Find your fit

A graduating Chico State senior helps new students find their way

Hillary Feeney, a former Chico News & Review intern, graduated from Chico State in spring 2010 with B.A. in journalism. She is now pursuing a master’s in business administration at a school in Rhode Island.

Hillary Feeney, a former Chico News & Review intern, graduated from Chico State in spring 2010 with B.A. in journalism. She is now pursuing a master’s in business administration at a school in Rhode Island.

Photo By jason cassidy

When I came to Chico State for the first time, I felt lost. I was living nine hours away from my home, and between balancing college-level classes and a new living situation, it was easy to feel overwhelmed. Now, as a graduating senior, I have investigated many of the possibilities Chico State has to offer, and I have found the perfect niche. Finding a community that fit made everything easier, from doing schoolwork to making plans on the weekend.

Chances are many of you are already feeling a little lost, and I am here to tell you that, despite its party-school reputation, Chico State offers ways to help you sort it all out that don’t require your joining the red-cup club. With just a little effort, students can take advantage of on-campus resources that can help them find a community that matches their interests and will make the transition to college life smoother.

Finding a group that fits

As a freshman, I traveled to San Francisco with the Religious Studies Student Society. As a sophomore, I pledged a local sorority. As a junior, I joined an honors society. As a senior, I lounged while discussing philosophy as part of Aristotle’s Cafe.

I have changed my interests and the groups to which I belong several times during college. Luckily, Chico State students have more than 200 organizations to choose from on campus.

There is an abundance of student organizations that set up booths on campus at the beginning of the school year to welcome new members and help them ease into college life. They give them the opportunity to interact with a variety of different communities.

“You can’t walk around campus without noticing them,” said Rick Rees, director of Student Activities. “Every nook and cranny has been filled with tables and bands.”

These student organizations fit into one of several categories: professional and academic, religious, special interests, Greek life, honors societies and recreational sports. This variety ensures that students will find a group that fits, Rees said.

In addition to student organizations, Associated Students offers programs such as volunteering with the Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE) and backpacking with Adventure Outings. Students can also take part in instructionally related activities, which are paid for by their tuition.

I have taken advantage of this variety by dabbling in several student groups. Although all groups require a time commitment, they also have a social aspect. In addition to taking part in a club’s official activities, students who join have an opportunity to socialize with like-minded students and establish a community that might even lead to some life-long friendships.

Through being involved, I have done things ranging from celebrating at sorority socials to volunteering at a state hospital for the criminally insane. It’s taught me how to cooperate with others.

“Being part of a group puts one in a position of needing to work together toward an established goal,” Rees said. “They replicate what will happen in your work life.”

To learn about student organizations, visit the student activities website at

Steve Ross (left) and Walter Torrence goof off at the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center.

Photo By Hillary Feeney

Finding a cultural fit

Chico State senior Walter Torrence was simply strolling by the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center when a mentor from the center pulled him into an activity for Black Welcome Week during fall 2008.

Torrence started interning at the CCLC that semester and now works there part-time as a para-professional. He even changed his major from business administration and finance to sociology as a result of his experiences at the center.

“I figured out that my place wasn’t with money,” Torrence said. “It is with people.”

Before learning about the CCLC, Torrence felt disconnected from Chico State and was considering moving back to Sacramento. However, he felt welcome at the center, where he jokes around with friends and lounges on the couch when he is not working behind the front desk, he said.

For many new students, finding a cultural fit can help them adapt to college. There are 18 recognized cultural organizations on campus, but the CCLC serves as the hub for multicultural activity.

Chico State student Steve Ross also found the perfect blend between a social and work environment at the CCLC. As a black man, Ross felt out of place on the Chico State campus, which is much less diverse than his hometown of Sacramento.

After wandering into the CCLC for lunch in fall 2009, Ross immediately felt at home. He now also works as a para-professional at the center to increase understanding of diversity.

“If you come from a different background, maybe you don’t quite fit in right away when you come to Chico State,” Ross said. “Here you can.”

Since it opened, the CCLC has been the hub of multicultural activity at Chico State. MEChA and Black Leaders on Campus have their offices there, but the center is also available for use by other student organizations. In addition to its official function, the CCLC provides a place for students to relax on its plush couches or work together at its study tables.

By participating in multicultural activities at the CCLC or in student organizations in general, people gain a sense of belonging on campus. It adds a sense of community to the hours spent on academics. This was the case for Torrence, who said that being involved on campus has broadened his horizons.

