A Chico State of mind

Chico State University is one of very few truly residential campuses within the California State University system. Just a few steps from downtown is the campus core—beautiful, ivy-laden brick buildings, an hourly tolling bell tower, and an auditorium with majestic arched walkways—a landscape that lends itself to leisurely strolls by city folks and students alike.

One of the beloved and studied areas is the riparian habitat running directly through the center of campus along Big Chico Creek—home to seasonal populations of wild Chinook salmon. Another feature of the campus’ natural environment that inspires learning is its greenery. With hundreds of species of vines, shrubs and trees blanketing its grounds, Chico State has been home to an arboretum for 25 years. In early spring, horticulturists and botanists from the university and Bidwell Mansion State Park lead tours to show off the garden’s woody plants, including a southern magnolia planted in the 1860s by Chico founder Gen. John Bidwell. His donation of eight acres of cherry orchards led to the formation 120 years ago of the Northern Branch State Normal School of California—one of several precursor institutions to today’s university.

The campus environment is a treasure to the Chico community, and university officials and students are committed to keeping it that way by being responsible stewards of the land. For the past decade, nearly 90 percent of the landscaping methods used to maintain the grounds have employed organic compounds. In addition, all construction projects are being developed within strict environmental guidelines. On the southern border of campus—West Second Street—work on two new structures is well under way. The forthcoming Student Services Center, a 120,000-square-foot facility designed as a one-stop shop for student programs and services, such as the Admissions Office, is being built to standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. Also adhering to similar guidelines is the Associated Students, Chico State’s student-owned and -operated corporation, which is building a recreation facility.

In recent years, the university also has made a name for itself outside of Chico for other sustainable practices. In the fall, the campus’ first solar array project went online, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions comparable to taking 430 cars off the road. The 1,212 solar panels, which sit on the roofs of Acker Gymnasium and Yolo Hall, will save the institution an estimated $282,000 over the next two decades. The arrays also serve as a learning tool for students studying sustainable development, which is being implemented in academic programs across campus.

While Chico State is gaining attention nationally in the realm of sustainability, it has long been recognized for the quality of several other programs, from computer science and business to nursing and agriculture. Out of the journalism department, the student-run weekly newspaper, The Orion, has consistently taken home top awards at national competitions. Meanwhile, the engineering department’s team of civil engineering students has regularly earned berths in a national bridge-building competition.

Whether you’re interested in the academic programs offered, or are just curious about the campus environment, it’s well worth the few extra steps it takes to check out what is arguably the heart of Chico. If going solo isn’t your thing, campus tours are conducted Monday through Friday at 11:30 a.m., beginning at the Office of Admissions in Colusa Hall. Visitors are encouraged to make reservations. Saturday tours can be arranged by appointment and start from the University Police Department at West Second and Normal streets. For more information, call 898-6322, visit the Office of Admissions in room 101 of Colusa Hall, or log onto

Historic Quarter
Dating back to the early part of the 20th century, Kendall Hall, Laxson Auditorium, Trinity Hall and Ayres Hall make up the historic quarter. The prominent brick structures were built after the original Normal School burned down in 1927.

Bell Memorial Union
Commonly referred to as the BMU, this building is owned and operated by the Associated Students. It is home to the campus bookstore, the Marketplace Café, an auditorium, study areas, a coffee shop, and the Associated Students offices, in addition to many of the organization’s programs. BMU hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. noon-11 p.m. For more information, call 898-4636.

Meriam Library
Named after the late Ted Meriam, a former Chico mayor and California State University trustee, it is the state’s largest library north of Sacramento and an important regional information resource. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 7:30 a.m.-11:45 p.m.; Fri. 7:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Sat. noon-4:45 p.m.; Sun. noon-4:45 p.m. For more information, call 898-5862.

Performing Arts Center
This large building just east of the BMU is the hub of the university’s extensive performing arts program. It houses two excellent theaters and a recital hall as well as such support facilities as a scene shop, makeup rooms and practice rooms.

Laxson Auditorium
One of the four brick buildings that make up the historic quarter, this majestic auditorium also hosts the vast majority of music, theater and dance events on campus, including the spring musical and performances of the North State Symphony Orchestra. Call the University Box Office for tickets at 898-6333. The Janet Turner Print Gallery is also housed in the auditorium.

Museum of Anthropology
Located in Chico State’s Langdon Hall, the museum features photos and artifacts in historical displays. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tues.-Sat. while school is in session. For more information, call 898-5397.

More Education

Butte College
The local community college is located in the foothills between Chico and Oroville on a wildlife refuge. After housing a Chico satellite campus in a strip mall for many years, the college opened its 54,000-square-foot Butte College Chico Center in 2005, making it possible for students to attend classes without making the drive to the main campus. The center has 18 classrooms, four computer labs and a bookstore. The college also offers courses beyond the confines of Butte County, holding classes in additional facilities in Willows and Orland.

With exceptional academic programs, impressive computer labs and even its own cable television station, Butte College has earned a reputation for education and job training. The accredited two-year college offers associate degrees and fully transferable general education courses, as well as vocational certificate programs. More than 14,000 students attend the school, and bus services to the campus are included in tuition. For more information, call 895-2511.

Cal Northern School of Law
The need for a law school with night classes in the North State was filled by Cal Northern, at 1395 Ridgewood Drive in Chico. The four-year course of study provides prospective attorneys with real-world training, and the school has been accredited by the State Bar of California since 1992. For more information, call 891-6900.

University of Phoenix
Several University of Phoenix programs are offered at the North Valley Learning Center at 500 Orient St. For most programs, classes are once a week and are held at night or on weekends. The accredited university keeps classes small to encourage active participation and lively discussion. Courses are offered one at a time and build upon each other to provide a context for better understanding. The university accepts graduate and undergraduate students.