Chico State

Zingg paints the big picture

Paul Zingg

Paul Zingg

CN&R file photo

The start of an academic year always brings something new to a university. At Chico State, there’s a list this fall, going beyond the customary fresh crop of freshmen. There’s a new provost. New faculty members, 47 of them. New buildings, in various stages of construction.

Some things have stayed the same. For the second straight year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Chico State 31st among West Coast universities with master’s programs, sixth among public schools. The university continues to receive widespread recognition as a sustainability trail blazer—most recently placing eighth on an environmental magazine’s list of the “greenest” campuses in the world. The student population continues to grow.

For over an hour last Thursday (Aug. 16), President Paul Zingg sat down with the CN&R in his Kendall Hall office and gave his take on the state of Chico State. “There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic,” he said, “and a lot of good momentum across the board.” Here is his voice-guided tour.

Enrollment: Last fall, Zingg projected that the university would “meet our enrollment target this year, as we did last year.” Copy and paste that sentence for this fall. The freshman class is 10 percent larger—280 more first-time freshmen for a total of 2,723 (pending any shuffling before classes start).

Overall the student body is 2 percent larger, at an estimated 16,500. That growth is below the CSU system average “but appropriate for us,” Zingg said. “We don’t want to impact neighborhoods more than we do.”

Since the North State holds only 2 percent of the state’s population, the vast majority of students (85 percent) come from elsewhere. “We have to prime the pump,” Zingg said of recruitment efforts, particularly when it comes to diversity. Thirty percent of the freshman class comprises “students of color, and four to five years ago it was about half of that.”

Finances: Enrollment and state funding are connected, so the enrollment figures have translated into budgetary security. “Private support is the margin-of-excellence factor,” Zingg said, and on that front, he deems fundraising efforts “solid” with increases in the number of donors and the amount of cash gifts. (The university was unable to supply specific numbers.)

Facilities: The Student Services Center on Second and Warner is the most prominent piece of construction on campus. The LEED-certified green building will open this spring.

The university breaks ground Friday (Aug. 24) on the Wildcat Activity Center, with an estimated completion time of 14 months. Zingg expects the Board of Trustees to approve a new natural history museum (groundbreaking: early 2008), and additional student housing will go up “literally in the shadow of Whitney Hall, so there’s no neighborhood impact.”

These “big capital projects are all funded and on target in terms of scheduled completion.”

Personnel: Sandra Flake officially succeeded Scott McNall as provost in April, by which time most searches for new faculty members were winding down. She’s played a major role in finding a replacement for Bob Hannigan, the outgoing vice provost for enrollment management. Zingg expects to have that person selected shortly and on campus in September.

Athletics: As a noted sports historian, Zingg has a particular fondness for the Wildcats’ Division II program, which placed 17th in the standings for the Directors Cup denoting overall excellence. The women’s basketball and baseball teams returned to the postseason, joined by a breakout women’s volleyball team—but the track and cross country teams made the biggest impact with 13 All-Americans and two national-champion distance runners.

The fan-in-chief also raved about the men’s basketball, soccer and golf teams—the latter welcoming a new coach. “I’m looking forward to success across the board,” Zingg said. “I have high expectations.”

The women’s basketball team will get special attention in Coach Molly Goodenbour’s second season, following a controversial transition in which half the players departed.

“I think Molly understands more clearly now the importance of community outreach, community visibility, and I know she’s been engaged in such efforts over the summer and has strengthened her personal relationship with the women’s basketball community in town,” Zingg said. “She’s recruited very well…. I think we’re in store for a very successful season, and I hope that we move forward.”

Community service: St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital recognized Chico State as its program of the year (and Larry Bassow as adviser of the year) for the Up ’til Dawn fundraiser, and “scores of students” headed to the Gulf Coast to aid Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Those are just two endeavors that brought Carnegie Foundation honors to Chico State.

“Tens of thousands of hours of volunteer service have earned us national recognition,” Zingg said with particular pride, since “stewardship” is one of his mantras. “It’s all richly deserved, and undoubtedly we’ll strengthen our record.”