Everybody loves Dave
Longtime Chico State newspaper adviser steps down
Dave Waddell, the gregarious Chico State journalism professor and campus newspaper adviser, swells with pride each time The Orion wins an award. Last year the weekly he oversees won the Associated Collegiate Press’s National Newspaper of the Year award for the ninth time since Waddell took over in 1996.
Fifteen years later, the 60-year-old Waddell is finally calling it quits.
“There were many factors leading to my decision, including wanting to spend more time as a journalist, with my autistic son, and on my diversity project,” Waddell said. “But after 15 years as a full-time Chico State professor and newspaper adviser, I feel it’s time to move on.”
Waddell’s tenure at The Orion far outlived those of his predecessors.
“When I came on in 1996 I was the 10th adviser the paper had seen in the last 21 years,” he said.
The most rewarding aspects of his tenure, he said, were the relationships he cultivated with his students at The Orion.
“I’ve always treasured those, and that’s something you can’t get in the classroom,” he said.
Waddell, named the 2006 Distinguished Adviser of the Year from College Media Advisers Inc., evokes widespread praise from those who’ve known him, such as Sacramento Bee reporter and 2004 Chico State journalism graduate Melody Gutierrez.
“Dave is one of the nicest people I’ve ever come across,” she said. “He truly cares about students both academically and in their personal lives.”
Waddell, she said, makes a great adviser for any number of reasons, and she regularly stays in contact with him to this day. She also visits Chico State annually at his invitation to give Orion staffers a professional critique.
Ryan Sabalow, a reporter for the Redding Record Searchlight and 2004 Chico State graduate, looks back fondly upon his college career. Waddell, he said, was a big part of it. The coffee mugs Waddell gave him as trophies for outstanding accomplishment at The Orion are still a family heirloom, said the husband and father of two.
Sabalow recalled how Waddell would join him at a downtown pub after the weekly Orion critique sessions and how they would talk journalism. Sabalow lamented that many college professors are academically gifted but have little actual experience in their respective fields. Waddell, he said, was a refreshing contrast to that.
“Dave had a great blend of higher education and 20 years in the trenches as a professional journalist,” he said. “Chico State is losing a really important asset, and I hope the campus realizes that.”
Orion Editor-in-Chief Almendra Carpizo said everyone at the newspaper is sad he’s leaving after 30 semesters of helping students. But, she added, she is happy that he’s following his heart and leaving during the same semester she is graduating.
Waddell, who earned his master’s in English from Chico State and his Ph.D. in education from Minnesota’s Capella University, will continue to teach two classes per semester. His main passion, however, will be the diversity recruitment program he originated in 2006 to combat the tiny Chico State minority enrollment.
“We only have 2 percent blacks and 12 percent Hispanics,” said Waddell, who has long supported students of color.
Once a semester he travels to area high schools and community colleges to recruit ethnic minorities. Those students are told about the benefits of Chico State and then visit the campus, where they can talk to students and experience the social life. Over the years Waddell has recruited more than 20 students and has seen the Hispanic population increase 100 percent.
“Those kids wouldn’t come here if they didn’t visit first,” he said.
Unfortunately, his program is now in financial straits. Next spring Waddell will write a proposal for a six-year, $200,000 grant from the Hearst Foundation.
Temporarily taking over his Orion duties will be Chico State journalism professor Glen Bleske, who also filled in when Waddell took a sabbatical to begin his diversity program in 2006.
Waddell’s also hopes to get back to writing news articles.
“I was a working journalist for 20 years, and now I want to be a journalist again in this next stage of my life,” he said.
Waddell said he couldn’t be happier with his Chico State career, especially guiding The Orion.
“I love advising and journalism, so advising for The Orion was the best of both worlds,” he said. “I feel I’ve done all I can.”