Voice of the students

Jill Ruddell

Photo By Vic Cantu

Chico State senior Jill Ruddell considers herself extremely lucky. Last July the 21-year-old multicultural and gender studies major admittedly did a “happy dance” when she was chosen to be on the California State University Board of Trustees. She was one of only two CSU students, out of a total of 410,000 on 23 campuses, to be picked. The board makes virtually all major CSU decisions, from budget cuts to appointing the chancellor and university presidents.

How did you get picked for such a prestigious position?

Mainly because of my high academic standing, great references and especially my extensive campus advocacy and activism for diversity and gender equality. I was the director of Chico State’s Associated Students Women’s Center and am co-president of PRIDE/ Safezone, which is a campus gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender task force. At my high school in Atascadero I started the Gay-Straight Alliance and was vice president of my senior class.

What do you like best about being on the Board of Trustees?

It’s all such an interesting, extremely prestigious, yet humbling responsibility. I like the fact that I get to weigh in on some of the most important issues facing the CSU system like whether to increase student fees and tuition. They’re very complex decisions and I want to make the right moral choices. I’m in the first year of my two-year term, and don’t get to vote until my second year, but I still get to speak and debate during the decision-making process.

Why did you apply to be on the board?

I’ve always been extremely active. I’m especially interested in advocacy for GLBT students. I gravitate to leadership roles, but more as a servant-leader. The Board of Trustees was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take my activism from Chico State to the entire CSU system.

How do you feel about the massive budget problems in the CSU system?

It’s very difficult but it’s not the Board of Trustees’ fault that fees keep on increasing. We have the students’ interests at heart, but the state keeps giving us smaller and smaller budgets. Last year they cut approximately one-third of the budget. This year they cut another $100 million but the chancellor’s office made previous cuts so the students won’t feel it.

What kind of impact would you like to have on the board?

I’d like to prioritize funding for education and increase recruitment, retention and empowerment of diverse students to the CSUs.

What’s next after graduation?

After graduating in May I plan to go to grad school and get my Ph.D. in sociology. I’d eventually like to teach at a university, maybe here in Chico as a way of giving back to this community that’s given me so much.