Time to Put on Your Dancing Shoes

By Megan McCourt, senior, journalism major

On the first day of beginning ballroom dance, most people looked scared. Some of them think they have two left feet, others worry they won’t be able to keep time. Most everyone is nervous about having to be physically close to the opposite sex.

By the end of the semester, young men and women are whirling and twirling around the dance studio in Yolo 213, waltzing like European royalty and doing the cha-cha with more flair than you can find at a night club in Havana. This is the magic of ballroom dance.

When I first started in beginning ballroom two years ago, I was a little nervous. I had been dancing my whole life, but never had to rely on a partner. After the very first day, I felt at ease because the whole class was laughing, learning, and moving all together.

Having to dance with a partner and let them lead was the most challenging aspect. For once in my life, I wasn’t in control. In ballroom dance, the leader is the one who dictates what moves to do and what speed to go. I had to let the men do their thing, whether I thought we were off beat or was bored with doing the basic step over and over and over again.

Beginning ballroom student Tiffany Richter and ballroom teacher’s assistant Giovanni LoCascio dance the cha-cha in Patricia Smiley’s beginning ballroom class.

During the course of the semester, people began to emerge from their shells. By the time we learned salsa, no one was embarrassed to practice swinging and sashaying their hips in time with the music — even the guys. By the end of the semester, the entire class was confident in their dancing abilities, and many students went on to take intermediate ballroom, myself included.

Since that first beginning class, I haven’t had a semester without ballroom in my schedule. It becomes addictive once you learn how to do it, and there’s always more to learn.

Chico also has a fabulous ballroom community. Besides the seven sections of ballroom dance offered, the Ballroom Dance Club also hosts four evening workshops a week and bi-monthly themed dances on Fridays.

Students in Patricia Smiley’s beginning ballroom class work on the cha-cha, a dance that originated in Cuba.

Studio One, a community dance center that used to be housed at the Chico Creek Dance Centre, recently opened in a new 4,000 square-foot location on 7th and Wall and holds many workshops and dances.

Ballroom dance is a great alternative for students who want to meet new friends, get in shape, or just have fun. People who have never danced before can quickly learn how to swing and foxtrot, and it’s a skill that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Don’t be caught unprepared at the next wedding you go to — take a ballroom dance class and wow the crowd with your waltzing prowess.

Pigs, Goats, and Heifers, Oh, My!

If you are anything like me, you may not know much about the University Farm. But after a guided tour by student Kayla Pauwels, my eyes were opened to the amazing things our 800-acre University Farm provides.

Split into livestock and crops and orchards units, the farm has been operating since the 1960’s and giving to the Chico State students and Chico community ever since.

“Each of our units is a separate entity. It operates as a different unit, and then as a whole we are the Chico State Farm,” Pauwels said.

Pauwels, a senior with a major in animal science and a minor in agriculture business, escorted me around the farm for an hour, describing the many different aspects the farm has.

Swine Unit

The swine unit is a bio-secure unit, which Pauwels described as a unit where no outside people are allowed in without “booting up.” Booting up consists of full overalls, boots, cleaning, and other protective gear so that the animals are kept safe from outside diseases.

Interesting Swine facts:
• The swine unit once had a male that weighed more than 800 lbs.

• Pigs are very social animals, so they’re kept in pens with other pigs so that they don’t get lonely.

Dairy Unit

The dairy cows are fully organic and are fed by organic products grown on the farm.

The organic dairy is currently the only organic dairy at a university west of the Mississippi.

Beef Unit

The farm has a partnership with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. regarding the beef. “They purchase their own steers,” explained Pauwels. “They purchase them from a local producer. They bring them here. We feed them out and finish them with brewer’s grains which are the leftovers in the process of making beer.”

This partnership is different than others because Sierra Nevada pays for everything and the farm provides the labor as well as a unique student learning experience.

Student Gardens

Classes are held at the farm where students are able to tend their own personal gardens. The teacher provides them with a list of options to grow, depending upon the semester.

