hands-on experience normally only available much later in her program. Throughout her semester in Central America, she gave vaccinations at clinics, stood in on surgeries, and used her bilingual skills to help the veterinarian serve expat clients. She came home more connected to her cultural identity, grateful for her opportunities in the United States, and committed to earn her veterinary degree.
“I realized animal science isn’t just agriculture. It can be anything. And this is where I am meant to be.”—Vanessa Mendoza
Director, Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems (CRARS)
Professor Daley has seen the need to grow the ecological farming movement for decades. That’s what drove the fourth-generation farmer to create the University Farm’s Organic Dairy Unit in 2006, the first University-based organic dairy program in the West. As her leadership grew, so did her vision. She knows agriculture, when done regeneratively, can be the solution to soil degradation and climate change. That’s what drew Daley to co-create CRARS, which promotes farming practices that reduce greenhouse gasses, restore soil resiliency, increase the sustainability of farms and ranches, and address food and water insecurity. Working with farmers, ranchers, conservationists, and educators around the world to champion this pioneering practice, Daley and her team are transforming agriculture as we know it.
Jean Chrislot Michaud
Sophomore, Computer Information Systems
When Jean arrived in Chico in 2014, emigrating from a shantytown in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the then-23-year-old had only an eighth-grade education. He enrolled in the American Language and Culture Institute program at Chico State and set his sights on a degree that could help him provide a similar opportunity to those back at home, where the cost of education and socioeconomic strife deter many dreams. He created a Chico-based nonprofit, Sharing Blessings To Others, to send kids in Haiti to school when they don’t have the funds and used his growing computer skills to build its website. It obtained official nonprofit status in May 2020. He was leading a fundraising summer camp in Haiti this August when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the country for the second time in 11 years. But he remains undeterred. Natural disasters, presidential assassinations, and a nationwide hunger crisis will not get in the way of his vision—or his own education.
Administrative Support Coordinator, Communication Arts and Sciences
For 15 years, Peggy has actively participated in the Wildcat Relay For Life team and led it for 12 of those years, using her decades of professional experience to build support and generate excitement for the American Cancer Society’s annual event. Through innovative fundraisers like golf tournaments, bingo, homemade candy sales around the holidays, yard sales, and an annual raffle with more than 50 prizes from local businesses, the Wildcat team has raised over $250,000 in the last 15 years—including $90,000 by Peggy herself through individual fundraising. Her goal is to reach $100,000 by next spring. Clearly passionate, she admits the cause is also personal. Eighteen years ago, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and even though she has since been declared cancer-free, she wants an end to the destructive disease once and for all.
“It would be amazing to see a cure for cancer in my lifetime. No more family, friends, or anyone having to hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’”—Peggy Armocido