“When I was the type of student that went to class and straight home, I felt like there was something missing,” Torrence said. “Now I feel more complete and focused.”

Pamella Healy (right), a Career Center adviser, and intern Andrea Karnegas (left) consult with a student.

Photo By Hillary Feeney

Finding a major that fits

I came to college with the dream of being a high-school history teacher. But after a semester of being exposed to all the majors Chico State offers, I reconsidered my choice.

An adviser at the Career Center rescued me from my confusion by guiding me toward a major in journalism with an option in public relations. Without this help, I would have been lost.

With 66 majors offered at Chico State, students often get overwhelmed and flounder when trying to identify a field of study. The Career Center provides assessments and one-on-one advising to help students with the process.

Many students get nervous about selecting a major, but they should focus on the skills they will learn rather than the label, said Pamella Healy, an adviser at the Career Center.

“The reality is that you may transition by the time you graduate to go in a whole new direction,” Healy said. “Through your education, you are developing skills that can be applied in multiple directions.”

She advised that students think about where they have been successful in the past when deciding on a major. By taking the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator or the Strong Interest Inventory that the Career Center offers for $15, students can identify their strengths and get suggestions on which majors may interest them.

If students are intrigued by multiple majors, Healy recommends that they try an entry-level class in each of their top choices. This will offer a chance to see if they like the subject matter without investing too much in any one choice. Students should approach picking a major in a similar way to any big decision that they make in life, Healy said.

“If you were buying a wedding dress, very few people would buy one without trying it on first,” she said.

Changing my major after I realized that my first choice didn’t fit transformed my college experience. Even after late nights of studying and socializing, I have looked forward to going to classes for my major (and minors). Finding a suitable major makes the academic aspect of college less daunting and more enjoyable.

Letting off steam with a game of Connect Four inside the CCLC.

Photo By Hillary Feeney

Finding a job that fits

I used to spend 20 hours a week scrubbing tables, dumping out trash and refilling ketchup dispensers at Whitney Dining. Every day that I was scheduled to work I found myself dreading putting on my hairnet. I valued my paycheck, but felt at odds with my job.

Three weeks later, I quit that job to work as a publicity assistant for Chico State’s School of the Arts. I enjoyed interviewing faculty members and students about upcoming plays, concerts and art exhibits. My boss served as a mentor as I delved into public relations. The job suited me, and I worked there for the rest of the school year.

Many Chico State students have to work to pay for college expenses or earn spending money. Getting an on-campus job can give you a way to make money that coincides with your academic schedule.

Since student-level jobs are in high demand, they can be hard to find. However there are several resources available to help with the job search.

In addition to helping with picking a major, the Career Center can help students find jobs as well. Getting a job, internship or volunteer position can give students a chance to apply the skills they learn in the classroom, said Healy.

“Gaining experience is crucial,” Healy said. “It’s not only about building your résumé.”

By working during college, students build relationships with their co-workers, clientele and employers. As students progress through their four years at Chico State, these connections build on each other. If they start early, they will have an extensive network that they can call upon by the time they graduate, and maybe even a few new friends.

To help Chico State students and alumni build this network, the Career Center and the Student Employment Office teamed up to create a database of job openings. The Career Center focuses on professional experience, while the Student Employment Office focuses on non-academic jobs like babysitting and yard care.

Students can visit the Student Services Center, Room 270, to receive a brief orientation to the database. After that they can create a profile and search online from home. If users still experience difficulty finding a job they can consult a Career Center intern, said Andrea Karnegas, a communication major who has been an intern there for a year.

“A huge aspect of this job is helping people, like when a student comes in feeling lost,” Karnegas said. “I may not always have an answer, but I can lead them to resources.”

Another way that students can find a job is through applying for openings within Associated Students. On-campus locations ranging from Creekside Coffee to the Wildcat Recreation Center employ students through A.S.

Interested students should visit the A.S. website ( and fill out the online application. This puts them in a pool of potential employees. It then becomes their responsibility to seek job openings and keep their profile up-to-date.

Regardless of whether a student finds a job through the Career Center, Student Employment Office, A.S. or another employer, they still learn valuable skills that will apply to their future careers.

Turn here:
Chico State on-campus resources:

• Student Activities Office
BMU 213

• Cross-Cultural Leadership Center
Meriam Library 172
(530) 898-4101

• Career Center
Student Services 270
(530) 898-5253

• Student Employment Office
Student Services 270
(530) 898-5256

• Associated Students
Information Center
Lobby of BMU