There are over 200 student gardens at the farm.

Meat Lab

The Meat Lab is open to the public Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The public can come in and purchase meat harvested at the farm.

The meat is also sold to local businesses around town like Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products, Sierra Nevada, and Sin of Cortez.


The orchards contain both fruit and nut trees.

Every summer the farm hosts “U-Pick Peaches,” an event where the community can pick their own peaches. For $1 per pound, you can pick as many peaches as you want, while they last. The peaches that don’t get picked are donated to a local homeless shelter.

Nuts, like pecans and almonds, are also grown and sold to local hullers. You can purchase farm nuts from the farm office.

About the Farm

The farm is operated by 15 full-time workers and about 40 student workers.

A few of the student workers, including Pauwels, live and take some of their classes on the farm. This is essential because the farm sometimes needs to be tended to around the clock.

Farm tours are available to anyone. If you want to set up a tour, call the farm office at 530-898-6343.


At the end of the hour-long tour, my knowledge of the farm had drastically changed, but I also got a better understanding of how much of a difference the students make on the farm. Without the students’ dedication, the farm wouldn’t flourish. The farm is home to many different living beings and a place that educates our students and the community on a daily basis.

When Pauwels was asked what her favorite part of the farm was she responded:

“How involved the students are. The things that we get to do and how important the farm is to our education. Because agriculture is a hands-on experience, it is very hard to just sit in a classroom and just teach but when you get out and into a farm like this you get to do the hands-on aspects like this. The things that I have gotten to do as a student here from furrowing pigs to working in a meat lab to operating huge pieces of equipment, it has changed the basis of my knowledge. I am a hands-on learner, I know a lot of agriculture people are and so I have learned so much more because of the farm.”

Not Expected, But Graciously Accepted

Students choose to study abroad for multiple reasons—to live in another culture, learn a new language, travel, and the list goes on. Whatever the reason, they make their choice then develop an image about their new college town.

And even though many students have some preconceived notion about what their study abroad experience will be like, it is often incorrect or incomplete.

Such was true for Robin Lind, 21, of Sweden and Daniel Fagerudd, 24, of Finland, who came to study abroad at Chico State for spring 2011.  While the exchange students chose from a large list of possible destinations, they had no idea at the time the opportunity that would come with choosing Chico State.

The Scandinavian exchange students, a short month after arriving in California, got connected with KCSC Radio and are now hosting their own show.

Robin Lind on air at KCSC Radio

By attending Chico State, Lind and Fagerudd gained an opportunity they otherwise would not have had back at their Swedish college of Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Sweden.  Their home college does not have a radio station, which is one reason they say they love Chico State.

“Swedehearts,” the name of their Swedish radio program, has allowed Lind and Fagerudd the chance to broaden KCSC Radio listeners’ knowledge of Scandinavian music.  The exchange students also use their show to introduce the Chico community to a piece of their Scandinavian culture.

“People seem to like the music, but they don’t know that it is Scandinavian music,” Fagerudd said. “We want to inform them that the music is indeed from Europe.”

Lind and Fagerudd base their show on a weekly theme they choose.  Their themes have included singer/songwriters, independent artists, girls and boys.  Future theme ideas revolve around electronic dance music and live video feed of disc jockeys dancing.

Even though Lind and Fagerudd pick a weekly theme, they encourage listeners to place song requests on the Facebook page “Swedehearts.” Lind explained how it is sometimes difficult to decide on which music to play, so the more requests they receive the larger variety of music they will play (as long as it is from Scandinavian artists).

The “Swedehearts” show can be listened to every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in three different ways.  Listeners can either go onto the KCSC Radio website or go onto the KCSC iTunes podcast.  And if listeners are out and about they can listen by downloading the KCSC Smartphone application.

However you chose to listen, make sure to step out of your music comfort zone and support these exchange students. You never know, Scandinavian music may prove to be your new favorite type of music.